county seat city in New Hanover County, North Carolina, United States

Wilmington is a city in the southeastern part of North Carolina. It is the county seat of New Hanover County, and home to the University of North Carolina at Wilmington, the U.S.S. North Carolina Battleship Memorial, the Cape Fear Museum, Airlie Gardens, and a large historic district. It is convenient to nearby beaches, and is a relatively short drive from the Triangle (Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill), Charlotte, Myrtle Beach, SC, and the I-95 corridor.

Understand edit


Wilmington was once the USA's third largest film and TV production site. Television shows (such as Dawson's Creek, One Tree Hill, and HBO's Eastbound & Down) and movies (including Iron Man 3, The Crow, Blue Velvet, and Stephen King's Maximum Overdrive) were filmed in Wilmington, but the stars, trailers and crews left a long time ago.

The city is famous for its beaches, seafood, and historic plantations. As of 2020 , there were about 116,000 people residing in the city, with about 300,000 residents in the metro area. The racial makeup of the city is about 70% White, 26% African American, and the remainder other races.

The cultural opportunities in Wilmington are endless; aquariums, museums, historical sites, festivals, libraries, film studios, theatres, and plantations can be enjoyed in this richly cultured city.

New Hanover County Courthouse

Wilmington was the site of the only violent overthrow of a democratically-elected government in United States history, the Wilmington Insurrection, when a mob of 2,000 white Democrats massacred an estimated 60 black residents and the duly-elected city government (including several white men), and installed a white supremacist government in its place despite the city's population being more than 55% African-American at the time. This was following the 1898 election in which a coalition party that promised free public education for all and equal voting rights for every African-American man in the city had secured a majority of city council seats.

Climate edit

Wilmington (North Carolina)
Climate chart (explanation)
Average max. and min. temperatures in °F
Precipitation+Snow totals in inches
See Wilmington's 7 day forecast
Data from NOAA (1981-2010)
Metric conversion
Average max. and min. temperatures in °C
Precipitation+Snow totals in mm

Wilmington sits between the Cape Fear River and the Atlantic Ocean. With the influence of the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf Stream, some 45-60 miles (70–95 km) offshore, Historic Wilmington and North Carolina's Cape Fear Coast - Carolina Beach, Kure Beach & Wrightsville Beach enjoy a temperate subtropical climate year-round. Summer temperatures are usually in the 80s °F (close to 30 °C). Seasons are mild, with an average 212 sunshine days and a mean average temperature of 63.7 °F (17.6 °C). The average winter temperature is about 50 °F (10 °C).

Get in edit

By car edit

From the south via I-95 N, or from the direction of Charlotte, you should take US 74 E (exit 14 in North Carolina from I-95). It will take you about an 1.5 to 2 hours to get to Wilmington from the junction of I-95 and US 74. If taking this route, you should be sure to stock up on snacks and drinks, use the restroom, and fill up your gasoline tank before merging onto US 74 E, because stops are few and far between until arriving in Wilmington. US 74 (running concurrent with US 17 and US 76 at this point) crosses the Cape Fear River Bridge into Wilmington just south of the Historic District.

From the north via I-95 S, or from the direction of Raleigh, take I-40 E. Again, it will take approximately 1.5 to 2 hours to get to Wilmington from the junction of I-95 and I-40. You should be aware that stops between I-95 and Wilmington are also infrequent, although there is a rest area near Warsaw, at the exit for NC 24.

From Barstow, California drive 2560 miles (4120 km) due east on Interstate 40 through Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, and Tennessee. The interstate ends at US Highway 117 in Wilmington.

By plane edit

By bus edit

Bus service to Wilmington is via Carolina Trailways, a subsidiary of Greyhound. Buses connect Wilmington to Charleston, Goldsboro, Myrtle Beach, Raleigh and Savannah. The station is at 201 Harnett Street in downtown Wilmington. Service is infrequent, with only four arrivals and departures per day, and the station is open for limited hours: 9AM-1PM, and 4PM-6PM.

Get around edit

Wilmington is very much a driving town. Below are some alternatives to driving, but the boating and biking mentioned are mostly recreational activities, not the best way between points A and B. If you're arriving in Wilmington without a car, you will need to rent one, use cabs for the duration of your stay (which must be called ahead of time), or rely on the inadequate and infrequent coverage of the local bus network.

