Wrighstville Beach Vacation Destination--Places to Go
If you crave the salt life, summer is undoubtedly your favorite season. The ocean is one of God's most majestic and powerful creations. One day, its waves gently lap against the shore and the next, its current generates a dangerous undertow, causing beach goers to shy away from its fierce, frothy waters. Standing along the shore, one looks like a tiny speck on the face of creation. The ocean is one of the many ways God shows us who's in charge.
America's Best Beaches
Favorite beach destinations in the USA include Myrtle Beach, the Outer Banks, Miami, Fort Lauderdale, Santa Monica, South Beach, and bits of paradise snuggled around Hawaii.
Are you seeking adventure? Surfing? Touring? A crazy party? A romantic getaway? Identifying the goal for your escape from the daily grind is the first step in choosing the right beach to visit.
If an ordinary family vacation is your objective, then Wrightsville Beach in North Carolina has plenty to offer.
Commercialized beaches are over-crowded tourist traps with congested traffic. Wrightsville Beach, especially in early June before summer officially arrives, is the perfect, low-key destination for families.
Where to Stay at Wrightsville Beach
There are three "resorts" to choose from that allow you ocean front views with instant access to the beach without a drive or reliance on public admission points: Blockade Runner, Shell Island, and Holiday Inn. Shell Island does not rate well on cleanliness, and the Holiday Inn's lack of updates warps you back to the 1970's. The Blockade Runner is the best choice of the three, with many of its rooms being recently renovated in the aftermath of Hurricane Florence.
Despite its manicured grounds, well-maintained boardwalk, sparkling pool and comfy chairs, outdoor cabana, and clean and secluded beach area, the Blockade Runner's rooms leave little to be desired thanks to a negligent housekeeping staff. When traveling, we are diligent to scope our room for bedbugs before setting up camp. We didn't find any bugs at the Blockade Runner, but we found plenty of dirt, hair, and grime. Every crack and crevice hadn't seen a dust rag in ages, one trek across the laminate floor left our socks black with unmopped grime, the bathroom light fixtures were coated in an inch of dust, and removing our bath towels from the basket storage bin created a plume larger than Hiroshima. Due to nonexistent water pressure in the shower, it took ten times longer to get clean. The A/C sometimes blew cold air and sometimes it didn't, but one thing we could count on was it booming so loudly at night we couldn't sleep or hear the ocean. The bathroom door was gnarled, it was not flush with the door frame, and light from the bathroom shone under the wall into the bedroom. Our toilet paper and Kleenex ran out and weren't replaced, and there were no self-serving ice makers on site. To get ice, we had to call guest services. Luggage carts only came with a valet, and even though they are instructed not to expect or encourage tipping, social pressure demanded it. Leave early without a 48-hours-notice and get slapped with a $100 penalty.
We expected more from accommodations with "full resort" status. At the conclusion of our stay, we emailed a list of grievances to management and were assured this type of housekeeping failure wouldn't happen again. Fellow traveler, if you stay at Blockade Runner, don't be like us and wait until your stay is over to voice your dissatisfaction. It will make all the difference in your experience.
The beach access from the Blockade Runner made up for the room conditions. Umbrellas and chairs are a must for your day at the beach. Umbrellas are $15, each chair is $10, or you can get a package deal of an umbrella and two chairs for $30. Only take a blanket if it's a mildly breezy day or you won't be able to keep it stationed on the sand.
At this location, the sand is bright, and the ocean ripples in dark blue and green hues. Sea shells abound for starting a collection.
Best Places to Eat at Wrightsville Beach
The Blockade Runner is situated within walking distance of several eateries and an expansive souvenir shop, where you can find clothing, toys, beach gear, mugs, and all the expected trinkets to remind you of your trip. Our favorite restaurant in this area is South Beach Grill. It's pricey, but it's worth treating yourself to at least one night of ocean fare. Including the tip, it cost our family of four $103. Our meal included locally fresh caught grouper and flounder, and their spicy seafood mac-n-cheese was very unique.
If you're on a tight budget, try Trolley Dogs for lunch. Each themed dog is $3, but pack your own sides because nothing but hot dogs are on the menu. Need an ice cream to cool you down? Try Kohl's Custard for a sweet treat.
Lumina Station is just a short drive across the bridge into Wilmington where you will find a Harris Teeter grocery store to stock up on supplies and more places to dine for lunch or dinner.
Sweet n Savory Cafe is a nearby 4-star restaurant, but even with its vast menu, we found them to be a culinary Jack-of-all-trades but master of none.
One of our favorite discoveries was Poe's Tavern, venerating Edgar Allen Poe. Pictures of Poe and his works adorn the walls, and the chandeliers and furniture are reminiscent of Poe's time period. Readings of Poe's works are even piped into the restrooms. Best known for their burgers, we found their fish tacos to be a surprising delight.
Who knew that donut shops could serve yummy sandwiches for lunch too? The Donut Inn was a quaint stop where we enjoyed deluxe BLT's, an Italian chicken wrap, and a turkey club. First time customers ordering donuts also score one extra for free, and the Donut Inn earned a top 3 ranking of our all-time favorite donut shops.
Historic downtown Wilmington is lined with unique restaurants, but it would take several vacations there to hit them all! If you are a creature of habit and prefer restaurant chains, Carrabas, the Olive Garden, and the usual haunts are easily found.
Places to Go at Wrightsville Beach
Wrighstville Beach and adjacent Wilmington are expansive areas that offer all you could ever need without making you feel lost in a big city. Both areas are very easy to navigate.
Redix is another key souvenir shop, and downtown Wilmington offers a river walk of unique shops to explore.
Independence Mall is within 15 minutes of the beach. It's nothing spectacular and not very large, but if you like shopping at a mall, you can find the basics here.
One super fun destination that's a must if you have kids is Jungle Rapids. With a ball pit, arcade, laser tag, go carts, mini golf, mini bowling, rock climbing and a small outdoor water park, you could easily spend the better part of one day enjoying all these activities conveniently accessible in one location.
For history buffs, don't miss a tour of the WWII Battleship, USS North Carolina, moored along the Cape Fear River. The tour is self-guided and takes an average of two hours to complete. For those who prefer to linger, you can download apps to hear more about selected locations within the battleship. There are several decks to explore here to take you back in time. Visit the souvenir shop at the end of your tour to pick up a memento or purchase a picture of your family in front of the battleship via green screen technology.
If the whole point of your vacation is to relax and enjoy the sights and sounds of the beach, don't miss a walk to Crystal Pier.
Wrightstville Beach Is Fun for the Whole Family
Whether you like solitude, family time, or a crazy party on your vacation, Wrightsville Beach is a one-size-fits-all destination. Like most beach spots, the atmosphere and the people are relaxed, allowing you to engage or disconnect at whim.
What are you waiting for? It's "high tide" you plan your beach vacation for some memorable fun in the sun.
New Spots or Old Favorites?
Do you like to try new vacation destinations, or do you prefer to revisit the same location each year?
© 2019 Vivian Coblentz