Tucked between the Atlantic Ocean and the Cape Fear River, Wilmington presents so many stunning vistas. To the east, the city overlooks sounds, barrier islands and the Intracoastal Waterway. The west borders the busy Cape Fear River. Downtown hosts a scenic, mile-long boardwalk, named The Riverwalk, which skirts the Cape Fear River.
Tour a World War II battleship or take a riverboat cruise.
Downtown parking decks are centrally located and free for the first hour. Most city streets host meters, where parking is free after 6:30 p.m. Some venues have their own parking lots or neighbor public lots. A free city trolley traverses downtown, and wide sidewalks welcome pedestrians.
Battleship’s on guard
Wilmington’s top attraction makes the city unique. The mighty Battleship North Carolina stands at attention on the Cape Fear River’s western shore, directly across from downtown’s center. Commissioned in 1941, the 728-foot-long ship participated in every major, Pacific-area naval offensive during World War II, earning the vessel 15 battle stars.
Drive or take a water taxi to the ship for a full tour and special events like the Battleship Blast July 4 fireworks display.
The battleship is not the only floating marvel to see downtown. Tour the large U.S. Coast Guard cutter, Diligence, usually berthed just south of lovely Wilmington Hilton Riverside hotel. Be sure to look for “weed” decals on the bridge indicating the ship’s number of successful drug busts. Now and then, tall ships dock here, too.
The first documented explorers to visit what became Wilmington arrived in the 1500s on the Cape Fear River. Get a sense of the excitement this beautiful waterway must have stirred aboard the Henrietta III, a huge, old-fashioned riverboat docked downtown. Narrated tours outline the river’s natural, historic and economic significance. Romantic dinner dance and murder mystery cruises are offered too.
The Capt. J.N Maffit, a former World War II liberty launch, runs shorter narrated cruises and water taxi service to Battleship North Carolina. It’s a relaxing way to get across the river, and certainly more fun than driving. Kids love the taxi, yet it’s also romantic for couples. Ask about the Maffit’s four-hour, Black River nature excursion with a coastal ecologist. And keep private charters in mind for gatherings.
The newest way to explore the Cape Fear River is aboard a luxury yacht. Wilmington Yacht Charter’s Sanjema II is available by the day or week. Spending time aboard this vessel would be a wonderful way to celebrate such special events as engagements, birthdays, anniversaries or vow renewals.
The Sanjema II was built in 1986 to the highest standards by Hatteras Yachts and has been beautifully maintained since then. With either day or overnight charters available, trips to downtown Wilmington or further afield to the Southport area are possible.