By bicycle edit

Basilica Shrine of St. Mary

The NCDOT Cape Fear Run Bicycling Highway 5[dead link] connects Apex to Wilmington and closely parallels the RUSA 370 mi (600 km) brevet route. The 300 mi (480 km) Ports of Call Bicycling Highway 3 connects Wilmington to Bath, Edenton, New Bern and Southport. The River to the Sea Bikeway (signed route 1) runs for 10 miles from downtown Wilmington to Wrightsville Beach along local streets and off-road paths. The Wilmington Metropolitan Planning Organization provides maps of local bicycle facilities and routes. The Gary Shell Cross City Trail runs from Wrightsville Beach, through multiple city parks, ending 15 mi (24 km) later at E.L Wade Park.

By boat edit

There are two water taxi services that connect downtown Wilmington to the U.S. Battleship North Carolina and connect Wrightsville Beach to the North Carolina National Estuarine Research Reserve at Masonboro Island. Many area attractions, including Carolina Beach, downtown Wilmington, and Wrightsville Beach are accessible by boat via the Cape Fear River and Intracoastal Waterway.

By bus edit

Local bus service is provided by the Cape Fear Public Transportation Authority, which does business as WAVE Transit. WAVE Transit operates eight local routes through the city of Wilmington and New Hanover County. Most of these operate every 30 min on weekdays. The authority also operates a free downtown trolley that runs every 10 min on weekdays and infrequent service to the towns of Belville, Bolton, Hallsboro, Lake Waccamaw, Leland, Navassa, and Whiteville on the west side of the Cape Fear River. The base fare for a one-way trip is $1.50. The services that cross the river are more expensive.

By car edit

Interstate 40's western terminus is in Barstow, California, the eastern one is in Wilmington - only 2,554 miles to go!

If you do not drive to Wilmington, it really is advisable to rent a car once you arrive as travel in Wilmington is so difficult without one.

Car rental is available at the airport from these companies:

  • Avis, +1 910 763-1993
  • Hertz Rent-a-Car, +1 910 762-1010
  • National Car Rental, +1 910 762-8000
  • Thrifty Rent-a-Car, +1 910 343-1411

Traffic can be heavy in some parts of Wilmington (South College Rd., Market St.), but on the whole, driving around town is relatively easy. For the most part, major thoroughfares radiate out from the historic downtown, and there are numerous streets that allow you to cut across these radiating thoroughfares. The new Martin Luther King Jr. Parkway provides easy access to downtown, the airport, Interstate 40, and the beach while bypassing the most congested parts of Wilmington.

