Summer Staycation Spots
Summer vacation looks a bit different this year so we're helping you embrace the STAY-cation!
We're all trying to stay closer to home this year and while that might mean your typical summer vacation was canceled, it doesn't mean there's no way to enjoy the summer. So, we've compiled a list of staycation spots within driving distance of Wilmington. Stay safe and enjoy!
Southport is one of the most charming towns in all of North Carolina which offers views of the Cape Fear River, a compact and welcoming downtown and many beautiful historic homes. Southport is so adorable that many TV and movie productions have filmed there over the years, including Safe Haven which features the town prominently. Stay in this highly rated bed and breakfast and wake up to a day full of adventure. Southport is where the ferry terminal for Bald Head Island is located, so if time permits go spend some time exploring one of the special places in all of NC and leave your car and cares behind.
This super beachy rental home comes with a private pool and plenty of room to spread out and make memories as you explore Oak Island and Southport.
Due to COVID precautions you can’t climb to the top of the lighthouse right now, but 7 days a week you can come to the grounds from sunrise to sunset to visit and take photos. When the opportunity to climb the lighthouse returns reservations are required and unlike so many other lighthouses the way you “climb” is through a series of ladders. The website has a great series of pages that takes you step by step through the climb and the photos clearly show that those who are afraid of heights may want to skip climbing this one.
This is one of our favorite places in the world to visit, because there are no cars allowed on the island and it is so peaceful. At night you’ve never seen the stars shine so bright because there is no light pollution, making this a very popular spot for sea turtles. You can hop on the ferry and go visit for the day. You’ll have plenty of time to enjoy Old Baldy (you can’t climb to the top right now due to COVID), grabbing a bite to eat, playing on the beach and don’t forget to rent bikes or a golf cart to explore the island. Better yet stay a few nights at their adorable bed and breakfast on the Marina or rent out a house for the whole week. Prices drop significantly after Labor Day for renting vacation homes. Since Bald Head beaches face different directions there are many areas of the island where you can see the sunset over the ocean, which is a rarity on the East Coast!
Growing up in Concord, NC I spent many, many weeks in the summer at Sunset Beach. Back then the drawbridge still swung to the side and traffic would back up as we waited for boats to pass. Often we’d visit the Kindred Spirit Mailbox on Bird Island. The walk to get to the mailbox was always worth it and in those days we rarely saw anyone else. This was long before Nicholas Sparks (and others) would let the secret out about this magic mailbox and serene place. I can just seem myself and my best friend Katie hunched over, pens in our hands, notebooks open to the next fresh page, writing earnestly about our teenage angst. If you’d like to take a trip to a place that is truly magical, consider a day trip to Sunset Beach or even better a weekly rental.
6. Carolina & Kure Beach
Carolina and Kure Beach have so many places to explore. From the NC Aquarium at Fort Fisher, to the beaches, to Carolina Beach State Park and the Fort Fisher Historic site you won’t get bored easily. In addition to an oldschool boardwalk that will bring back childhood memories of beach trips you also find handicap accessible beach access, making this a place where everyone is welcome. If you’ve had your fill of the ocean check out the lake with paddleboats and walking trails and cool off with ice cream from Squiggleys or the Celtic Creamery. Don’t forget to grab some wake and bake donuts and you’ll be starting your day off right.
If a hotel is more your speed check out the Courtyard by Marriot with a large sparkling pool and oceanfront balconies in the heart of Carolina Beach. If you’d like something a little more original...check out these rentals:
7. Wrightsville Beach, NC
Blockade Runner Beach Resort on Wrightsville Beach is a wonderful spot to watch the sunrise and enjoy the ocean. They also have great activities on the Intracoastal waterway side of their hotel to keep you busy all day long. One of our favorite things about the recently renovated hotel is the gorgeous gardens and landscaping. Grab dinner at East, on their outdoor deck or grab a cocktail at the oceanfront bar by the pool.
This Wrightsville Beach rental has beautiful views over the marsh, one of our favorite views and has plenty of room for your family and friends to spread out for a week.
This garden is free and open to the public. It also happens to be the location of Andrew and Stephanie’s wedding. Despite the rather unattractive building on the outside, what awaits you inside is a magical garden centered around a pond with lilypads and koi fish. Feed the fish, sit in the Japanese tea house in or watch your kids play in the children’s garden area.
One of our favorite Wilmington Airbnb's ever is the home that previously was owned by designer extraordinaire, Gay Adair. This historic home, with a beautiful saltwater pool and hot tub nestled in the Chestnut Heights neighborhood this is a very special home. Our team leaders, Stephanie and Andrew visited this home when Gay Adair had just completed her renovation and couldn’t believe how every single nook and cranny was special.
If you’re looking for a downtown vibe, how about a waterfront condo on the Cape Fear River where you can catch the sunset each night and then take a stroll along the riverwalk?
Under the Dome was a TV show filmed in Wilmington, but now you can stay in a unique waterfront dome shaped home which is a short drive to Carolina Beach.
This new Airbnb spot became instantly famous with lots of Instagram Influencers and you can see why! Book a few nights here and rediscover what made you fall in love with this town in the first place.
Is a gorgeous inn located in downtown Wilmington that you may have never heard of. Soak up the modern and warm interiors and be a tourist in your hometown.
Want to get in touch with the great outdoors? Wilmington has a highly rated KOA campground with a pool, playground and jumping pad for kids. This pet friendly place has tent sites and camper sites for rent as well as super cute cabins as well.
You could have lived here your whole life and never been to this beautiful state park filled with places for camping, wonderful hiking trails, a marina and endless places to explore. Don’t miss the Venus flytrap, one of the world's most unique carnivorous plants.
10. Pender County
If you’ve never been you are missing out. All the best spots are mentioned in this extensive Our State Article from earlier this year. Check it and plan your next adventure.
Adorable two bedroom, two full bath town-home in Bermuda Landing, a North Topsail Beach, sound side neighborhood with refreshing swimming pool and community dock for crabbing and fishing!
Cozy 3 bedroom, 3 bathroom cottage just a short 3-minute walk to the beach. This one is completely renovated and features water and sunset views from the deck!
Site of one of the first battles in the South of the Revolutionary War and the first patriot victory of the war. Throughout the park, remnants remain of the 1776 road traveled by patriot and loyalist forces. P.S. If you find yourself homeschooling this school year this is an excellent place for a field trip and teaching materials are even included on the website.
Wanting to stay in New Hanover County, but feel a world away? We’ve got the solution for you: Walker World which is perched on the side of the Cape Fear River and bursting with original decor and rustic charm.
Nestled in 11 acres of a southern pine and hardwood forest, Ash's Japanese Maple Nursery contains over 80 varieties of Japanese Maples from 2-30 years old. The nursery resembles a botanical garden with its meandering grass paths and rows of trees. Sections of the Nursery are in high forest shade for a pleasant walk in the summer months though other sections are in full sun. The Nursery's specialty is the styling or shaping of dissectum or lace leaf maples into artistic bonsai styles from 3-8 feet high and 10 feet across. The Nursery grounds also contain a Japanese Garden with a large koi pond, running stream and Japanese style garden house.
A family-style skating rink is located in Topsail Beach above the Post Office that is like stepping into a time machine. Equipped with wooden floors, open windows, disco ball and great music you don’t want to miss this classic, often hidden gem.