Watersports are huge in Wrightsville Beach, and kayaking and paddle boarding have certainly taken this island community by storm. With multiple waterways, unique coastal destinations, and miles of wild terrain, a paddling adventure can easily be the highlight of any Wrightsville Beach vacation, and is an accessible sport that can be enjoyed by beginners and experts alike.
Plan a kayaking expedition during your next vacation, and discover a new Wrightsville Beach experience that can only be enjoyed from a waterfront perspective.
Where to Launch in and Around Wrightsville Beach
Paddlers will find a number of options when it comes to launching a kayak or canoe in the Wrightsville Beach region. Start a paddling adventure by heading to these sites where launching is a breeze.
Wrightsville Beach - 109 Causeway Dr Wrightsville, NC 28480
This public boat ramp on the Wrightsville Beach-side of the Causeway is one of the most popular boat ramps for vessels of all sizes in the area. Parking is available for roughly 72 vehicles with trailers, and paddlers will want to watch for maritime traffic in this busy section of the Intracoastal Waterway.
River Road Park Boat Ramp, River Road Park, Wilmington, NC 28412
Located on the southeastern edge of Wilmington on the Cape Fear River, this boat ramp features a single lane ramp, as well as restrooms and a fishing pier for an array of waterfront adventures.
Castle Street Boat Ramp, Castle Street and Surrey Street, Wilmington, NC 28401
Explore the heart of downtown Wilmington with a visit to this boat ramp that connects with a popular portion of the Cape Fear, and which features multiple launching lanes including a separate area for kayaks.
Trails End Boat Ramp, 621 Trails End Road, Wilmington, NC 28409
Paddlers can reach the Masonboro Sound as well as the outlying Masonboro Island Preserve via this launch site that features a launching lane, a fishing pier, and parking for 30 vehicles.
Carolina Beach State Park Boat Ramp, B Road, Carolina Beach, NC 28428
This site in nearby Carolina Beach State Park accesses a scenic section of the ICW, and features roughly 40 parking spaces, separate launching lanes and / or kayak launching areas, and on-site courtesy docks, among the park’s many amenities.
Snows Cut Boat Ramp, 220 Annie Drive, Carolina Beach, NC 28428
This popular launching destination in nearby Carolina Beach provides instant access to the ICW and Snow’s Cut, as well as a separate hand launching site for kayaks and canoes, and approximately 100 parking spaces. Five launching lanes accommodate vehicles of all sizes here, so watch for maritime traffic.
Federal Point / Buzzard Bay, 2515 South Fort Fisher Blvd., Kure Beach, NC
Located on the southern tip of Kure Beach, this launch site connects with miles of ocean and Cape Fear waters, and features parking for roughly 40 vehicles. From here, paddlers can be at the Zekes Island Reserve within minutes – just use caution, as maritime traffic and currents can lead to dangerous paddling conditions.
Kayakers can also hit the public beaches for a little paddling on the ocean waves. Parking is around $2.50 per hour (or $15 per day) from March 1st through October 31st throughout the town, and paddlers will want to pay attention to surf zones which are generally enforced on the oceanside beaches from Memorial Day to Labor Day.
Visitors who want instant access to the local waterways all vacation long can also stay at a local vacation rental. Many soundfront vacation homes have on-site docks and / or launching areas, which makes it easy to ease into the water and explore the region at any time.
Wrightsville Beach Kayak Rentals and Sales
Visitors who need gear to start a paddling trip will find ample options in Wrightsville Beach. The town is home to a number of surf shops, beach equipment stores, watersports rental suppliers, and even kayaking-specific shops where all the equipment needed for a paddling adventure can be acquired.
Newcomers who want to pick up a new or used kayak for sale, (or to rent), can swing by local establishments like the Wrightsville Kayak Company, Carolina Paddleboard Co, and Wrightsville SUP for an assortment of canoes, kayaks, and stand up paddle boards for their upcoming adventures. Visitors in the market for a used or budget-friendly kayak will want to pop in at the end of the season, (generally considered mid to late fall), when big deals can be found on both slightly dated models, and used equipment.