See edit

Map of Wilmington (North Carolina)
  • 1 Bellamy Mansion Museum, 503 Market St., +1-910-251-3700, . M–F 9AM-5PM. Tours on the hour Tu-Sa 10AM-5PM and Sunday 1-5PM. Built for planter Dr. John D. Bellamy in 1859, the Bellamy Mansion is Wilmington's most spectacular example of antebellum architecture. Today, the mansion operates as a museum of history and design arts, and is owned by Preservation North Carolina. See exhibits on architectural history, historic preservation and design arts, and see the newly restored carriage house and gardens. Plans are being made for restoring the slave quarters. Free parking lot on Market St. side of the museum and free street parking on block surrounding the museum. Adult $12, military or senior $10, student $6.    
Bellamy Mansion
  • 2 Burgwin-Wright Museum and Gardens, 224 Market St., +1-910-762-0570, . M-Sa 10AM-4PM. Tours on the hour M-F with the last tour at 3:30PM. On Saturdays, tours on the half-hour, with the last tour at 3:30PM. From the house museum's own website: "Using the old jail as the foundation, the Burgwin-Wright House was built in 1770 by John Burgwin, planter, merchant, and treasurer of the colony of Carolina. In 1781, 'the most considerable house in town' was occupied by Lord Cornwallis as his headquarters shortly before his defeat and surrender at Yorktown, Virginia." Adult $12, military or student $10, youth (6-18) $6, child 5 and under free.    
  • 3 Cape Fear Museum of History and Science (Smithsonian Affiliate), 814 Market St., +1-910-798-4370, fax: +1-910-798-4382. M-W F Sa 9AM-5PM, Th 9AM-7PM, Su 1-5PM. The Cape Fear Museum of History and Science collects, preserves, and interprets objects relating to the history, science and cultures of the Lower Cape Fear. Adult $8; senior, student or military $7; youth (6-17) $5; child 5 and under free.    
  • 4 EUE / Screen Gems Studio, 1223 North 23rd St., +1-910-343-3500, . Sa Su noon-3PM. Tours are offered at noon on Saturdays from September to May and Saturdays and Sundays noon and 2PM from Memorial Day to Labor Day. Tour of EUE Screen Gems Studios North Carolina takes visitors through North Carolina's film history. This one-hour walking tour includes visits to the sets of Dawson’s Creek, Iron Man 3 and One Tree Hill.    
  • 5 Poplar Grove Plantation, 10200 US Highway 17 (I-95 to the I-140 bypass, exit 416B, ahead 1 mi (1.6 km) on your right), +1-910-686-9518, . M-Sa 9AM-5PM, Su noon-5PM. Poplar Grove is America's oldest peanut plantation, open to the public for tours and live demonstrations. On the National Register of Historic Places, the 16 acre site features an 1850 manor house, a tenant house, blacksmith shop, weaving studio, basket studio, agricultural exhibits, farm animals, gift shop, picnic and playground area. Adult $10.    
USS North Carolina at night
  • 6 Battleship North Carolina, 1 Battleship Rd. NE (Take US 17/74/76/421 across the Cape Fear Memorial Bridge to the first exit, toward Battleship NC/Clinton, then take the next right to the Battleship), +1-910-399-9100, fax: +1-910-251-5807, . Daily 8AM–8PM (summer), 8AM–5PM (autumn-spring); ticket sales end one hour before closing. Moored across the river from downtown Wilmington, this battleship offers visitors the chance to envision the daily life and fierce combat her crew faced in the Pacific Theatre during World War II. Exhibits tell the story of the ship's crew through their oral histories, photographs, and mementos. The tour is self-guided and is well-marked so that you can tour at your own pace. Allow at least two hours for the tour, but for the true enthusiast, you can spend much more than that. Adult $14, senior (65+) $10, military $10, child (6-11) $6, age 5 and under free.    
  • 7 Stanley Rehder Carnivorous Plant Garden (Piney Ridge Nature Preserve), 3800 Canterbury Rd. (behind Alderman Elementary School), +1-910-341-7852, . See carnivorous plants including Venus flytraps.
  • Wilmington Railroad Museum, 505 Nutt St, +1 910 763-2634, . M-Sa 10AM - 4PM. Has a great collection of displays that are fun and educational. Adult $9.50, senior or military $8.50, child (2-12) $5.50, child under 2 free.
  • 8 Cameron Art Museum, 3201 S 17th St, +1 910-395-5999, . Tu-Su 10AM-5PM. On Th open until 9PM. Adult $10, seniors/ active US military/students $8, ages 19 and under free.    

