With a location that borders water in veritably every direction, it’s not surprising that Wrightsville Beach has more than its fair share of scenic spot around the town. Close to incredible beaches, local landmarks, and neighboring communities that are known for their stature and beauty, Wrightsville Beach is a dream for sightseers who want to relax and enjoy the view.
Start your scenic exploration with a visit to these sites that are found a shell’s throw or a short drive away, and which offer miles of natural beauty.
The Johnnie Mercer's Pier is wide open for pedestrians who want to take in an exceptional view, and is one of the few North Carolina piers that doesn’t charge a fee just to take a stroll. Extending for more than 1,200 ft. into the Atlantic Ocean, visitors can enjoy stunning vistas of the local Wrightsville Beach landscape from an oceanfront perspective by walking down the length of the concrete structure, or settling into one of the many benches stationed along the way.
North Wrightsville Beach / Shell Island
Visitors who appreciate a natural beach landscape will want to head to the northern end of Wrightsville Beach, which is known as “Shell Island.” Located on the edges of the Shell Island Resort, visitors can take a stroll to the tip of the island to enjoy undeveloped shorelines and local inlet views.
Wrightsville Beach Park / Arboretum
Situated in between the two bridges to the Wrightsville Beach Coastline, the Wrightsville Beach Park is a public destination for outdoor activity off the sand. Bypass the municipal buildings and playing fields, and head to the small on-site Arboretum for a healthy sample of local flora and fauna, as well a few benches for taking a break and admiring the scene.
The eastern side of the Wrightsville Beach Causeway features a popular public boat ramp that connects with the Intracoastal Waterway, and which offers miles of views in the process. Bring a boat or kayak along for a full exploration, or just enjoy a few photos of the maritime traffic as it cruises under the causeway bridge overhead.
This isolated and completely undeveloped barrier island shoreline expands for 8.4 miles and is only accessible by boat or kayak. As a result, visitors who make the trek to the Mansonboro Island Coastal Estuarine Reserve will be rewarded with stunning beaches, great birdwatching, and miles of waterfront views in every direction.
Freeman Park (Carolina Beach)
Popular with the 4WD crowd, the undeveloped Freeman Park features plenty of oceanfront views without any commercial or residential properties getting in the way. Rustic camping is allowed within the park (details can be found at http://www.carolinabeach.org/visitors/freeman_park/freeman_park_camping.php) which makes it a great destination for ocean views all vacation long.
Carolina Beach State Park (Carolina Beach)
Encompassing more than 760 acres of nature terrain, Carolina Beach State Park is a popular destination for birdwatchers, hikers, bikers, kayakers and paddlers, and anglers, thanks to its naturally scenic location. Explore the six miles of nature trails, and look out for the myriad of carnivorous plants which call the park home, including Venus flytraps, pitcher plants, butterworts and bladderworts.
Wilmington Riverwalk (Wilmington)
For a true glimpse into Cape Fear history combined with its current commerce, arts, and culture, there’s no place like the Wilmington Riverwalk. Extending for roughly a mile along the downtown waterfront, visitors will enjoy exceptional views of the Cape Fear River, a vast collection of historic buildings, and iconic sites like the USS Battleship North Carolina and The Cotton Exchange
Bordering the Masonboro Sound, the Trails End Park features a convenient boat launch for exploring the water, as well as scenic views for both birdwatching and scoping out the variety of vessels that cruise by on a steady basis.
Known as a popular spot for kayakers, anglers, and mariners, the River Road Park features an on-site fishing pier which overlooks the Cape Fear River, and which presents plenty of views and exceptional birdwatching for visitors.
Airlie Gardens (Wilmington)
Wander through 67 acres of seasonal blooms, historic sites, and exquisite artworks with a visit to this park that is renowned for its foliage. Features of note include the centuries old “Arlie’s Oak,” 10 acres of pretty freshwater lakes, and more than 100,000 seasonally blooming azaleas.
