Destination Wrightsville | Where to go
A Short Drive: Historic Downtown Wilmington
The Bellamy Mansion Museum of History and the Design Arts
Completed in 1862, the 22-room manor houses the fascinating story of a family who lost, regained and all the while treasured their majestic home. Visitors may tour the renovated mansion, carriage house and slave quarters, as well as the elaborately designed gardens, Tuesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and on Sunday from 1-5 p.m. A gift shop is located in the carriage house. Admission is $10 for adults and $4 for children (ages 5-12).
The Burgwin-Wright House Museum
The Burgwin-Wright House is the oldest museum house in southeastern North Carolina. From the beautiful architecture to the elaborate furnishings and decorations, the house beautifully depicts the stories of those who lived there. The house features formal gardens and a lively orchard, as well as a spooky dungeon. Tours are offered daily, Tuesday through Saturday, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tours Tuesday through Friday begin on the hour, with the last tour beginning at 3:30 p.m. Admission is $8 for adults and $4 for children (ages 5-12).
The Latimer House Museum
Built in 1852, the Latimer House Museum has been the home of the Wilmington Historical Society since 1963. It is currently open to the public as a superb example of upper-class Southern living during the Victorian period. Each of its 14 rooms and the hundreds of historical artifacts they contain, transport Latimer House visitors to another era. Tours are offered daily, Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., and Saturday from noon to 5 p.m. Admission is $10 per person.
If you can’t pick just one, tickets for all three house museums — the Bellamy Mansion, the Burgwin-Wright House and the Latimer House — are available for $24 from any of the museums.
This terrific Cape Fear riverboat is a favorite for locals and visitors alike. The Henrietta III is "the place" for special occasions like birthdays and anniversaries, family reunions, weddings and receptions, offering fantastic features like dinner and dance cruises, murder mystery cruises and sunset dinner cruises up and down the Cape Fear River. Cruises depart from Water and Dock Streets and go out rain or shine, April through December. Private charters cruise year round. All cruises board 30 minutes prior to departure, and public parking can be found at various specified locations around Historic Downtown Wilmington.
Ghost Walk Tours
Join local actors and ghost hunters as they maneuver through Historic Downtown Wilmington’s ancient alleyways, uncovering the trails and tales of the pirates and crooks who frequented Wilmington of old. Visit haunted homes and landmarks and get thoroughly spooked by the city’s most frightening ghost stories. Tours are offered nightly — April through October — Tuesday through Saturday at 6:30 and 8:30 p.m. Admission is $12 for adults, $10 for seniors, students or military, and free for children (6 and under).
Hollywood Location Walk of Wilmington
Explore one of the largest living film sets: Historic Downtown Wilmington! Visit real locations and actual sets where some of your favorite films and T.V. shows — Blue Velvet, A Walk to Remember, One Tree Hill and Dawson’s Creek and many more — were filmed. Tours are offered Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday at 2 p.m., and Saturday at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. Admission is $12 for adults, $10 for seniors, students or military, and free for children (ages 6 and under).
Horsedrawn Carriage and Trolley tours
Springbrook Farms Horsedrawn Carriage and Trolley tours offer a unique way to experience the history of downtown Wilmington. A costumed driver serves as your tour guide, narrating your exploration of the past and present of old Wilmington. Tours are available — April through October — on Saturday from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Take Market Street to the Cape Fear River. Admission is $11 for adults and $5 for children under 12. No reservation needed.
Spend the afternoon with the creepiest of creepy crawlers! Live exhibits feature some of the world’s most dangerous and rare snakes, crocodiles, lizards and dragons. The serpentarium is open to the public Monday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Admission is $8. (910) 762-1669.
Historic Downtown Wilmington features clothing stores, jewelry stores, book stores, antiques shops, toys, stationery and much, much more. Everything you’re looking for, from homemade trinkets and souvenirs to a reliable pair of walking shoes for that afternoon stroll along the river, can be found downtown. On Saturday mornings from April 19 through December 20, the fabulous Riverfront Farmers’ Market is open from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Water Street along the Cape Fear River. Expect to find fresh fruits and vegetables, fragrant herbs, savory seafood, unique arts and crafts and plenty of entertainment.
Historic Downtown Wilmington has plenty of parking — meters, decks and lots. There are more than 2,000 spaces conveniently located in three decks and one lot. The first hour of parking is free in the decks, $1 per hour thereafter with a maximum charge of $5. The decks are open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Meters are $.75 per hour and free after 6:30 p.m. daily and all day Sunday.
A Short Drive: Pleasure Island, Southport, Bald Head Island
Located 15 miles from Wilmington, the southernmost portion of the Cape Fear peninsula, better known as Pleasure Island, offers a surplus of recreational activities for locals and visitors alike. The towns of Carolina and Kure beaches are found on Pleasure Island.
Carolina Beach is a classic small-town beach community with something for everyone to enjoy. From the beachfront to the marina and everywhere in between, charm and hospitality are evident. Enjoy the sand and surf at the beach (they’ve even got a drive-on beach at the north end near famous Freeman Park), or head over to the marina and hop a charter boat or watch the fishermen unload the day’s catch. Shopping and dining are just footsteps away. In fact, park the car and save your gas. Flip-flops and a bike will take you most everywhere you need to go.
