When you come to the coastal North Carolina area, the first thing you notice is the abundance of water! After all, the Cape Fear coast is literally surrounded by water: the ocean, the river, the Intracoastal Waterway and the many creeks and tidal estuaries. For the boaters, sailors, surfers,paddlers, fishermen and anglers of all ages, this means there is no shortage of fun-on-the-water activity options.
While the area is known for its long stretches of white sand beaches, the mild coastal climate means you can enjoy the outdoors practically year round- not just in the warmer months. It is especially suited for golf lovers. Here you will find over 60 private, semi-private and public golf courses between Myrtle Beach and Wilmington NC, which means there is something for players of every level. Tennis is another popular year-round sport here in the coastal NC area. There is active USTA league play every season in both the private and public tennis facilities for everyone from beginners to 6.0s!
A rich and diverse past draws history buffs to the NC coastal area. Start out in Southport, at the mouth of the Cape Fear River to relive the days of pirates and plundering. A visit to the town's maritime museum will give you a good overview of Southport's 200 year old heritage. While there, take a stroll along the downtown waterfront, peel some fresh shrimp at one of the dockside restaurants and take in the views of two lighthouses: the Oak Island Light, and Old Baldy on nearby Bald Head Island. Want to try to catch the big one? There are deep sea fisher charters available that will take you out to the gulf stream for some high-seas adventure. Paddlers will also find suppliers who organize tours of the Southport area's creeks and rivers.
Just up the road from Southport, heading toward Wilmington NC, is Orton Plantation and gardens, a Colonial area rice plantation with over 20 miles of walking trails and stunning gardens. Nearby is historic Brunswick Town, site of the Colonial Period-Civil War Fort Anderson. Hop on the Southport ferry and cross over to Fort Fisher, an important Confederate stronghold during the American Civil War.
State owned Fort Fisher also features the impressive NC Aquarium, a perennial favorite with the young and old alike. There is also the Fort Fisher North Carolina Recreation area on one of the few undeveloped stretches of beach in the coastal area. Here you will find fewer crowds, six miles of white sands and a well-appointed bathhouse. Four-wheel drive vehicles are allowed access with either a daily or annual permit.
You are now in Wilmington NC territory, known for its funky blend of hip urban downtown, its arts district, extensive list of restaurants, shopping, shopping and more shopping! This is the do-it-all city, where you can catch some college hoops at UNC-Wilmington, cheer on the Wilmington Sharks baseball team or watch a movie under the stars on the deck of the historic Battleship North Carolina.
Downtown Wilmington is a walker's paradise, where you can meander around the impressive historic district, noted by the National Register of Historic Places as one of its top travel destinations. Take the one mile stroll along the newly completed Riverwalk, or enjoy the river from a different view point aboard an old-time steam boat. For a more leisurely overview of the city, try the horse-drawn carriage ride or trolley tour.
Families can head to the Wilmington Children's Museum, right down the street from the Cape Fear history museum. Art lovers can explore the town's many art galleries or head to the Louise Wells Cameron Museum of Arts. Theater buffs can check out the latest offerings at the historic Thalian Hall, or experience a touring opera or symphony at UNC-W's Kenan Auditorium. Spend some quite time at the lovely Airlie Gardens, where you will find summer concerts and other seasonal activities, like the popular Enchanted Airlie light display during the holiday season.