Are you looking for the best day trips from Wilmington, NC? If that’s the case, you’ve come to the right place! Wilmington, North Carolina, is a fantastic destination with numerous sights and activities to keep you entertained. If you want to see more of what the area has to offer, there are several fantastic day trips from Wilmington. There is something for everyone, whether you prefer beach activities, the environment, culture, or gastronomy. Here is a list of the best day trips from Wilmington, NC, that you should not miss.
#1. Historic Wilmington
Historic Wilmington, located along the banks of the Cape Fear River, is a picturesque and dynamic city full of southern charm and warmth. Take a stroll along the historic Riverwalk and enjoy the gorgeous views of the river while shopping and dining at one of the many unique stores and restaurants. Visit the Bellamy Mansion or the Burgwin-Wright House and Gardens to learn about the city’s rich history.
The Cameron Art Museum, with its amazing collection of modern and contemporary art, is a must-see for art aficionados. The city also has a flourishing theater scene, with the Thalian Hall Center for the Performing Arts hosting a variety of performances all year. A visit to Historic Wilmington will undoubtedly leave visitors with long-lasting memories.
#2. Carolina Beach State Park
If you’re looking for a natural retreat just minutes away from Wilmington, Carolina Beach State Park is the perfect day trip destination. This park features miles of hiking trails, perfect for nature enthusiasts and adventurers. Make sure to visit the famous Venus flytrap habitats and the stunning views of the Cape Fear River. If you’re interested in camping, the park offers campsites and cabin rentals. Additionally, you can go fishing, kayaking, and bird watching. This is an ideal spot for a peaceful and adventurous day out. Don’t forget to pack sunscreen, water, and snacks for the trip.
#3. Wrightsville Beach
Wrightsville Beach is one of the popular day trips just a few miles east of Wilmington, NC. It’s known for its crystal clear seas and fine white sand, and it’s the ideal area to sunbathe, swim, surf, or go paddleboarding. Restaurants, bars, and seaside stores are among the many amenities available.
Don’t miss a trip to Johnnie Mercer’s Pier, which provides excellent fishing chances as well as breathtaking views of the Atlantic Ocean. Rent a beach chair and umbrella and simply enjoy the wonderful surroundings for a more peaceful experience. Wrightsville Beach will not disappoint whether you are looking for an energetic or relaxed day vacation.
#4. Fort Fisher State Recreation Area
The Fort Fisher State Recreation Area, located just south of Wilmington, is a must-see for nature and history enthusiasts. The park has six miles of pristine shoreline and is home to a vast array of wildlife, including endangered species like the loggerhead sea turtle. The site is also rich in Civil War history, having served as a crucial Confederate bastion during the battle. At the Fort Fisher State Historic Site, visitors can examine the fort’s ruins and learn about its strategic significance. Don’t miss out on this wonderful park’s unique blend of natural beauty and historical history.
#5. Bald Head Island
Bald Head Island is a more isolated and exclusive day getaway. This island can only be reached by ferry or private boat, which adds to its exclusivity. Relax on the beach or explore the island’s nature paths by foot, bicycle, or golf cart. The island is also home to Old Baldy, North Carolina’s oldest lighthouse, which gives breathtaking views of the surrounding ocean and marshes. If you’re feeling daring, schedule a kayaking or paddleboarding tour to explore the island’s waters. Bald Head Island is a wonderful oasis of calm in the midst of city life.
#6. Airlie Gardens
Airlie Gardens, located in the center of Wilmington, NC, is one of the calm retreat ideal for day trips. The 67-acre gardens include exquisite azalea, camellia, and magnolia displays, as well as ponds and waterfalls. Visitors can traverse the gardens’ walking routes and view the sculptures and antique architecture. The Butterfly House, where visitors may see colorful butterflies up close, is one of the highlights of Airlie Gardens. The gardens also hold a number of activities throughout the year, including concerts and art exhibits, making it a terrific spot to visit at any time of year.
#7. Brunswick Town/Fort Anderson State Historic Site
Brunswick Town/Fort Anderson State Historic Site, located about 30 minutes south of Wilmington, is a must-see for history aficionados. This was a crucial Civil War battle as well as an important harbor town during colonial times. Visitors can now explore the town’s ruins, which include a church, jail, and courthouse. There are also restored Civil War earthen forts to visit, such as Fort Anderson, which played an important part in protecting Wilmington throughout the war. Guided tours are available to give visitors a thorough understanding of the site’s history.
