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Top Local Attractions

By state law, the seaward edge of all private property is defined as the high-water mark of the Atlantic Ocean. That means that all land seaward of this point is public and you have a right to walk or run along it, unless the region encompasses a sea turtle nesting ground. There are numerous public access walkways to the beach, and the priceless tranquility of a walk along the shore is yours for the taking.

Wilmington was founded as a port city which was a major nexus of the notorious triangular trade in sugar, tobacco, cotton and slaves in the pre-Civil War era. While Wilmington still has a bustling port, the Cape Fear River has been reimagined as a tourist mecca. Tour boats, kayaks and other small craft ply its waters year round, drinking in the beauty of the river and its surrounding wildlife.

During the Civil War, Wilmington served as the major base for Confederate Blockade Runners, either military or private shippers who strove to elude the Union Navy enforcing the blockade of Southern commerce. Critical to the success of these blockade runners was Fort Fisher, which constituted the last remaining coastal military outpost held by the Confederacy.

Fort Fisher was an immensely well-designed and well-garrisoned fort, and the first battle of Fort Fisher ended in a Southern victory. The Union assaulted again several weeks later, and finally succeeded in taking the fort. The fall of Wilmington one month later was the final straw for the Confederacy, as it was the last open port the South had. Fort Fisher is now a State Park located on the Southern tip of the Cape Fear region, in the town of Kure Beach.

Looming on the other side of the Cape Fear River from downtown Wilmington is the Battleship North Carolina. The North Carolina was the first new battleship entering service in the second World War and it participated in every major Pacific offensive of that War. It served until the end of hostilities and was the most decorated battleship of World War II. It was decommissioned after the war and brought to Wilmington to serve as a Museum. I don’t think you will ever have a proper fear of battleships until you walk the decks of the USS North Carolina and imagine all of those guns firing at you!

Lest you get the idea that we only hang around on the water down here, you should definitely try to visit Airlie Gardens. It is an enormous (67 acre) expanse of woodlands, formal gardens, forested wildlife refuge, and the site of a number of exotic structures, included the famous “Bottle Chapel” which, as the name implies, is a Chapel constructed of bottles. Even if you’re not getting married, it’s a great place to visit and marvel at the synergy of natural beauty and human ingenuity.

Greenfield Lake is a local marvel, a public park built around a squirmy, marshy lake with a 4.1 mile perimeter trail, kayaks and canoes for rent, Spanish Moss, and massive trees. Oh yeah, and alligators! It’s got an awesome playground and is an amazing place to walk, ride your bike, picnic, commune with nature, and rejoice in how beautiful a swamp can be! Just don’t feed the alligators!

According to Wikipedia, “In 2014 Wilmington's riverfront was ranked as the "Best American Riverfront" by readers of USA Today. That’s because…it is, it just is! You can walk along the River Walk, a boardwalk that stretches 1.75 miles along the river, admiring either the River or the city’s historic architecture, depending on whether you prefer to look to the left or to the right.

There are shops aplenty, tour groups oriented around ghosts, movies and television shows (a lot of which were filmed in Wilmington) and pirates. We’ve got horse drawn carriages and Trolley Pub, art galleries, Bellamy Mansion, and the Museum of the Bizarre. There are also a lot of bars and restaurants, which we’ll get to next.

Department of Physics and Physical Oceanography

Phone: (910) 962-3462
Fax: (910) 962-7014

DeLoach Hall 210
601 South College Road
Wilmington, North Carolina 28403-5606