Destination Wrightsville | What to do: Attractions

BY Staff


Wrightsville Beach Museum of History

A vintage bungalow is the home of this charming house museum founded to preserve and share the history of Wrightsville Beach which was incorporated in 1899. Located a stone’s throw from the John Nesbitt Loop on West Salisbury Street in the rescued Myers Cottage circa 1910 visitors will find furniture relics old photos and three-dimensional scale exhibits highlighting the early days of the beach. The Beach Car trolley the famed Lumina Pavilion and the Great Fire of 1934 are just a few of the stories told in living history accounts taped by local historians. The museum is open Tuesday-Friday from  10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday from noon to  5 p.m. and Sunday from 1-5 p.m. Admission is $3 for adults and free for kids up to 12 years old.
(910) 256-2569

The Cape Fear Museum of History and Science

Founded in 1898 it is the oldest history museum in the state of North Carolina. Located on Market Street near Historic Downtown Wilmington the Cape Fear Museum of History and Science houses some of the region’s most pertinent relics and artifacts and focuses on helping visitors understand the past of the Lower Cape Fear region through exploration of science and culture. The museum is open Monday-Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday from 1-5 p.m. Admission is $6 for adults $5 for seniors $5 for college students $3 for kids ages 3-17 and free for children younger than 3.
(910) 798-4350  

Cameron Art Museum

Wilmington’s first-class art museum opened in the spring of 2002 and includes two facilities: the art museum itself and the Pancoe Clay Studio. The museum is comprised of exhibits featuring fine arts craft and design offering weekly lectures and film as well as craft classes with prolific artists. The Pancoe Clay Studio operated by master clay artist Hiroshi Sueyoshi offers workshops for beginners and experts alike. The museum allows self-guided tours but a docent-led tour can be scheduled with one week’s notice — $10 for adults and $5 for kids. Located off of 17th Street Extension the museum is open Tuesday – Friday 11 a.m. – 2 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday 11 a.m. – 5 p.m. Admission is free for museum members $8 for nonmembers $5 for students with a valid student identification card and $3 for children ages 2-12.
(910) 395-5999

The Children’s Museum of Wilmington

Looking for a fun afternoon? The Children’s Museum of Wilmington located in the first few blocks of historic Orange Street in the River City’s Historic district serves children ages 1-8 their parents grandparents and the young at heart. The Children’s Museum offers the ultimate hands-on experience for kids eager to learn more about the world around them. Visitors can enjoy the art studio where they can try their hands at painting weaving and sculpting or the science counter where they can learn about nature and science with fun interactive exhibits. Birthday party rooms are also available. Open during the summer (hours change in the winter) Monday-Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday from 1-5 p.m. Tuesday nights are Family Game Nights! 5:30 – 7:30 p.m. Call for details.
(910) 254-3534  

Wilmington Railroad Museum

Opened in 1980 the Wilmington Railroad Museum is dedicated to conserving the history of the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad and to celebrating the history of the railroad in the southeastern United States. Located inside the restored waterside Atlantic Coast Line Warehouse B built in 1883 it features fabulous model railroads and a renovated ACL Steam Engine. It’s open Monday-Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday from 1-5 p.m. Admission is $7 for adults $6 for seniors and military personnel and $3 for children ages 2-12.
(910) 763-2634 


The New Hanover County Cooperative extension/Arboretum is the only arboretum in southeastern North Carolina offering visitors a chance to explore study and enjoy seven acres of local plants and their beautiful environments. The arboretum includes Japanese gardens with native Asian plants and one of the largest aquatic gardens in North Carolina. There’s also a children’s garden where everything is built to be fun for the kids. The arboretum is open 7 days a week during daylight hours. Office hours Monday-Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is free.
(910) 798-7660  

Harbor Way Gardens the public showplace of the Harbor Island Garden Club is a shady oasis nestled into the Wrightsville Beach landscape at the north end of the John Nesbitt Loop. Stroll the grounds or park it on a bench while the kids swing on the tire in the children’s play yard complete with a garden house pint-sized gardening tools and a hopscotch court. Now in its 57th season the garden is just one of the club’s beach beautification projects. Look for signs of its green thumb mission at Live Oak Circle on Banks Channel and at Johnnie Mercer’s Pier. Club president Linda Brown is the go-to gal. [email protected]

Poplar Grove Plantation

Under the leafy boughs of the poplar tree an old working plantation springs to life in warm weather. Each Wednesday on the grounds of Poplar Grove Plantation organic farmers and herbalists bring their homegrown plants and produce to market from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. and on the second and fourth Wednesday from 3:30 to 6:30 p.m. beginning May 28. Throughout the year the grounds outbuildings and the historic home of the Foy family who owned and occupied the plantation from 1795 to 1971 are opened for tours.

The stately 1850s mansion was the family’s second home built from milled yellow heart pine timber and bricks made on site. Some original family heirlooms are on display among the period furnishings like an 1890 wedding gown and authentic place settings of crystal and silver and chamber pots that match the pattern of the family’s good china.

The Foy family’s history is expressed during guided tours by such colorful anecdotes as the one about Saturday night square dances in the parlors. With cornmeal spread on the floor guests would kick up their heels to the cadence of a caller to the tune of a fiddler and the rhythm of a banjo picker until the tall case clock struck midnight.

