Wrightsville Beach is a popular vacation destination located in southeastern North Carolina. It is known for being one of the best beaches in North Carolina, having warm climate year round, and wide range of recreational activities.
It’s only a two-hour drive from Raleigh, North Carolina’s capital city, making it one of the most popular day trip destinations state-wide. Of course you can head to bach and relax all day, or you can enjoy all the best things to do in Wrightsville Beach, from renting a beach cruiser to paddleboarding.
How To Get to Wrightsville Beach
Wrightsville Beach is located in the southeast of the state, just a 20-minute drive from downtown Wilmington. To get to Wrightsville Beach from the surrounding area, there are several options:
- By Car: If you are driving to Wrightsville Beach, you can reach it by taking Highway 74/76 East from Wilmington. Follow this road until you reach the Wrightsville Beach exit, and then follow the signs to the beach.
- By Public Transportation: If you prefer to use public transportation, you can take the Wave Transit bus from Wilmington to Wrightsville Beach. The bus stops at various locations in Wilmington and at the Wrightsville Beach Loop.
- By Plane: The closest airport to Wrightsville Beach is Wilmington International Airport (ILM), which is about 20-30 minutes away from Wrightsville Beach. From the airport, you can take a taxi, rental car, or public transportation to get to Wrightsville Beach.
Parking at Wrightsville Beach
Before you get to enjoy all the best things to do in Wrightsville Beach you will have to find a place to park. Parking at Wrightsville Beach is no fun, especially between April and October, and ESPECIALLY on weekends and holidays. To park almost anywhere on Wrightsville Beach requires payment.
Paid parking is enforced from March 1st through October 31st, 9:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. daily at the rate of $5.00 per hour, or $25 per day. However, the first two hours of parking are free in the Municipal Complex which includes Wrightsville Beach Park, Town Hall, the Wrightsville Beach Museum, and the Visitor Center. Though, these lots fill up quickly.
Many of the local businesses and restaurants have private parking lots that are available for use by the public for a fee. These fees can vary, but are typically similar to the fees charged at public parking lots.
If you are staying at a hotel or vacation rental on Wrightsville Beach, you may have access to free parking. Many hotels and vacation rentals have their own parking lots or garages, which are available for use by guests.
The beach can get crowded during peak season, so it’s always best to get to the beach early for your best chance at good parking.
Best Things to do in Wrightsville Beach
1. Indulge in Fine Beer and Wine at Lighthouse Beer and Wine
Searching for a nice wine to sip on while watching the sun go down over Wrightsville Beach? Enjoy puffing on a cigar at the end of a long day? It’s hard to find good quality wine and cigars on the road but Lighthouse Beer and Wine makes it easy for visitors to find that special something to indulge in on their vacation.
Or maybe you just want to take something special home with you or buy something special for someone back home. Whatever it is, you’ll find it here! The shop features more than 600 wines, more than 800 international beers and a variety of cigars so you have plenty to choose from!
2. Hang out at Wrightsville Beach Park
No doubt the sandy beaches of the Wrightsville Beach area are a top draw but sometimes you just want to get away from the coast for a change of scenery. Wrightsville Beach Park is the perfect place to head to when you want to do something different for a change of scenery.
At this park, you’ll find two basketball courts, several sand volleyball pits, several tennis courts and a softball field. The on-site arboretum is a nice place to relax and if you’re traveling with children, they’ll love the playground. During the summer months, many events take place in the park.
3. Enjoy the Wrightsville Beach Shoreline
Of course, no article about things to see and do in Wrightsville Beach is complete without mentioning its top attraction; the shoreline itself! This stretch of white sand is known as the most accessible beach area in the state with access points located all over town.
The wide beach has plenty of space to enjoy an array of activities including surfing, paddleboarding, swimming, boating and just lying around in the sun. Lifeguards are on site most of the year and many activities, such as surfing tournaments, take place throughout the year.
The fact that the waters are clear most of the year, it’s been said many times that this is the top beach in North Carolina.
4. Go Snorkelling
With waters as clear and warm as the waters off Wilmington Beach, it’s no wonder that it’s a top destination for exploring beneath the waves. One of the best ways to do this is with snorkeling.
You can take your own gear and embark on an independent exploration below the surface or rent equipment and go with a group. See colorful fish and other intriguing marine species and explore sunken wrecks and perhaps even find some fossils. If you’re more adventurous, why not try scuba diving?
You can purchase snorkel equipment at the Wings Store on Wrightsville Beach.
5. Go Paddleboarding
Paddleboarding is taking the world by storm and Wrightsville Beach is no exception! At Wrightsville SUP, you don’t have to be an experienced paddleboarder to enjoy the sport because you can get a lesson from some pros who’ll show you the ropes.
