The area around the Cape Fear coast is one of the most populated tourist areas along the North Carolina coastline. Much of this is due to the large amount of commercialism near the coast, but doesn't overpopulate the beaches. Residents and tourists can get the best of both worlds enjoying the pristine beachs while residing only a few minutes drive from the amenities of the city.
The beach communities are not crowded - even throughout most of the summer - and are the perfect haven for sun worshipers to spend a day listening to the waves crash on the shore. The many estuary reserves along the New Hanover County coastline are also a great, unpopulated spot to catch some rays or look for seashells. Avid fishermen and sportsmen enjoy the beaches near Wilmington because the area offers many different piers, flourishing fishing spots and great waters for recreational activities. Whatever you're looking for in a vacation destination, the beaches near Wilmington will provide you with everything you want.
Wilmington's historic downtown area is the perfect location for a trip off the island where you can stroll down the streets encompasses by large live oaks and Victorian style architecture in both the homes and the churches of the downtown area. The historic district encompasses nearly 230 blocks and showcases mansions, old grave sites and landmark buildings. For a romantic evening, many enjoy taking a horse drawn carriage or trolley tour of the culturally rich area after eating at one of the many waterfront fine-dining restaurants. If you prefer a day trip with the children, employ one of the intriguing Wilmington natives to take you through a walking tour of the city. The Bellamy Mansion is one of the biggest attractions in the downtown area and is often a location for weddings. Built right before the Civil War, the home is one of the most magnificent examples of antebellum structural design. After the fall of Fort Fisher, Federal troops overtook the mansion as their headquarters. It now stands as a museum presenting the history of the area as well as celebrated artisans.
For more adventure and folk lore learn about the many ghosts of Wilmington;how they lived and now how they haunt the area. The Ghost Walk of Old Wilmington and the Haunted Pub Crawl offer a great and mysterious night of fun. With the largest historic district in the state and alleyways that have seen life for nearly 275 years, it's no wonder there's such an exciting business built around the local past. The walk is an hour and a half long family safe and tours the historic area to show the many "haunted"homes. Explore the Bellamy Mansion, travel through St. James graveyard to hear about the many ghosts who haunt their grave and investigate Gallows Hill to discover the many "trapped souls" who have yet to resolve their wrong-doings. It is a fun way to learn about the history of the area, in a harmless yet mystifying environment.
Riverboat cruises on the majestic Henrietta III have two sightseeing cruises and a lunch cruise for those interested in seeing an Intracoastal Waterway tour of the greater Wilmington area. Displaying the finest in southern hospitality,these cruises are perfect for special occasions such as anniversaries, birthdays or just a day of fun. While traveling along the Cape Fear River, enjoy delicious seafood cuisine while you learn about the history of the area. You might even catch a glimpse of the Battleship North Carolina. Visit Topsail Beach and see if your family can find the famous pirate Blackbeard's treasure; he was rumored to have hid his treasures throughout many of the places on the central coast.
The island communities on the New Hanover coastline such as Carolina Beach and Wrightsville Beach illustrate much of the local flavor of the area. Fishermen come to these shores to enjoy the many fish who call these parts of the Atlantic Ocean home. Deep sea cruises and private charters abound in the area. The proximity of the Gulf Stream, about 40 nautical miles off shore, coalesce with the cooler Atlantic to generate a great spot for many different species of maritime wildlife. Snapper, red drum, mahi mahi and flounder are often found off these beaches. Surf fishing also proves a popular sport whether it's done with a string and some fish heads or with a net. There are many different piers along the beaches such as the Surf City Pier and Bait Shop, which combined with a cooler stocked with lunch and your favorite beverage, can be the perfect day to many.
For a different type of adventurous day, you can rent nearly any type of water sport equipment in the area. Take a kayak or a boat to the tidal flats of Figure Eight Island and discover the unspoiled landscape of the private area or go fishing near the mouth of the Cape Fear River. Few beaches along the North Carolina coastline allow vehicles on the actual beach; Kure Beach is one of them. Cruise out on the sand in your four wheel drive vehicle (after paying $10 for a day pass) and drive up to the access point of the North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher. The amazing maritime museum and aquarium is located right on the coast. Spend a morning discovering the waves, then walk to the aquarium to explore the many different species of animals who call the waters of the Atlantic home. Experience the large touch tank where you can get and up close experience with these beautiful creatures or visit the tanks that house some of the scariest creatures in the sea: sharks.
You and your family can explore the beauty and tranquility of the beach and the rich culture of the historic downtown area while vacationing/living in a seemingly remote beach community. You'll never be far from many different amenities - no matter what the appetite. Hundreds of restaurants, educational activities, environmentally-based activities and just plain fun are waiting for you to discover along New Hanover's coast.
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By Paul Coffman
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