New Hanover County Arboretum (Wilmington)
This easy-to-explore destination features more than 30 diverse garden displays which features both native and naturalized plant species. Gardens of note within the sunny terrain include a water garden, an authentic Japanese garden, a children’s garden, a wintertime-blooming Camelia garden, and much more.
Bluethenthal Wildflower Preserve (Wilmington)
This scenic preserve that’s connected with the UNCW campus features a walking tail complete with pamphlets at the entrance, a collection of wild blooms, and a number of benches and outdoor classrooms where wildlife fans and birdwatchers can relax and enjoy the scene.
Greenfield Park and Lake (Wilmington)
Expanding for 250 acres, the Greenfield Park and Lake features roughly 5 miles of walking and biking trails that veer past pretty gardens and natural landscapes, as well as an on-site lake that’s perfect for paddlers of all varieties.
Latimer House Museum and Gardens (Wilmington)
Built in the mid-1850s, the Latimer House Museum and Gardens features a stunningly appointed main house that is flanked by Victorian gardens, an original courtyard with iron fountain, and seasonal blooming flowers and foliage.
Hugh MacRae Park (Wilmington)
Located in a busy section of Wilmington off of College Road, the scenic and surprisingly quiet Hugh MacRae Park features seasonal azaleas, small freshwater ponds, an on-site stream, and other natural foliage that can be explored via a 1.5 mile jogging, walking, and biking trail.
Expanding for just 16 acres, this small central Wilmington park features a .5 mile nature trail that veers through area wetlands, local creeks, and towering pine / cypress trees, which in turn presents ample birdwatching or wildlife watching opportunities.
Bellamy Mansion (Wilmington)
The 10,000’ square foot Bellamy Mansion is a work of art that represents 19th century architecture, and the outlying property features a collection of gardens that are lined with oyster shell paths, and which are shaded by more than 150-year-old magnolia trees.
Burgwin-Wright House Museum and Gardens (Wilmington)
Constructed in 1770-1771, the Burgwin-Wright House Museum and Gardens features an ornate Georgian manor house which is stocked with antiques, as well as surrounding gardens that boast an on-site orchard, seasonal blooms, and a modest kitchen garden.
Tips and Tricks for Exploring Wrightsville Beach’s Scenic Spots
- The best time to enjoy an uncrowded shoreline on Wrightsville Beach is in the early morning or late evening hours. Visitors will also want to time a visit for a weekday, when possible, as weekend crowds can get thick in the summer months.
- A number of vacation rentals in Wrightsville Beach offer incredible views of the local landscape from sunrise to sunset. Look for vacation rentals that are marked as oceanfront or soundfront to enjoy picturesque vistas throughout a vacation.
- One of the best ways to explore Wrightsville Beach’s wild side is to rent or bring a kayak / stand up paddle board, and go for a ride. The area features a variety of waterways that border the Intracoastal Waterway, the town borders, and a network of marshes and islands which are ideal for fishing and birdwatching.
- Want to see more? Book a tour or cruise! A number of local businesses in Wrightsville Beach specialize in scenic boat tours, which includes sunset cruises, eco-tours, dolphin watching expeditions, and everything in between.
- Tours are also available in other regions of the Cape Fear area, including and especially Downtown Wilmington, NC. Book a walking, trolley, carriage, or boat tour to fully explore the stories behind the downtown’s impressive façade.
- Don’t forget that Wrightsville Beach is stunning in the winter months too! With little beach traffic, visitors can enjoy great shelling and isolated views all to themselves – (as well as generally reduced rates on area accommodations and ample parking.)
There’s no shortage of great sightseeing vantage points in this coastal town, and often the easiest route to enjoying the scene is simply taking a walk to the beach. From oceanfront perspectives to popular hubs along the nearby river, the Cape Fear region and Wrightsville Beach are brimming with stunning views, which makes it easy for a visitors to lean back, relax, and just enjoy the local surroundings.