If you already know how to paddleboard, you can simply rent one and go exploring on your own. The company also rents kayaks, outriggers and bicycles so you can explore the area in a variety of ways.
6. Get Fresh Seafood from Motts Channel Seafood
For more than 30 years, local fishermen have been delivering their fresh catches to the docks at Motts Channel Seafood. Oysters, clams, mussels, shrimp, fish… you name it, and you’ll find it here. But it’s more than just a seafood market; shoppers can also find everything they’ll need to prepare a full meal including vegetables, sauces and drinks.
7. Explore the Masonboro Island Coastal Estuarine Reserve
The best thing about Masonboro Island is it’s only accessible by boat, which means it’s quite remote and a lot less crowded. While on the island, you’ll have access to the Masonboro Island Coastal Estuarine Reserve which is home to over 5000 acres of pristine beaches, salt marshes and tidal flats.
The area is popular for bird watching, shelling, wildlife viewing and just getting away from it all. You can book an excursion to the island with several tour companies but you can also get there via water taxi with Wrightsville Beach Scenic Tours.
8. Eat Healthy at SurfBerry
We all do it; we overindulge on vacation and end up packing on a few extra pounds and not feeling the greatest when it’s all said and done. At SurfBerry, the goal is to help patrons stay healthy on the road with delicious food and drink.
On the menu, you’ll find vegan smoothies, organic juices, protein infused items and healthy alternatives to the usual fast-food fare that we tend to gravitate toward when on vacation.
9. Take a Sunset Cruise
Since the boat is fairly small, only 6 people at a time can embark on one of these cruises so you know it will be an intimate experience without a large crowd.
Cruises begin at $100 per person with a maximum of 6 people per tour. Booking will remain open until 2:00 PM the day of the cruise. ,You’ll enjoy spectacular scenery, delicious drinks, and of course, an incredible sunset on the water.
10. Visit the North Carolina Coastal Federation
If you’re interested in learning more about the area surrounding Wrightsville Beach, in particular the coastal area, pay a visit to the North Carolina Coastal Federation where you’ll enjoy interactive activities and exhibits.
Every day of the week is an intriguing learning experience at this place but if you happen to be in the area on a Tuesday, you’ll enjoy touch tank presentations where you can interact with local marine life.
11. Dine at the Shark Bar and Kitchen
If you want to dine where the locals dine and get a real taste of Wrightsville Beach, head to the Shark Bar and Kitchen, which is a locally-owned restaurant specializing in local seafood. Dishes are simple but created with expertise. Whether you want fresh oysters or crab cakes, you’ll find it on the menu here!
The menu does vary from day to day depending on what is caught that day. If seafood isn’t your thing, you’ll also find salads, fried platters, pasta dishes, burgers, sandwiches and wings on the menu. Stick around for a while and sip on a cold beer or cocktail.
12. Stay at the Blockade Runner Resort
The Blockade Runner is a top go-to resort in Wrightsville Beach and with a fantastic location, great views and an array of amenities, it’s no wonder! This oceanfront property features beautiful rooms with everything you need for a comfortable and enjoyable stay in the area.
The on-site fine dining restaurant specializes in international cuisine and has a cocktail bar but it’s the private beach area and outdoor pool that steal the show. How does a yoga class by the sea and surfing lessons sound? Not really your thing? Well, you can also opt to stay fit in the well-equipped fitness center too!
13. Learn How to Surf
Wrightsville Beach is known for its laid-back surf culture and excellent surfing conditions with gently rolling waves and warm waters. At Sean’s Private Surf Instruction, you can learn how to surf so you can be a part of this vibrant scene and enjoy riding the waves.
Lessons are suitable for all ages and safety is at the forefront. That being said, lessons are also fun and engaging. Learn the basic techniques you need to catch your first wave and build a solid foundation to pursue the sport further if you wish.
14. Drop a Heartfelt Letter in The Mailbox at Wrightsville Beach
A simple mailbox may not seem like a top tourist attraction but The Mailbox at 303 West Salisbury Street is more than just any old mailbox! Take a seat on the bench near this famous mailbox and write your innermost feelings and thoughts down on a piece of paper.
Stressed out about life events? Have deep feelings for someone? Whatever it is you want to get off your chest, jot it down. After you’ve poured your heart and soul into your heartfelt letter, deposit it in the box.
Who knows if it will ever be read but it sure feels good to take a load off your shoulders with the backdrop of this scenic location drawing out whatever it is that has been weighing you down.