For rentals, visitors can stop at one of the aforementioned watersports shops, or at an all-encompassing rental store like Cape Fear Beach Rentals. Local rental businesses offer a wide array of equipment – which includes kayaks, paddles, life jackets, and even fishing poles – which can be acquired on an hourly, daily, or even weekly business.
For even more options, paddling enthusiasts can head inland to Wilmington. The Port City has a wide array of kayak-specific shops as well as large sporting goods stores, like Dick’s Sporting Goods, which gives paddlers even more options (and price ranges) for purchasing new or used equipment.
Regardless of where you go, because of the popularity of kayaking, acquiring a ride is never a problem in the Cape Fear area. Stop by a kayak shop or watersports store on your way into town, and effortlessly pick up everything you’ll need for a great vacation on the water.
Wrightsville Beach Kayak Tours
There are several tour companies that offer kayak expeditions throughout the local waterways and popular waters of Wrightsville Beach. These companies, such as the Wrightsville Kayak Company and Wrightsville SUP, offer a myriad of tours that access the Intracoastal Waterway, Masonboro Sound, Atlantic Ocean, and everywhere in between. Along the way, visitors can expect to enjoy incredible birdwatching, wildlife watching, and a fully guided exploration of some of the most scenic regions in town.
Most tours last anywhere from 1-3 hours, and are open to paddlers of all skill levels – even beginners and kids – unless otherwise specified. Specialty tours may also be available for paddlers, such as sunset cruises, eco-tours, or even kayak fishing expeditions, which may be offered by both charter fishing companies as well as watersports companies.
Paddlers who want to get their toes wet under the guidance of an expert will want to reserve as far in advance as popular. Seasonal tours, (which are traditionally available from spring until late fall), tend to fill up quickly, so advanced reservations are key.
Prices can vary depending on the tour and tour provider, but visitors will find that everything required to ride – including vests, paddles, and the kayak itself – are provided. Bring along plenty of water, sunscreen, and other supplies, and enjoy a guided introduction to how scenic and wild Wrightsville Beach can be from an on-the-water perspective.
Wrightsville Beach Kayak Fishing
Anglers who want to tackle a new adventure may want to consider exploring the local waters of Wrightsville Beach via kayak. Several rental companies offer kayaks that are equipped for kayak fishing, (and which include rod holders and extra storage areas for bait and tackle), while local sporting goods stores sell a variety of fishing vessels of the kayak / canoe variety as well.
Anglers who want the best chance of reeling in a few catches will want to go to the interior islands and marshes which are found in between the borders of Wilmington and Wrightsville Beach. In these regions, a myriad of saltwater catches can be landed in generally uncrowded conditions, which includes trout, drum, cobia, bluefish, mackerel, sheepshead, flounder, and more, depending on the season.
Local bait and tackle stores can point kayak fishermen in the right direction in terms of where to launch, and where to go, and anglers will want to pick up a saltwater fishing license ahead of time before hitting the waters. With miles of waterways to explore, kayak fishing can be a great way for anglers to reel in catch after catch, while exploring some of the most secretive and scenic regions of Wrightsville Beach.
Tips and Tricks for Wrightsville Beach Kayaking
- Paddlers will want to use caution, as the local waterways – which includes the Cape Fear River and Masonboro Sound – can be thick with maritime traffic of all varieties. Stay out of the open waters when possible, and stick to the water’s edge to avoid encounters with larger vessels.
- Watch for windy days and offshore or inshore storms, which can create treacherous currents in the coastally-influenced waterways. Newcomers will want to save their paddling adventures for calm, sunny days, and avoid local inlets, (like Masonboro Inlet), where the currents can be swift with every tide.
- Bug repellent is a must in the summer months, as is water, sunglasses, and sunscreen. Having a few essential supplies handy will go a long way in ensuring a kayaking adventure is enjoyable from start to finish.
- Frequent visitors and full-time Wrightsville Beach or Wilmington residents can keep the fun going by joining or checking out one of the region’s many kayaking organizations and clubs. These local establishments provide guided trips and meet-ups where paddling enthusiasts can make new friends and discover new adventures in the Cape Fear region.
