Wrightsville Beach is a coastal North Carolina paradise for many longtime fans, and for a wide spectrum of reasons. Some visitors return year after year for the fantastic fishing, while others are surf hounds who love the summer and fall waves. Many visitors simply enjoy its proximity to a collection of engaging southern towns, including Wilmington, Carolina Beach, and Kure Beach.
Overall, however, it can easily be argued that the big attraction of Wrightsville Beach is naturally the shoreline, and despite the fact that thousands of vacationers and locals alike head to the sand daily with towels and umbrellas in tow, the beach is never overly crowded, and offers plenty of room to spread out a beach blanket, listen to the ocean waves in the background, and simply relax along one of southern North Carolina's most scenic shorelines.
Wrightsville Beach, originally known as "Ocean View Beach," was basically always a beach town, with its first official structure, the Carolina Yacht Club, built along the seashore in 1853. In 1899, the town was incorporated, and served as a coastal retreat for summertime visitors who could reach the shoreline by a boat or a steam train. Bordered to the west by the wide inlets and the Intercoastal Waterway, and bordered to the East by the Atlantic Ocean, Wrightsville Beach is a small town at just 2.4 square miles in area, but it has a big reputation as being one of the best beach communities along the coast.
The town has always been a paradise for visiting and local surfers, as the shallow ocean floor and abundance of gentle summer waves serve as perfect training grounds for beginners. In the fall, when warm squalls and hurricanes pass offshore on a regular basis, the waves pick up noticeably, and become awesome playgrounds for professionals and experts. As a result, a number of regional and even national surfing competitions have been held on these beaches, and the town has responded with plenty of surf shops, rentals and lessons, and fast-casual restaurants to enjoy a big, budget-friendly meal after a full day on the water.
Other watersports have also made their mark on Wrightsville Beach, including kayaking, parasailing, jet skiing, and stand up paddle boarding. In fact, stand up paddle boarding has been making some serious waves along Wrightsville Beach in the past few years, with a half dozen local companies offering gear rentals and lessons to newcomers.
Fishing is another popular adventure for regular visitors, as virtually all types of angling are represented. Fishermen can head to the famous and relatively new Johnnie Mercer's Pier for bluefish, sheapshead, mullet, and particularly king mackerels, which make regular appearances and are the star of the pier's local pier fishing tournaments and challenges. There are also a number of inshore and offshore charter businesses available that comb the waters along the beaches, or the deep blue seas of the Gulf Stream, for exceptionally large catches. Considering that the region first began as a respite for anglers and boaters, it should come as no surprise that the local fishing scene is a cornerstone of Wrightsville Beach's culture, and thousands of anglers head here year after year to cast their lines.
While Wrightsville Beach feels like a small beach town, with neighborhoods filled with vacation rental homes and a scattering of resorts or hotels, there are a surprisingly large number of dining, sopping and nightlife options. Restaurants here range from the laid-back and hearty, perfect for big appetites, to fine dining establishments that border the Atlantic Ocean or soundside waters. With seafood markets and wine and beer shops within the town limits, it's also easy to create a gourmet meal at home, or visitors can simply let a top local chef do all the work, and enjoy exquisite coastal Carolina cuisine that centers around the fresh seafood in the region.
Wrightsville Beach is also home to a number of surf shops, boutiques, antique stores, and beach gear or souvenir shops that will satisfy the most discriminating window shopper. Essentially, this small town, despite its size, is home to a world of fun, and it's not unusual for the party to heat up after hours, providing night owls with plenty of lounges, bars, and live music to stay entertained.
Visitors who want to escape from the rest of the world, and dive into a natural setting, can plan a trip to neighboring Masonboro Island, a popular state reserve that serves as a temporary refuge for endangered sea turtles, hundreds of migrating birds, and other mammals, reptiles and fish that call the 8.4 mile long barrier island home. With nothing but primitive nature trails and endless views of the maritime forest, tidal flats, marshes, and postcard perfect beaches, Masonboro Island is a splendid destination for Wrightsville Beach visitors who want to literally get away from it all.
The town is also renowned for its events, and virtually every seasonal weekend boasts an exciting happening for locals and visitors alike to discover. Celebrate the holidays with the annual Flotilla, a coastal celebration with thousands of Christmas lights, or test your mettle with one of the region's many running, biking, and kayaking challenges, including the famous, or rather infamously challenging, Beach 2 Battleship Iron Distance Triathlon. From art to live music, surfing competitions to fishing tournaments, every genre of vacationer will find events that suit their favorite seaside interests.
Wrightsville Beach might not be the largest coastal community along North Carolina, but it certainly has a claim to fame as one of the most popular beach communities along the southern coast, with an equally grand and enduring reputation. An inviting summer retreat for well over 150 years, Wrightsville Beach still enchants newcomers with miles of beaches, enticing restaurants and shops, and a literal ocean of outdoor fun. Join the wave of visitors who love this region, and discover why the small community of Wrightsville beach has become a beach vacation staple for generations of North Carolina visitors.