Coastal Accommodations Overlooking Secluded Beach
During the Civil War, Confederate blockade runners navigated the winding inlets adjacent to Cape Fear, skirting up the river from the Atlantic Ocean to deliver supplies at the Wilmington port under the cover of darkness. Local legend has it that at least three of those blockade runners shipwrecked on Wrightsville Beach, one of them while carrying a jewel-encrusted sword intended for Confederate President Jefferson Davis. Today, the treasure is long gone, and Wrightsville Beach has become a worthy destination in its own right. A wooden boardwalk rises over the small sand dunes, connecting Shell Island Resort to 3,000 feet of white, sandy beachfront on a relatively secluded barrier island.
In standard suites, guests breathe in briny breezes on their private oceanfront balconies, which offer views of nearby Figure Eight Island and Mason's Inlet. Whitewashed walls and nautical accents enhance the room's coastal cottage vibe, and a separate dining area and living room give visitors ample room for double-dutch tournaments.
At the on-site restaurant, diners tuck into breakfast buffets while enjoying seaside views. On the expansive beach, hotel guests can rent a beach chair or practice their spikes on the sand-volleyball court. Although the Atlantic Ocean gets too chilly for wintertime dips, the hotel's indoor pool and outdoor hot tub oblige those seeking liquid relaxation.
Greater Wilmington, North Carolina: Scenic Beaches and Historic Ports
Wrightsville Beach attracts year-round beachcombers looking for a tranquil seaside escape or a bite of fresh seafood. Nearby, the century-old Airlie Gardens charm visitors with 67 acres of manicured grounds, walking trails, sculptures, and freshwater lakes. Winter is the ideal season to glimpse more than 100,000 azaleas in bloom, or wrap an afghan around the gardens' 462-year-old Airlie oak tree.
Downtown Wilmington—also known as the Port City for its location between Cape Fear River and the Atlantic Ocean—lies just a 20-minute drive away. Cyclists can hop on the River to the Sea bikeway to pedal the 11 miles from Wrightsville Beach to the heart of Wilmington, zipping along local streets and off-road paths. Restored Victorian, Italianate, and Georgian mansions line Wilmington's famed historic district. Cinephiles can keep an eye out for backdrops familiar from the many movies and TV shows that have shot here, including Forrest Gump and One Tree Hill.