- Don’t forget that the Cape Fear inland regions are full of paddling opportunities too! Manmade or interior lakes, such as Greenfield Lake or Sutton Lake, are often great for beginners, and provide a different but wholly enjoyable paddling experience.
Wrightsville Beach locals and visitors adore the water, and paddlers will find plenty of cool destinations that are ripe for exploration. Book a local tour or launch on your own self-guided adventure, and discover why this town’s love of the water is undeniably and continually contagious.
Top 10 Things to Do in Wrightsville Beach
A vacation in Wrightsville Beach can entail a wealth of adventures – from long sunny days at the beach, to rainy day explorations of the region’s history. Make the most out of your next Wrightsville Beach getaway by enjoying these activities and attractions that are easily on the “must” list of things to do.
Hit the Sand
As the name ‘Wrightsville Beach” would imply, the oceanfront shoreline is literally the biggest attraction in this coastal community. Visitors can enjoy miles of fun in the sun by booking an oceanfront or oceanside vacation rental, or by heading to one of the many public beach access points. Town-wide parking is typically available at the rate of $2.50 per hour or $15 per day, and can be found at a number of locations, including the following:
- Jack Parker Boulevard Parking Area
- South Lumina Parking Area
- Wynn Plaza Parking Area
- East & West Salisbury Street Parking Area
- Moore's Inlet Parking Area – (located beside the Holiday Inn)
- North Lumina Parking Area
- North Wrightsville Beach Parking Area – (located beside the Shell Island Resort
Discover the Local History
For a rainy day tour of the town, head to the Wrightsville Beach Museum of History – a unique attraction that is housed within the early 20th century constructed Myers Beach Cottage. This museum chronicles the early roots of Wrightsville Beach tourism through a series of engaging exhibits, including a scale model of Wrightsville Beach circa 1910, displays on the famed Lumina Pavilion, period artifacts from early beach-goers, and even displays that outline Wrightsville Beach’s brushes with hurricanes and coastal storms. Open year-round, this small but fascinating museum paints Wrightsville Beach in an enticing new light, and is a must-see destination for anyone who wants to learn all there is to know about this iconic vacation destination.
Learn to Surf
Wrightsville Beach is a Mecca for southern North Carolina surfers, and newcomers can join the craze by renting a board from one of the area’s many watersports companies, and hitting the ocean waters where the generally gentle terrain is perfect for learning the ropes. The town also has a number of surf camps and private instruction available throughout the summer and beyond, so riders of all ages and skill levels can gain a little guidance. From hourly tutorials to full-day classes, surfing is a contagious way of life in Wrightsville Beach that everyone can (and should) enjoy.
Have a Paddling Adventure
While surfing rules on the oceanfront, paddling in a variety of forms – including kayaking and stand up paddleboarding (or SUP) – has taken Wrightsville Beach by storm, and visitors will find plenty of ways to join in the fun. Local watersports companies like Cape Fear Paddleboarding or Wrightsville Kayaking Company offer rentals, equipment for sale, and even guided tours of the region, and visitors can also bring their own ride along and launch into the local waters via the public boat ramp on the edge of the Wrightsville Beach Causeway, or from an ocean shoreline or soundfront vacation rental home. With miles of open waters and secretive channels bordering the town, there’s always a new paddling route to discover in coastal Wrightsville Beach.
Enjoy the Best Views (and Fishing) on the Beach
Sightseers on the hunt for incredible photos, and anglers on the hunt for amazing catches, can head to one of the biggest landmarks in town – the Johnnie Mercer Pier. Originally built in the 1930s, and rebuilt after the one-two hit of Hurricanes Bertha and Hurricane Fran in 1996, the “new” pier which was open in 2002 is virtually hurricane proof, with concrete pilings and furnishings that never blow away, regardless of the weather. Extending 1,200’ ft. into the ocean, the pier is open for pedestrians and anglers alike, and features an on-site tackle shop, game room, gift shop, and even a restaurant. Open for the majority of the year, a stroll down the pier, (or a fishing expedition), will make everyone appreciate the amazing coastal atmosphere of this oceanfront vacation destination.
