Trip Ideas

Find cool and off-the-beaten path things to do, plus gardens, famous film and TV locations, girlfriend getaways and more. Everything visitors need for an island escape – without the passport – is right on the island. Here is a just a sampling of things to do where watersports, fitness and beach fun reign supreme!

Active Lifestyle

Wrightsville Beach-goers are all about maintaining an active lifestyle with jogging The Loop (a 3 mile trail around the island), bike riding, bird watching and much more. Competitors from near and far make the trip to the area to take part in events like the Wrightsville Beach Marathon Madness (March), SUP Surfing Pro-Am (April) and IRONMAN 70.3 North Carolina (October).

Many local outfitters and accommodations offer bike rentals. The River to the Sea Bike Route expands from Johnnie Mercer’s Pier to Riverfront Park, just off Market Street in Historic Downtown Wilmington. This route, stretching for nearly 10 miles, takes bikers for a trek along the historic trolley line. Most of your journey will be a quiet one, cycling through peaceful residential areas.

Did you know that hundreds of birds, including American Oystercatchers, Least Terns and Black Skimmers, nest on beaches and islands like Wrightsville Beach every spring and summer? The Mason Inlet Waterbird Management Area located on the island is a 300-acre sanctuary for birds, wildlife, and people. Mason Inlet offers a variety of barrier island habitats, including open beach, dunes, and marsh. Birdlife here changes with the seasons: in winter flocks of small shorebirds feed on sandy inlet shoals, while in the summer large groups (colonies) of Least Terns raise their chicks on hot sand. The Cape Fear Audubon Society offers guided tours of Mason Inlet during the nesting season between April and August.

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Wrightsville Beach is  known as a premier watersports destination and was named one of the world’s best surf towns by National Geographic and North Carolina’s most naturally gifted watersport hub by Men’s Journal. There’s something for every athlete and outdoor enthusiast including boating, kayaking, kite boarding, stand-up paddling (SUP), surfing, surf camps and scuba diving. Wrightsville Beach hosts internationally recognized watersport events throughout the year including the Carolina Cup (April); WBLA Longboard Pro-Am (April); Wrightsville Beach Wahine Classic (August); and the NC Surf to Sound Challenge (November).

Because Wrightsville Beach is a relatively small island, paddlers can reach a variety of prime paddle routes from that one location. One of the things that make Wrightsville Beach such a natural fit for watersports is its many different waterways and conditions ranging from open ocean to the protected waters of the Intracoastal Waterway, from the channels to the river.

True to its island living vibe, Wrightsville Beach is very welcoming of beginners or anyone interested in trying a new watersport for the first time. With plenty of places to rent top-of-the-line equipment and take lessons with certified instructors, Wrightsville Beach prides itself on making its active lifestyle accessible to everyone, including vacationers. Its laid-back, non-territorial atmosphere allows beginners and experts alike to just show up and surf or paddle, which is rare at many other beaches.

Several outfitters like WB Surf Camp and IndoJax Surf School, offer high-quality kid summer camps, teen summer camps and adult vacation surf camps while others like Sean's Private Surf Instruction, specialize in individual lessons.

For the inquisitive diver, Aquatic Safaris operates two USCG certified custom dive boats that run dive charters to wrecks and ledges off Wrightsville Beach. In the latter part of the Civil War, three ships were sunk off Wrightsville Beach within days of one another. These ships lay within 300 yards of each other near the south end of the island. See beautiful rock ledges with marine life and take a peek into the past with shipwrecks.

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Enjoy surf fishing, pier fishing, and inland and offshore fishing excursions at Wrightsville Beach. Drop a line from Johnnie Mercer’s Pier or the Crystal Pier at the Oceanic, book a deep-sea fishing charter, or hop aboard a fishing cruise complete with a knowledgeable guide. Fishing events throughout the year include the Cape Fear Blue Marlin Tournament (June).

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Explore Island History

The Wrightsville Beach Museum of History offers self-guided walking tours highlighting historic beach landmarks including the old Oceanic Hotel, the rich history of Johnnie Mercer's Pier and a family-oriented scavenger hunt. Visitors can stop by the museum to pick up self-guided tour pamphlets with details, driving instructions and in-depth historical descriptions of each place highlighted.

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Looking to get a little tee-time with your beach time? The Wilmington Municipal Golf Course is one of the local favorites. A municipal course designed by one of the world’s most influential golf course designers is a rare thing. Designed by Donald Ross in 1926 to provide the public with a quality championship golf course at affordable prices, the course is one of the finest in the area. With 18 holes covering 6,564 yards with a par of 71, the Wilmington Municipal Golf Course is perfect for amateurs and experts. The third hole has been named "One of North Carolina’s Ten Best Holes" by Golf Digest because of its demanding uphill slope. It was also named 50th best Municipal golf Course by Golf Week Magazine. The course is open year-round to the public. 

The Wilmington area has more than 50 public courses within a 60 mile radius.

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Mailbox on the Beach

On Wrightsville Beach, there is a special mailbox where people pour their hearts out to complete strangers in the sand dunes on the north end of the beach. There is no name on it and the Post Office doesn’t pick up or deliver to the box. People can write letters to clear their conscious, place them in a mailbox, but never have them sent. The mysterious mailbox somehow stays stocked with paper, pens, and stories from visitors sharing their fondest beach memories year after year. The current mailbox is the second mailbox located on Wrightsville Beach. The first mailbox was a landmark on the north end of the island for 11 years and the hundreds of notes left in it can now be found on display at the Wrightsville Beach Museum of History

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Explore Star-Studded Locales

While visiting Wrightsville Beach, there are many locations where TV shows and movies have been filmed, and star sightings have taken place to check out. Celebrities like Will Ferrell, John Travolta, William Baldwin, Jennifer Aniston and Julianne Hough have all been spotted at several popular dining spots at the beach including South Beach Grill, Bluewater Waterfront Grill, Oceanic, Dockside Restaurant and Bar, and the Bridge Tender Restaurant. Popular TV shows have filmed scenes on the island including Dawson’s Creek, One Tree Hill and Sleepy Hollow, as well as movies like “A Cinderella Story: Once upon a Song” starring Lucy Hale and “28 Days” starring Sandra Bullock.

Nicholas Sparks fans can also visit some of the breathtaking spots featured in the film “The Choice” and explore places like the Dockside Restaurant and Bar or Brasserie de Soleil, where the story of the main characters blossomed.

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Full Moon Rising Celebration

A morning sunrise or sunset is the best known view in Wrightsville Beach but now the best new tradition involves another heavenly body that gives rise to nighttime revelry. Enjoy the uninhibited view of the moon rising over the Atlantic Ocean as you dine at the Oceanic Restaurant with beautiful views from inside and outside on the pier. Look for special entertainment and dinner specials at the Oceanic when available or enjoy a romantic getaway at one of the area hotels and resorts as the perfect backdrop for a full moon rising stay.

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