Do edit

  • Jungle Rapids, 5320 Oleander Dr, +1 910 791-0666. Water park closed during off season but dry park open all year round. Hours vary and park may close due to inclement weather, so call ahead. Its main feature is the water park, but it includes an arcade, mini golf and go karts. Prices vary for admittance to the waterpark, but the best price is the 4PM-7PM $14.95 for all ages special.
  • 1 Airlie Gardens, 300 Airlie Rd (near Wrightsville Beach), +1 910-216-9908. Airlie Gardens encompasses 67 acres of quintessential Southern gardens with 10 acres of freshwater lakes. Features include azaleas, camellias, statuary and the Historic Airlie Oak. This once privately owned garden was purchased for the public by New Hanover County in January, 1999.    
  • Hit the beach! There are several beaches to choose from in Wilmington: Wrightsville Beach, Carolina Beach, and Kure Beach. Wrightsville and Carolina Beach are crowded in the summer, but there are always good views and good times. Wrightsville Beach (follow US 74 or US 76 east) has two piers, one owned by a restaurant, the Oceanic, and the other is a public pier. The original wooden public pier was destroyed by a hurricane in 1996 and has since been rebuilt with cement pilings. This pier also has an arcade for those interested. Carolina Beach (head south on S. College Road) has a board walk with an arcade, several restaurants, an ice cream shop, and a pier.
  • Watersmyth Kayaking, 201 Jamaica Dr, +1 910 443-3345. Kayaking tours and lessons.
  • Tour Old Wilmington, Tour meets at the end of Market on the Cape Fear River (take Market or Hwy 17 to downtown, dead ends at the Cape Fear River), +1 910 409-4300. Open year round. Tour Old Wilmington and discover hidden history and a lost time as we travel to Wilmington during the Victorian Era (1837- 1901) Learn about Wilmington’s rich and colorful history as we reveal what life was like in Wilmington during the Civil War, customs and traditions of the day, sea tales, and folklore. Call for tour times. Walking tours start at the foot of Market and Water Streets, be sure to look for the Victorian Lady! $12.
  • Ghost Walk of Old Wilmington, +1 910 794-1866. Riverfront at Market & Water Streets.
  • Haunted Cotton Exchange (Cotton Exchange), 321 North Front St (approaching the Cotton Exchange from Market Street, turn right on 3rd Street, continue to Grace Street and make a left, head straight towards the Hilton; turn right into the parking lot (arking is free while shopping and dining)), +1 910 409-4300. Open year round. Scary, creepy and mostly ghostly tales. Chills and thrills await you at the one of the most historic & haunted locations in Wilmington. Bring your camera. $12, under 12 free.
  • 2 North Carolina Azalea Festival. A week-long festival held every April, with music, events, exhibits, tours, community pride, and the beautiful flowers in bloom.    

Learn edit

Buy edit

There is plenty of shopping to be done in Wilmington. Downtown has many neat clothing and shoe stores. Most notable is a cluster of eight historic buildings called The Cotton Exchange. The Cotton Exchange offers a variety of shopping and dining opportunities all in a charming turn of the century setting. Parking for visitors to The Cotton Exchange is free.

Independence Mall off of Oleander Drive is a respectable mall. Its major department stores are Dillards, JC Penney, and Belk's. There are a plethora of other shops to browse as well.

Mayfaire is all outdoor but very nice. If you are in good health, you should have no problem parking in one place and walking around the mall. It's sort of upscale (but not out of reach of the average family) with Belk's and such. It also has an incredibly large and nice movie theater. Definitely the best in town. There are also condos upstairs to some of these buildings. They are costly, but very beautiful. It is a gorgeous place to walk around and shop for the day.

Eat edit

Something Wilmington is not short on is restaurants. No matter what kind of dining you are craving, it can be found.

Budget edit

  • Flaming Amy's Burrito Barn, 4002 Oleander Dr, +1 910 799-2919. Mainly serves burritos and other Mexican style food. Advertises its food as "hot, fast, cheap and easy" and is a local favorite. Restaurant features a psychedelic theme. $7-10.
  • Plaza Mariachi, 326 South College Rd, +1 910 313-6894. Traditional Mexican. Great food, chips and drinks make it a local favorite. $5-8 lunch, $8-15 dinner.

Mid-range edit

  • The Bento Box, 1121 L Military Cutoff Rd, +1 910 509-0774. Delicious sushi, fresh ingredients all at reasonable price and incredible atmosphere.
  • Dockside Restaurant & Marina, +1 910 256-2753, +1 910 256-5379. Open daily 11AM-until. On the water just south of the Wrightsville Beach drawbridge. Locals' favorite "place to be" for friendly Carolina service, relaxed island lifestyle. Fresh seafood, famous drinks, families love kid's menu. Live music most weekends.
  • Fat Tony's Italian Pub, 131 N. Front St, +1 910 343-8881. M-Sa 11AM-2AM, Su noon-midnight. Combine homemade Italian food and 24 draft beers and you've got the country's latest concept: an Italian pub!
  • 1 Szechuan 132, 419 College Rd, +1 910 799-1426. High-quality Chinese restaurant offering American-Chinese mainstays as well as authentic Asian dishes.

