Wrightsville Beach Play List

With world-famous watersports and outdoor activities, island life is alive in North Carolina's most accessible beach

by Lynn Seldon

The rest of the world is learning what residents and veteran visitors already know about Wrightsville Beach—mild to wild watersports and outdoor activities rock on this North Carolina island outside the historic river town of Wilmington, just off Interstate 40.

On the Waterfront

The island’sStandup Paddleboarders waterfront setting makes it a natural for outdoors lovers. With the Atlantic Ocean and its wide sand beach on one side and the Intracoastal Waterway on the other, Wrightsville Beach is ideal for outdoor pursuits virtually year-round. From subtle sunrises to stunning sunsets, followed by toasts to the day’s activities, Wrightsville Beach’s many outdoor options make it easy to love your mother—Mother Nature, that is.

Word of Wrightsville Beach’s outdoor offerings on, below and near the water is spreading. The island destination was recently labeled “North Carolina’s most naturally gifted watersport hub” by Men’s Journal and one of the “World’s 20 Best Surf Towns” by National Geographic.

Outdoorsy visitors are lured to Wrightsville Beach by the year-round active lifestyle and like-minded islanders and visitors who like to get outside. Reached by a single bridge across the iconic Intracoastal Waterway, Wrightsville Beach features a mild year-round climate and an easily accessible white sand beach that stretches five miles.

SurferQuite simply, the waters of the Atlantic Ocean, Intracoastal Waterway, and Cape Fear River reign when it comes to communing with Mother Nature. The laundry list of water-borne possibilities includes SUP (stand-up paddleboarding), kayaking, surfing (including instructional opportunities and surf camps), kiteboarding, scuba diving and fishing. Island outfitters make it easy to hit the water for an adventure, either on the wavy ocean side or the calmer waters of the inland waterways.

Wrightsville Beach is very welcoming of beginners or anyone interested in trying a new watersport for the first time. With plenty of places to take lessons with certified instructors, the island prides itself on making its active lifestyle accessible to beginners and experts alike.

Many outdoors-oriented events make Wrightsville Beach an active destination year-round. The options include fitness-driven events (including the PPD Beach2Battleship Iron Distance Triathlon, which was named as one of the top five iron distance triathlons in the world by Triathlete Magazine), fishing tournaments, surfing competitions, SUP competitions and many other event-specific lures to get outside at Wrightsville Beach.


Those who like dry land kayakingas well will find their element at Wrightsville Beach Park, where the popular 2½-mile walking and jogging John Nesbitt Loop (known simply as “The Loop” to locals) attracts a fit crowd. Biking, tennis, beach volleyball, and other grounded pursuits lure locals and visitors inland—but never far from the sparkling water.

Situated near Wrightsville Beach, but a world apart, Masonboro Island is southeast North Carolina’s largest undisturbed barrier island and is, quite simply, for the birds (and the turtles). Reached only by boat, awesome nature tours offer a great way to explore Masonboro’s natural habitats.

Johnnie Mercer's PierFabled Johnnie Mercer’s Pier is as popular as ever, while the Crystal Pier at the Oceanic recently reopened after an extensive renovation project that preserved the 1930s wooden pier—while giving it a structural facelift, extending it 30 feet, and expanding options for outdoor dining, live music and free public fishing.

There are also plenty of places to stay in Wrightsville Beach that nestle into the natural surroundings. Choose a cottage or house rental, or pick a resort or bed-and-breakfast with gear rentals and activity packages. Wherever you stay, you will find what happens outside is as important as a great location and a comfy bed to rest up for the big day ahead.