Themed Vacations & The Offbeat
Curate Your Adventure
Take the path less traveled for memories only found in Wilmington and Beaches. From a girlfriends' getaway to a solo trip, go beyond the sand, shore and city to discover unique attractions and activities to craft a perfect getaway.
Perfect Solo Getaways
Solo travel is gaining popularity and Wilmington and our Island Beaches is the perfect getaway for your next solo adventure. Whether you’re a foodie, outdoor adventurer, R&R seeker, history buff, art enthusiast or looking to try a little bit of everything, find trip ideas for planning the perfect solo getaway here.
The area boasts two 18-hole disc golf courses. The Joe Eakes Park course in Kure Beach features a unique terrain of sand and oak trees. This course is 18 holes with the longest run at 500 feet, great for seasoned players as well as new ones. The Northern Regional Park course is mostly wooded but not too tight and the front "9" makes good use of elevation. There's also a free nine-hole course open to the public at Trinity Disc Golf Course on the grounds of Good Hops Brewing Company in Carolina Beach, where you can start or end your game with a local brew in the outdoor beer garden or inside the tap room.
When major moments happen in life, a celebration is always in order, and what better way to celebrate than with a coastal getaway? From babymoons and birthdays to reunions, unions and more, Wilmington and Island Beaches is the destination to commemorate all of life’s big moments.
Shop Shabby Chic & Beach Unique
Bring the shabby chic and beachy unique design style back home with you as a vacation souvenir by shopping at one of our many stores that feature this form of inspiration, vintage accessories and furnishings, and home décor ideas! Whether your thrill lies in airy pastel linens or distressed wooden furniture statement pieces, Wilmington offers many chic shopping boutiques with something new and original every visit.
A bright, oversized purple chair will lure you into Thrill of the Hunt, specializing in antiques and consignments. Vintage Marketplace is full of amazing home decor discoveries, like beautiful chandeliers and custom tables. Close to Wrightsville Beach, Airlie Moon combines vintage finds with crisp linens, bath accents, clean candles and hand-milled soaps. Need one-stop shopping to find multiple gifts for all occasions? Visit Blue Moon Gift Shops, voted “Best Gift Shop in Wilmington” housing a myriad of gifts from over 100 artists, craftsmen and retailers. Locals shop at The Ivy Cottage for exclusive finds, voted “Wilmington’s Favorite Consignment Shop” and the largest antique and home décor shop in the southeast housed in three cottages. Inspired by the sea, find a treasure at Crabby Chic including coastal home furnishings and decorative accessories, where art and sea stars are a decorating staple. Dragonflies offers children’s clothing and baby gifts with personal and southern charm. Vintage shop ‘til you drop, but before you do, save time for one last stop at Uptown Market, a premier merchant marketplace offering 12,000 square feet of all that is authentic, coastal, and one-of-a-kind from farm tables to artisan jewelry and more!
Shoppers, No Brands Found Here
Wilmington’s river district shopping isn't defined just by shopping malls or big box retailers. The highest concentration of unique boutique shops can be found at one place, The Cotton Exchange, featuring buildings in constant occupancy since the pre-Civil War decade. Eight graciously restored buildings connected by brick walkways, open-air courtyards, and gigantic heart pine beams house 30 unique specialty shops and restaurants, each a charming reflection of the style and feel of Wilmington’s 19th century working port days.
Located at the southern end of Wilmington's river district, the century-old building at Chandler’s Wharf contains an eclectic mix of galleries and shops with works of art that are unmatched in Wilmington. Find everything from cutting edge clothing, art to ceramic sculpture to original paintings and prints.
The Black Cat Shoppe located in the heart of downtown on Market Street is a store of inspired gifts! The store features cool kid stuff, pirate booty, zany & unusual nostalgic toys, humorous pop culture novelties, souvenirs, pranks, One Tree Hill memorabilia, and much more.
Edge of Urge also located on Market Street is a boutique for men and women specializing in handmade and independent designer clothing, shoes, jewelry and accessories. Edge of Urge strongly supports handmade, “Do-it-Yourself,” innovative and creative thinking. They have introduced many up-and-coming designers, as well as more established designers, to bring a matchless collection of favorite things including the locally-made “Freaker,” a-one-size fits all beverage insulator that features stylish, knit designs.
Cool & Quirky
With its barrier island beaches and historic riverfront town, Wilmington, NC, is a destination of contrasts where you'll find top attractions. In contrast, other attractions explore our quirky side. For instance, did you know about our ghost walks, haunted pub crawls, surf/SUP camps, pirate cruises, secret mailbox by the sea, and places to see carnivorous plants, endangered sea turtles, sharks, alligators, and prehistoric creatures? Visit The Museum of the Bizarre to see oddities like the Fort Fisher Mermaid, Houdini's Ouija Board and a unicorn horn. And don't miss our famous location sites to tour with over 400+ movie/TV credits.
Even the history of the region is intriguing. The Cape Fear River, which winds its way through Wilmington, was named by early explorers when their ships ran aground and sank due to dangerous shifting shoals where the river meets the sea. Today these wrecks and waters afford amazing diving and fishing opportunities and nature and eco-adventures.
Local actors lead nightly ghost walks with tales of ghosts and hauntings in Wilmington, a city considered to be among the most actively haunted in the world. In fact, "Ghost Hunters," a paranormal reality series on the Syfy network listed Wilmington’s Battleship NORTH CAROLINA in their Top 25 Halloween picks of all time. Staff reports seeing solid walking shadows with silhouettes of people, phantom voices, moving shadows and the overwhelming feeling of being watched or followed.
Are you curious for more? Guides traverse 275-year old alleyways littered with stories of poor lost souls that still linger in the storied Port City. Check out the Ghost Walk of Old Wilmington, a family-safe, 90-minute journey that meets on the Riverwalk at the foot of Market and Water streets. At St. James Church, they'll tell you about Samuel Jocelyn, who came back to tell friends he'd been buried alive. Two centuries later visitors claim they have seen a shadowy figure leaning on a tombstone near Jocelyn's grave. Some believe it is his ghost still haunting the grounds of St. James Cemetery, one of the most haunted cemeteries in the state. If you’re over 21, the Haunted Pub Crawl meets weekend nights to explore legendary pubs. There's also a Haunted Cotton Exchange Tour where visitors can explore eight interconnected buildings that have been in use since the Civil War.
Pirates - Argh!
Did ye know that pirates were among Wilmington and our Island beaches' earliest visitors? Aye, it's true! Some even say William Kidd buried treasure on area islands in the late 1600s. At the Children's Museum of Wilmington, kids can dress like pirates and role-play aboard the Ahoy Wilmington! ‘pirate ship.' Kids will also enjoy Wrightsville Beach Scenic Tour's Pirate Island Treasure Hunt tour to a small barrier island that was once popular with pirates like Kidd.
Ride the Rails
The Wilmington Railroad Museum rests directly across from where the original Atlantic Coast Line Railroad used to port. In 1840, this railroad was the longest continuous rail line in the world. This museum is great for engineers both young and old and allows you to tour a real life-size caboose and 100-year-old steam locomotive. Learn about the history of the development of railroads in the Wilmington area and the careers of famous people who were involved with railroads, such as Thomas Edison and George Pullman.
48 HOUR ITINERARY
Not enough time to experience some of these adventures? Short trips require less planning and less time off than an extended vacation. There’s plenty here to keep visitors busy for days on end, but this itinerary should get you started if you have just 48 hours.