Aug 19, 2022 - Things to Do

Definitive guide to a weekend visiting Wilmington

wilmington riverwalk downtown
Photo: Brianna Crane/Axios

With a buzzing food scene and beautiful beaches just two hours from Raleigh, Wilmington is worthy of a roadtrip.

Of note: Since Wilmington is my hometown, I might be just a little biased.

Here's where to stay and what to eat, drink and do once you're there.

Eat

1. Benny's Big Time

Celebrity chef Vivian Howard's family-friendly pizzeria has delicious cocktails and pizzas, and a signature hot honey sauce I'd drizzle on anything.

  • Address: 206 Greenfield St.
two pizzas and cocktails from bennys big time in wilmington
Photo: Brianna Crane/Axios

2. Indochine

This insanely popular Thai and Vietnamese restaurant has a must-see back patio featuring a lotus pond and seating inside Thai huts.

  • Pro tip: They don't accept reservations, so expect a wait.
  • Address: 7 Wayne Drive

3. The Original Salt Works

You can't go wrong with breakfast or lunch. If you go for lunch, get a cheeseburger (or a double).

  • Pro tip: Bring cash; the old-school spot doesn't do cards.
  • Address: 6301 Oleander Drive
a cheeseburger and crinkle fries from the original saltworks
Photo: Brianna Crane/Axios

4. Dockside

Go here for the intracoastal views and casual fare. If you decide to rent a boat, you can park at the docks.

  • Bonus recs: The Bridge Tender is another waterfront option beside Dockside if you want a white tablecloth option. Poe's Tavern or Tower 7 also also popular picks by the beach, but they don't have views.
  • Address: 1308 Airlie Rd.

5. Brasserie Du Soleil

A trendy French restaurant in a posh shopping area, Brasserie is ideal for group dinners or date night.

  • Address: 1908 Eastwood Rd., Suite 118
Drink

1. Jimmy's

Go here for a spiked slushie and if you want to drink with the locals.

  • Address: 5 N. Lumina Ave.

2. Whiskey Tango Foxtrot

This popular craft cocktail bar has tons of creative mixes, like the Cotton Candy Martini.

  • Address: 111 Grace St.

3. Port City Java

Wilmington has several coffee shops to try, but I miss Port City Java the most Maybe its the tiny bits of crushed ice, maybe it's the nostalgia, either way get an iced coffee here.

  • Find all locations here.
port city java iced coffee
Photo: Brianna Crane/Axios
Play

1. Spend the day at Wrightsville Beach

If you want to be walking distance from tourist attractions like the pier or Wings, look for parking somewhere between accesses 15 and 30. If you prefer a quieter beach day, park near access eight.

  • Details: Parking is $5 an hour or $25 a day.
  • Pro-tip: If you're spending the day there, head to Roberts and stock up on snacks and chicken salad (their signature item) — 32 N. Lumina Ave.

2. Rent a boat

My family has been using Entropy Boat Rentals for years. It's owned by a couple who makes their own boats.

  • I recommend doing a half day and asking the owners for directions to the less popular islands.
  • Bring your own chairs, bocci ball, pimento cheese sandwiches (and maybe a beer or two) for an optimal beach day.

Cost: It's $300-$340 for a half day (six hours) or $420 for a full day (12 hours).

entropy boat at wrightsville beach
Photo: Brianna Crane/Axios

3. Take a self-guided film and TV location tour

If you were a big "Dawson's Creek" or "One Tree Hill" fan, you can follow this map to see some of the shows' iconic filming locations.

Stay

1. Dreamers Welcome

This renovated Victorian home was converted into a boutique bed and breakfast.

  • Address: 118 S. 4th St.
  • Cost: Starts around $200 per night.
dreamers welcome entrance wilmington
Photo: Brianna Crane/Axios
dreamers welcome lobby
Photo: Brianna Crane/Axios

2. Airbnb

Whether you want to stay downtown or at the beach, there's a huge range of Airbnbs available to fit various budgets.

wrightsville beach airbnb
The bathroom of a Airbnb Wrightsville beach rental. Photo courtesy of Airbnb

3. Blockade Runner Beach Resort

This oceanfront boutique resort has been operating on Wrightsville Beach for more than 50 years.

  • Address: 275 Waynick Blvd.
  • Cost: Starts around $300 per night.
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