Splurge edit

  • Circa 1922, 8 North Front St, +1 910 762-1922. Affordable tapas and fine dining with a wonderful wine selection and terrific ambience, located in the Front Street riverfront nightlife area.
  • East Oceanfront Dining. Located on the water at Wrightsville Beach. Jazz fans should take note of "Jazz Sunday." Brunch buffet is served Sunday from 11:30AM-2PM with live jazz.
  • Elijah's, 2 Ann St, +1 910 343-1448. Su-Th 11:30AM-10PM, F Sa 11:30AM-11PM. Main dining room closed daily from 3PM-5PM, oyster bar open all day, reservations are recommended. Casual American Grill and oyster bar, downtown on the river. Sunset hues are said to be spectacular.
  • Hiro Japanese Steak and Seafood House, 222 Eastwood Rd, +1 910 794-1570. Lunch on Sundays 11AM-4PM. Japanese cuisine. Includes sushi bar and sashimi. Chefs prepare your meal right at your table.

Drink edit

  • Port City Java Wilmington, among other things, is known for their coffee. Port City Java, which was founded in this small town and has now gone global, has an excellent selection of coffee, bagels, and other varieties of café specialties. A local favorite.
  • Hell's Kitchen, 118 Princess St, +1 910 763-4133. until 2AM. Formerly a set for the TV show Dawson's Creek, which was filmed locally, Hell's Kitchen is a popular downtown destination for good times among friends. A pub-style setting and a menu of pub sandwiches, burritos and nachos. Full liquor bar available and offers a wide variety of draught and microbrew beers. Well known Wilmington nightclub "Rum Runners" merged with this establishment, bringing their signature dueling pianos show with them.
  • Haunted Pub Crawl, +1 910 794-1866. The Cotton Exchange, 321 N. Front Street.
  • Front Street Brewery, 9 North Front St, +1 910 251-1935. A great brewpub in the historic downtown district of Wilmington featuring great beer and good food. Prices are good, and they have daily $1.99 mug special of one of their delicious house beers, as well as cheap lunch specials. Live entertainment on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights.
  • Cape Fear Wine and Beer, 139 N Front St, +1 910 763-3377. A hybrid specialty beer and wine shop/old-world public house, CFWB offers the most impressive selection of microbrews, imports, and wines in eastern NC. 12 beers (and a mead!) rotate on their various taps and draught engines and they boast a selection of over 300 beers and 200 wines. The theme is best described as German beer hall and UK pub have a weird three-way with a bunch of vikings while listening to gnarly punk music. The staff is exceptionally knowledgeable and helpful, and it is an off-premises store.
  • The Dubliner, 1756 Carolina Beach Rd, +1 910 343-8342. until 2AM. The most authentic Irish pub in the city, The Dubliner is located a few miles from the hustle bustle of Front Street. Owned by legitimate Dubliners Tom and Doreen Melina, this bar is a quaint, cozy, quieter favorite of locals and older crowds. Here you can find the perfect pint of Guinness, Harp, Bass, or Magners. Friday nights are live trad Irish music nights; Tom's three-piece, "The Molly Malones" play acoustic Irish pub tunes starting usually around 10PM. There is no cover except for special events (St. Paddy's, etc.), which makes the Friday night music a wonderful deal for those looking for a little 'craic'.

Sleep edit

Budget edit

Mid-range edit

Splurge edit

  • Coastline Inn Best Western, 503 Nutt St, +1 910 763-2800. All riverfront rooms, in the city’s Historic District.
  • 2 Embassy Suites by Hilton - Wilmington Riverfront, 9 Estell Lee Pl. (From Martin Luther King Jr. Pkwy turn right on N. Front St., then right on Hanover, left on Nutt St. and finally turn right onto Estell Lee Pl., hotel is at the end on your right), +1-910-765-1131, toll-free: +1-800-EMBASSY (3622779), fax: +1-910-726-9204. Check-in: 4PM, check-out: 11AM. On the riverfront, this hotel is on the pricier end of the spectrum. Rooms feature either a view of downtown Wilmington or a view of the Cape Fear River. Amenities include pool, business center, high speed internet access, meeting room, pets allowed, wheelchair access, and on-site dining. $170-210.
  • Water Street Retreats, 106 North Water St, +1 910-317-9343. On the riverfront, this is an all-suite hotel, prefect for families or extended stays. No two suites are alike and you get to use the facilities at the Hilton Wilmington. $209 (Nov 2022).
  • Staybridge Suites Wilmington, 5010 New Centre Dr (4 miles from downtown Wilmington, 5 miles from Wrightsville Beach, and 6 miles from Wilmington International Airport), +1 910-202-8500, toll-free: +1-877-238-8889. Check-in: 3PM, check-out: noon. All-suite hotel, rooms with full kitchens (microwave, refrigerator, stove, dishwasher and cooking utensils). 42" flat screen LCD TV, DVD player, wireless internet. Includes breakfast in the mornings and a reception Monday - Thursday evenings.

