Wilmington is a charming, historic town in North Carolina renowned for its traditional Southern charms and its proximity to both Cape Fear River and the Atlantic Ocean. It features many historical points of interests and annual festivals, and there are numerous water activities to enjoy in the Wilmington area. Boaters can easily find a well-run marina near town to explore the region’s many attractions.

Boating in Wilmington

Nestled between the deep, scenic waters of the Cape Fear River and the Atlantic Ocean lies the historic town of Wilmington, North Carolina. This picturesque maritime town is steeped in history and boating culture, with roots that reach back to the 1720s. It was a hotbed of activity during both the Revolutionary and Civil War, and it served as a center for American shipbuilding during World War II It was also the site of three prisoner-of-war camps. Wilmington prides itself on its culture and its proximity to the ocean that visiting boaters and residents both enjoy.

Things to Do in Wilmington

Given Wilmington’s ideal location between the river and the ocean, there are many different adventure opportunities for visitors to enjoy. It is close to a variety of beaches, many of which are only a short drive away. Its historic downtown area features the stunning one-mile Riverwalk, which is consistently ranked as one of America’s best riverfronts. This seaside town is also famous for being one of the most involved in American film and television production on the East Coast. Wilmington also boasts an active theatre scene, with the historic Thalian Hall acting as a crowning gem – putting on about 250 events each year since 1858.

Wilmington also hosts a number of exciting festivals that celebrate a wide range of art forms. Cucalorus is a renowned independent film festival, and the Cape Fear Independent Film Network also puts on an annual film festival. One of the biggest DIY craft celebrations, the Wilmington Exchange Festival, is another popular yearly event. Music lovers might want to see if their boating trip coincides with one of several music festivals that take place annually in Wilmington, such as the North Carolina Jazz Festival and the Cape Fear Blues Festival. There’s even an azalea festival – the North Carolina Azalea Festival – which is sponsored by the Cape Fear Garden Club, and takes place every spring with a street fair, concert series, interactive displays, home and garden tours, exhibits, a circus, art shows, and a parade.

With architecture that dates back to the early 1700s, Moores Creek Battlefield (a Revolutionary War battlefield), Fort Fisher (a Confederate fort from the Civil War), and about 300 blocks of historic districts, Wilmington is a history lover’s dream. Numerous museums lie within the city limits, and boaters can even take a tour of a World War II-era battleship, the USS North Carolina, which has been converted into a permanent war memorial. Other highlights include the Cape Fear Museum, the gorgeous Bellamy Mansion, and the Museum of the Bizarre.

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Water Activities in Wilmington

Because Wilmington lies between fresh and saltwater bodies of water, boaters can enjoy a vast selection of water experiences that they might not be able to try as easily elsewhere. Boating in Wilmington means boaters can access both the scenic river and exquisite ocean shores in the same afternoon if they so choose. The water activities in Wilmington are as varied as the waters themselves, with boaters being able to schedule:

Fishing is one of the most popular activities in Wilmington among visitors and locals alike, and this is primarily because they can try the brackish waters of the Cape Fear River, or plumb the depths of the Atlantic Ocean, depending on what kind of fish they hope to catch. Fish specimens in Wilmington include:

  • Red drum
  • Flounder
  • Speckled trout
  • Striped bass
  • Catfish
  • Sturgeon
  • Sharks
  • Skates
  • Bream
  • Crappie
  • Croaker
  • Alligator gar

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Wilmington Marinas

While boating in Wilmington, boaters who decide to charter a local craft or bring their own will find a number of excellent options when it comes to clean, friendly marinas. Depending on whether they wish to stow their boat on the water or the river, boaters will be able to easily find what they are looking for.

Along Cape Fear River, boaters can dock at some conveniently located, well-maintained marinas.

Port City Marina

  • Floating docks for yachts up to 250’ LOA
  • Shore power
  • Complimentary pump-out services
  • Boat repair/detailing services
  • Office service center
  • Fuel dock
  • Restrooms and showers
  • Free Wi-Fi
  • Pet friendly
  • On-site parking
  • Dock carts
  • Daily trash and recycling services

Cape Fear Marina

  • 72 deep water slips
  • Shore power and water hookups
  • Complimentary pump-out services
  • Complimentary Wi-Fi
  • Complimentary water and ice
  • Complimentary parking
  • Clean bath house
  • Laundry facilities
  • Dog park
  • Social area
  • Post office boxes
  • Rental car discounts
  • Next to full-service boat yard

If you prefer ocean boating on the Atlantic side of Wilmington, there are several marinas on the Masonboro Inlet that can accommodate your needs, such as:

Wrightsville Beach Marina

  • Floating docks
  • Shore power
  • Restrooms and showers
  • Laundry facilities
  • Fuel pumps
  • Free water and cable television at each slip
  • Pump-out facility
  • On-site restaurant
  • Free Wi-Fi
  • Pool, clubhouse, and conference room
  • Near grocery store and full-service West Marine

Dockside Marina

  • 180’ floating transient dockage
  • Shore power
  • Water and ice
  • Wi-Fi
  • Near grocery stores, ATMs, laundry facilities, hotels, marine supply store, and post office
  • Dock shop
  • On-site restaurant

Boating Where the Rivers Meets the Sea

Wilmington, North Carolina offers the quintessential Southern town experience while also offering both freshwater and saltwater attractions. Its historical and cultural features add to the natural beauty of its surroundings, while its water activities and marinas will ensure a lasting appeal for boaters everywhere. Boaters will never forget the times that they have enjoying in-town festivals, historic sites, and water adventures in Wilmington.