Today spinning and weaving basket making and blacksmith demonstrations are conducted by volunteers.

Monday-Saturday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday noon to 5 p.m.

Adults $10
Senior adults and military $9
Students ages 6-15 $5
Children less than 5 free
Group discounts (for 15 or more)

Contact: (910) 686-9518

Poplar Grove Plantation is 10 miles north of Wrightsville Beach on US Hwy 17.

Island Hopping

Popular with surfers Masonboro Island located just off the south end of Wrightsville Beach is the largest pristine barrier island on the southern North Carolina coast. Though accessible only by boat the 8-mile-long undeveloped island is worth the trouble (if you call a beautiful boat ride trouble). The western shore with its marsh grass and gentle splash of water from boats gone by is the place to be on warm afternoons. Neighbors and friends often tie up their boats just off the western shoreline to enjoy a social time in the sun. The island itself can get crowded toward the north end so be prepared to anchor up close to someone or head further down Masonboro to a less-crowded area. Once you’ve found a spot all that’s left to do is pop open a beach chair pull out the picnic basket and bask in the sunshine. (Don’t forget to bring what you need; this is an uninhabited island!) Of course if you’re looking for a little adventure you can walk along one of the many trails to the Atlantic Ocean. Along the way you might see some of the abundant wildlife including gulls ghost crabs and brown pelicans. The endangered loggerhead turtles successfully nest on the island too. Feel free to enjoy this treasured local spot — just remember to tread softly and leave nothing but footprints behind.

Of North Carolina’s 20 barrier islands only four have remained undeveloped and void of mass recreational purposes. The Lea-Hutaff Island complex joined by the closure of Elmore’s Inlet in the late 1990s are among the fortunate uninhabited four. The 4-mile-long island chain bordered on the north by Topsail Inlet and to the south by Rich’s Inlet is an ideal place for nature lovers and bird watchers. It boasts a multitude of birds that nest on its shores including black skimmers oystercatchers common terns least terns Wilson’s plovers and endangered piping plovers. Sea turtles also nest there in the summertime. With such abundant wildlife inhabiting the marshland the island has been designated a state-significant Important Bird Area under the jurisdiction of the Audubon Society. The island is accessible only by boat and is located between Wrightsville Beach and Topsail Island. To reach the island from the Intracoastal Waterway turn east in Nixon Channel between channel markers 118 and 114 or turn southeast into Green Channel at marker 105.

Battleship USS North Carolina

The term battleship was coined circa 1794 and was used as a representation of dominance and military strength during the early 20th century. Battleships were characterized by heavy armor and a range of large- and small-caliber guns. During World War II United States battleship architects joined the race to build these colossal ironclads. The USS North Carolina was launched in June 1940 728 feet long with a displacement of 44 800 tons fully loaded. During World War II she participated in every major naval offensive in the Pacific area of operations and earned 15 battle stars.

These days the battleship USS North Carolina sits majestically across the river from Historic Downtown Wilmington on the Cape Fear River. For more than 30 years the warship has served as a museum and memorial preserving the history and memorabilia of WWII veterans from across the country. Exploration of the impressive battleship is done by walking tour. Artifacts collected over the years blueprints of the ship maps letters and much more are available to view. This floating museum will make you feel as though you’ve walked side by side with America’s bravest sailors.

Touring the battleship

The tour is self-guided and takes approximately two hours to complete. The battleship is open 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. year-round. Admission prices are $12 for adults (ages 12 and older) $10 for military and seniors (ages 65 and older) $6 for children ages
6-11 and free for all children under 5 years old. The USS North Carolina
is also available for event staging and can be the perfect place for a wedding reception or other functions.
(910) 251-5797


The N.C. Aquarium at Fort Fisher established in 1976 was built to encourage conservation and appreciation of North Carolina’s marine life. Located just 45 minutes by car from Wrightsville Beach this astounding aquarium sits oceanfront on Pleasure Island at Fort Fisher and is home to an incredible display of stingrays glowing jellyfish and other native creatures that are simply not to be missed. There’s so much to enjoy at the aquarium that visitors often find themselves spending the entire day.

Guests are invited to observe feeding times when aquarium experts submerge themselves into the watery worlds to feed the animals and answer audience questions (from inside the tank!). The aquarium offers educational programs to further enhance the experience. If you’re up for some hands-on fun the aquarium offers “Creature Feature ” a time to get up close and personal with some of the aquarium’s residents. Educated volunteers are always available to answer questions and have been known to carry rare fossils of ancient sea creatures and other surprises in their pockets. Special trips such as salt marsh excursions crabbing journeys fishing workshops and touch tank classes are also offered.

The N.C. Aquarium is open to the public from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. every day except Thanksgiving Day Christmas Day and New Year’s Day. Admission fees are $8 for adults $7 for seniors $6 for children ages 6-17 and free for kids less than 5 years old. The aquarium offers a snack bar and a gift shop as well as a play tank just for the kids!

For more information or to check the aquarium’s calendar of events.
866-301-3476 or (910) 458-8257