Connect edit

The area code for Wilmington is 910.

The Time Warner Cable Store in Independence Mall has free internet kiosks set and free wifi access.

Internet access is available at Bella's Sweets & Spirits 19 Market St. Historic Downtown Wilmington, NC, +1 910 762-2777. Bella's Sweets & Spirits is an Italian-style coffee bar that offers free wireless high speed internet access and allows use of their in house computers for a fee. Prices range from $1.25 to $6.75.

Additionally, there is an Internet Café adjacent to the public parking lot below the Pier Arcade in Wrightsville Beach. This is at approximately Public Beach Access entrance 15.

The City of Wilmington also offers free wireless internet access in several areas of downtown. Citi Port Wireless Internet access is a free service provided by the city for citizens along Riverwalk, restaurants and businesses in central downtown. The service is accessible along the central part of Water Street and the foot of Market Street.

Stay safe edit

Crime edit

Due to several low-income neighborhoods located near the Front Street nightlife district and the fact that the nightlife attracts a hefty group of college students and US military personnel from nearby Camp Lejeune Marine Corps base, Wilmington does have a slightly higher crime rate than would be expected from a city of its size. When walking through unfamiliar neighborhoods/areas (particularly at night), exercise the standard level of awareness and caution and try to travel in groups. During late weekend nights, alcohol-fueled fights on Front Street are not unheard of. Typically this occurs around the time bars begin closing at 2:30-3:30AM The police are typically on top of disturbances, however, and such fights serve more as a public nuisance than a threat to safety. The Front Street riverfront nightlife district typically has a considerable mounted police presence on busy nights able to handle any disruptions.

There are several neighborhoods that have reputations as crime spots, but these areas offer nothing of interest to the visitor and are best avoided altogether. Do not mistakenly, particularly at night, wander into low-income neighborhoods that border the riverfront/Front Street district. Violent crime has been known to happen in these areas.

Always be aware of your surroundings. Front Street is quite a busy area; if you find yourself suddenly in an area lacking in pedestrian traffic, there is probable a reason for it so immediately turn around.

A real-time map [dead link] of reported crimes in Wilmington is available.

Beach and water safety edit

Tropical storms edit

Because Wilmington is on the coast, there is a possibility that a tropical storm system could affect the Wilmington area during hurricane season (June 1 - November 30). Stay informed about any systems and be prepared if one is expected to make landfall in the area. For hurricane safety and preparation tips pick up a hurricane tracking map at a local grocery store.

Stay healthy edit

Hospitals edit

Pet health edit

Just in case a non-human companion needs medical treatment or to be boarded during your travels:

Cope edit

Go next edit

  • Carolina Beach – a beach town, plus a state park famous for carnivorous plants
  • Kure Beach – a quiet beach town, plus an aquarium and a Civil War fort
  • Southport Take the ferry on a day trip from Wilmington to this quaint little town. Stroll along the sidewalks, check out the antique shops, historic homes, grab a bite to eat, and experience true southern hospitality. Unfortunately, with the plans to build a new port and the building of condos and strip malls, this gem will eventually go the way of the dodo bird. See it now before its gone.
Routes through Wilmington
RaleighBenson  W   E  END
NorfolkJacksonville  N   S  CalabashMyrtle Beach
CharlotteLumberton  W   E  END
ColumbiaFlorence  W   E  Wrightsville BeachEND
GreensboroSanford  N   S  Carolina BeachFort Fisher

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