Carolina Beach State Park
Located in an area steeped in both history and natural diversity, Carolina Beach State Park is a popular coastal attraction. Boasting a marina that provides access to some of North Carolina’s best fishing spots, a secluded camping area beneath towering trees, and miles of hiking trails that traverse a variety of distinct habitats, its popularity is no wonder. Visit Carolina Beach State Park to relax, enjoy nature or embark on an eye-opening adventure. The park is open daily to the public — May through August — from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Small, family-oriented Kure Beach lies at the southern tip of Pleasure Island. Uncrowded beaches, casual restaurants, comfortable accommodations and a first-class fishing pier make Kure Beach a true "getaway destination" for vacationers.
The Pleasure Island (Carolina & Kure Beach) Chamber of Commerce & Visitors Center is located at 1121 North Lake Park Boulevard on Carolina Beach.
Fort Fisher State Recreation Area is also a great way to spend a day by the sea. Explore the historical stories of Fort Fisher, Civil War battleground and museum which anchor the southernmost end of Pleasure Island and New Hanover County.
Adjacent to the Recreation Area, the North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher includes indoor and outdoor exhibits, auditorium, classrooms, meeting rooms and a gift shop. A full tour of the aquarium takes approximately two hours. The aquarium is open to the public Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is $8 for adults, $7 for seniors and $6 for children (ages 6-17). Children ages 5 and under are free. A gift shop is on site.
Just past the Fort is the location of the Southport/Fort Fisher Ferry, the passenger and car ferry to Southport. Ferry fares range from $1 for pedestrians to $5-$10 for vehicles, depending on size, and travel from Fort Fisher to Southport and back daily from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Nestled just south of Wilmington at the mouth of the Cape Fear River, the quaint city of Southport offers a quiet getaway from your hectic vacation schedule. Enjoy a leisurely stroll through the shops, or take a guided tour through charming downtown Southport and explore the history behind its buildings and landmarks.
Our favorite way to get to Southport is via the car and passenger Southport/Fort Fisher Ferry. Visit www.ncdot.org/transit/ferry for ferry schedules.
Bald Head Island
Board the passenger ferry to Bald Head Island at the terminal at Indigo Plantation and Marina in historic Southport, N.C., and enjoy the 20-minute ride to the harbor at Bald Head Island. Bald Head is located at the confluence of the Cape Fear River and Atlantic Ocean. With 14 miles of beaches, 10,000 acres of protected salt marsh and tidal creeks and a vast maritime forest preserve, the island offers a peaceful getaway, as well as an opportunity to become immersed in the natural beauty of the coast. From fishing and boating to water sports and nature trails, Bald Head’s list of attractions and activities is never-ending. Representing more than 100 lovely homes, cottages and condominiums, Bald Head Island Limited offers you the most comprehensive selection of accommodations for rent. Guests of Bald Head Island Limited enjoy temporary membership in the Bald Head Island Club, allowing access to its celebrated golf course, croquet greenswards, tennis courts, fitness room, pool, dining room and lounge.
For most of the year, ferries leave the mainland on the hour and the island on the half-hour, beginning at 8 a.m. The winter schedule may be abbreviated, and the summer schedule expanded. Current schedules are also posted at the ferry terminals, or may be ascertained by calling the Indigo depot at (910) 457-5003. Advance ferry reservations are required, and should be confirmed three days in advance. Arrive at the ferry terminal at least 30 minutes before your scheduled departure time. Round-trip tickets cost $15 for adults, $8 for children ages 3-12. There is no charge for children age two and younger. Tram service to your accommodations is included in the price.
A Short Drive: Orton Plantation
Orton Plantation is a beautifully adorned time capsule that captures an era long gone. Located just 18 miles south of Wilmington, this magnificent setting is a historical and botanical gem nestled alongside the Cape Fear River. The first house constructed on the property was destroyed in a fire, but part of the replacement structure built in 1735 still exists today within the main residence. The rice fields are now stunning gardens populated by azaleas, camellias, pines, hardwoods, annuals and perennials — a true botanical oasis.
The plantation dates back to 1727, when Roger Moore bought the riverfront tract and named it after his family’s ancestral home in England. The land passed through many hands over the next several decades and was abandoned for a time before Colonel Kenneth McKenzie Murchison purchased and restored the plantation in 1884. James Sprunt, a cotton exporter, author and philanthropist, was the next owner, and the plantation has remained in the Sprunt family ever since. The original 8,000-acre tract was expanded to 15,000 acres in 1920 with the acquisition of neighboring plantations and Brunswick Town, the ruins of a colonial town that predated the settlement that would later become Wilmington.
Although the house is not open to the public, the hour-long self-guided tour of the grounds and gardens provides a spectacularly framed window into the past that is well worth the 40-minute drive from Wrightsville Beach. Orton Plantation is open March through November. It hosts weddings, meetings and other events, and has been featured in many movies and television series. It is located on NC Hwy 133, 18 miles south of Wilmington and 10 miles north of Southport.
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