Shop till you Drop
Whether you’re in the market for a new swimsuit or sundress, or a host of beach toys and surf gear to make every day on the sand entertaining, Wrightsville Beach has you covered. The town is home to dozens of surf shops and watersports shops, coastal boutiques, fish markets, and upscale grocery stores, where every beach taste can be accommodated. Enjoy a sample of all the local wares with a visit to local shopping plazas like the barely-inland Lumina Station in Wilmington, (just across the Causeway), or peruse the beachy shops along Lumina Drive and Waynick Blvd which are located in the heart of town. Regardless of where you go, the coastal nature of the shopping scene in and around Wrightsville Beach will inspire everyone to kick back and embrace the beach life.
Satisfy a Salty Appetite
A beach vacation should be all about indulging in sweet and salty fare, and Wrightsville Beach has visitors covered with a delightful array or restaurants that are found just a shell’s throw away from the oceanfront. From cool and casual Mexican food joints and pizza places, to locally popular and regional chains, virtually every variety of fare is covered and can be enjoyed in this seaside town. Swing by the local donut shops, ice cream shops, and hot dog restaurants for a quick bite in between beach trips, or enjoy a lingering meal at one of the city’s more upscale eateries or pubs / taverns where cold brews are always on tap. Regardless of a visitor’s taste, virtually every craving can be accommodated in Wrightsville Beach’s delightfully diverse and indulgent dining scene.
Make a Stay Event-ful
Wrightsville Beach has a wonderfully contagious community spirit, which can be enjoyed via a number of events that are held throughout the year. The town is home to regular summertime celebrations, such as outdoor concerts and weekly farmer’s markets, as well as cool annual events that will entice visitors of all varieties. With unique happenings that include the Wrightsville Beach Biathlon in March, the Wrightsville Beach SUP Surfing Pro-Am in April, the Independence Day celebration in July, and a host of other fishing, surfing, and watersports tournaments or events, virtually any time of year is a great time to join the celebration in Wrightsville Beach.
Head to Open Waters
Wrightsville Beach is surrounded by water in every direction, and visitors can make the most of an island-wide exploration by booking a kayak tour, boat tour or cruise, a fishing charter, or even a boat rental for self-guided explorations. A myriad of options are found close to the Wrightsville Beach Causeway, and from this central launching point, explorers can tour wildlife-filled marshes and canals, wide open Cape Fear River / ICW waters, and even head out to incredible fishing grounds, (like the Gulf Stream), which are located miles offshore. Regardless of whether you want to enjoy a leisurely paddle around town, or a full-day fishing charter where massive citation-worthy catches can be landed, the world of Wrightsville Beach is truly your oyster when you rent a boat or book an on-the-water adventure.
Plan a Day Trip
It’s easy to spend a Wrightsville Beach vacation soaking up the sand and sun at the local beaches, but visitors who want to truly explore the Cape Fear region will want to plan a day trip to one of the many surrounding communities where the local history and culture shine. Downtown Wilmington is a great destination for discovering a treasure trove of local historic sites, arts and culture, shopping, and dining, while the southern beach town of Kure Beach has its own allures, thanks to the historic Fort Fisher and neighboring Fort Fisher Aquarium. With dozens of attractions and sites located just a short drive away, like the USS North Carolina Battleship, the Wilmington Historic District, and countless museums and attractions, exploring the neighboring Cape Fear communities is a must for a fully immersive experience that can cater to veritably any taste or interest.
Wrightsville Beach may be known as a classic beach town, (and certainly the local shorelines are reason enough to pay a visit), but this coastal community has a lot to offer for vacationers who want a fully entertaining experience throughout their stay. With acclaimed restaurants, unique stores, cool attractions, and a location that’s close to all the highlights of the Cape Fear region, visitors will find that a fantastic Wrightsville Beach vacation extends well past the local beaches.
Plan outings to the local museum, the open waters, or the historic neighboring communities, and discover just how grand this vacation destination can be – both on and off the sand.