#8. Battleship North Carolina
One of the top attractions in Wilmington, NC, is the Battleship North Carolina, which is located on the Cape Fear River. This historic battleship served in the Pacific during World War II and now serves as a museum for visitors to explore. With self-guided tours, visitors can walk through the decks and learn about life on the ship during wartime. Exhibits throughout the ship offer a glimpse into the ship’s history, including its involvement in the Battles of Guadalcanal and Okinawa. The Battleship North Carolina is a must-visit for history buffs and those interested in the country’s military history.
#9. Masonboro Island Reserve
Masonboro Island Reserve is a protected barrier island only a short boat trip from Wilmington. The island can only be reached by boat, but the voyage is worthwhile because it is one of the few remaining unspoiled barrier islands on the Atlantic coast. Visitors to the island can trek along pristine beaches, watch a vast diversity of bird species, and enjoy spectacular views of the Atlantic Ocean.
Kayaking, fishing, surfing, and paddleboarding are also popular activities for visitors. The reserve also offers educational and research opportunities on coastal habitats, which can help visitors appreciate and comprehend the region’s distinctive natural environment.
#10. Topsail Island
Topsail Island, which is only a short drive from Wilmington, is the ideal vacation spot for beachgoers wishing to get away from the crowds. Visitors can enjoy swimming, fishing, kayaking, surfing, and other outdoor sports on this tranquil barrier island, which has 26 miles of unspoiled shoreline. This is one of the most memorable day trips from Wilmington, NC, due to its amazing features. History aficionados can visit the ruins of fortresses from the Civil War, while nature lovers will admire the pristine marine woods and wildlife refuges.
Visit the Sea Turtle Rescue and Rehabilitation Center, where wounded sea turtles are treated before being returned to the ocean, as soon as you can. Topsail Island is a must-visit location for anybody traveling through the Wilmington region, whether you’re looking to unwind on the beach or discover the island’s natural beauties.
#11. Hammocks Beach State Park
Located on Bear Island, Hammocks Beach State Park is a must-visit destination for nature lovers. Take a ferry ride from the mainland to the island and explore miles of untouched shoreline, dunes, and maritime forest. Visitors can also go fishing, swimming, or kayaking in the park. If you want to extend your day trip, you can rent a cabin or campsite and spend the night in this serene setting. Don’t forget to keep an eye out for endangered species like the loggerhead sea turtle and piping plover that call the park home.
#12. Duplin Winery
If you’re looking for a day trip from Wilmington that involves delicious wine tasting, head to Duplin Winery in Rose Hill, North Carolina. Duplin is the largest Muscadine winery in the world, producing over 500,000 cases of wine annually. Take a tour of the facilities and learn about the history of muscadine grapes in the region, then head to the tasting room to sample some of their award-winning wines. Don’t miss the sweet and refreshing Hatteras Red or the fruity Magnolia wine. Be sure to pick up a few bottles to take home as souvenirs.
#13. Riverwalk in Historic Downtown Wilmington
The Riverwalk in Historic Downtown Wilmington is a must-see for anybody wishing to experience Wilmington’s beauty. This one-mile-long boardwalk along the Cape Fear River offers visitors beautiful views of the river as well as access to a variety of shops, restaurants, and historic buildings. Take a walk and stop to admire the beautiful sunset over the water, or take a riverboat trip to discover more about the area’s rich history. Don’t forget to pose with the iconic Wilmington Waterfront Mural, a bright display of local icons that makes a great backdrop for a fun photo. It is indeed one of the best day trips from Wilmington, NC.
#14. Cape Fear Museum of History and Science
The Cape Fear Museum of History and Science is a must-visit attraction for history buffs and science enthusiasts alike. Located in Wilmington’s downtown district, this museum showcases the rich history of the Cape Fear region through its permanent and rotating exhibits. Visitors can explore displays of the Native American communities that once inhabited the area, the city’s maritime and military heritage, and the impact of major events such as hurricanes and Civil War battles.
Additionally, the museum features interactive science exhibits that explore topics like physics, astronomy, and environmental conservation. With its combination of informative exhibits and hands-on experiences, the Cape Fear Museum is a perfect day trip destination for families and solo travelers alike.
#15. Oak Island Lighthouse and Southport
Visit the Oak Island Lighthouse and the lovely town of Southport for a gorgeous and historical day trip. The lighthouse, which was completed in 1958, stands 169 feet tall and is open to the public on select days. Visitors can ascend the 131 steps to the top for breathtaking views of the Atlantic Ocean and the surrounding area. Explore the gorgeous coastal town of Southport after touring the lighthouse. Stroll along the waterfront, visit local stores, and eat at one of the many seafood restaurants. Visit the Old Brunswick County Jail, the NC Maritime Museum, and the Fort Johnston-Southport Museum and Visitors Center.