15. Visit the Wrightsville Beach Museum of History
The history of Wrightsville Beach goes back over 100 years and you can learn all about the fascinating things that have taken place in this coastal town with a visit to the Wrightsville Beach Museum of History.
Even the building that the museum is housed in, which is a restored beach house from the early 1900s, has a story to tell! Inside this house, you’ll find many exhibits housing artifacts such as artworks, bathing suits that were worn in decades past, postcards and items related to the thriving surf scene.
Learn about the impact of past hurricanes and the town’s legacy as a popular vacation destination and see a model of the town as it looked in 1910.
16. Take a Bike Ride Through Town
Wilmington Beach is a very bike-friendly place and riding a bike around town and along the coast is one of the best ways to experience it. Embark on a relaxing journey with a warm breeze hitting your face and see many of the town’s top attractions. Of course, the bonus is you’ll get a workout in at the same time!
You don’t need to bring a bike along with you to enjoy a ride because several places around town have bicycles available to rent such as Figure Island Bike Rentals.
17. Take a Stroll along Johnnie Mercers Fishing Pier
While fishing is the primary activity at Johnnie Mercers Fishing Pier, you don’t have to cast a line into the waters to enjoy this iconic fixture in Wrightsville Beach. Originally constructed in the 1930s and rebuilt after hurricane damage, the pier is known for being the only one in the state made of concrete and, at 1,2000 feet, the longest one in the Cape Fear area.
Many visitors to the town head to the pier in the evening to watch the sunset and enjoy views of the area. On-site, you’ll find a grill, a bait and tackle shop and plenty of room to take a stroll alongside anglers waiting for the big one to bite.
18. Escape into Nature at Airlie Gardens
The main purpose of Airlie Gardens is to share this beautiful garden with anyone interested in the natural world and to preserve its beauty for generations to come. As you explore this expansive 67-acre site, you’ll see lakes and huge gardens full of colorful flowers, plants and trees.
There are also some nature trails, historic buildings and artworks to check out during your visit. The Pollinator Garden is a must-see as it attracts butterflies, bees and hummingbirds. You’ll need to purchase tickets in advance to get into the gardens, and a tram service is included.
19. Visit the Aquarium in Wilmington
One of the top attractions to visit in the Wilmington area is the North Carolina Aquarium in past Carolina Beach in nearby Fort Fisher. Explore the natural world without actually going in the water and participate in unique experiences that you won’t find anywhere else!
Inside the tanks, watch eels, sharks and other marine species go about their daily lives in an environment just like their natural one. Be sure to watch for the albino alligator, baby sea turtles and adorable otters and visit the touch tanks and feel a friendly stingray as it glides through the water.
20. Walk, Fish, or Dine at Crystal Pier
Constructed in the late 1930s, Crystal Pier is another scenic pier near Wrightsville Beach, except this one is made of wood. It’s a great place to take an evening stroll but it’s also a great place to do some fishing or enjoy a fantastic meal at one of the on-site restaurants.
Sometimes there are even events taking place at the pier including yoga classes so you never know what will be going on there from day to day!
Have a Drink at the Wrightsville Beach Brewery
The Wrightsville Beach brewery is one of the best breweries in Wilmington and is where you can head after a long day in the sun.
With a 20 barrel system and 40 taps, they are sure to have something for everyone to imbibe under the live oaks in the picturesque beer garden. The Wilmywood Wit is the ideal coastal Carolina brew, light yet hoppy with fresh floral, citrus, and spice notes.
Where to Eat On Wrightsville Beach
- Poe’s Tavern: Laid back place to grab a beer and burger while enjoying the Edgar Allan Poe decor.
- Tower 7 Baja Mexican Grill: Probably the most iconic and well known place to grab tacos in all of Wilmington. Truly an institution.
- Oceanic: One of the most romantic places for dinner in Wrightsville Beach. Here you can dine right on the ocean.
Where to Stay on Wrightsville Beach
There are several hotels located on or near Wrightsville Beach that are popular with travelers. Some of the top-rated hotels on Wrightsville Beach include:
- Blockade Runner Beach Resort: This beachfront resort is located on the south end of Wrightsville Beach and offers a range of amenities including an outdoor pool, fitness center, and on-site restaurant.
- Holiday Inn Resort Wrightsville Beach: Located on the north end of the beach, this hotel offers oceanfront rooms, an outdoor pool, and a range of dining options.
- The Shell Island Resort: This beachfront hotel is located on the north end of Wrightsville Beach and offers a range of amenities including an outdoor pool, fitness center, and on-site restaurant.
- Sandpeddler Inn and Suites:
- Alternatively, get a VRBO with the family! These are some of the best Wrightsville Beach VRBOS.
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