Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina; The Perfect Small-Town Beach

By P.J. Thomas

North Carolina is known for its beautiful beaches, finger-licking barbecue and delicious, fresh seafood.


Wrightsville Beach is an hour and a half from 1-95, that congested north-south artery with which anyone who lives on the East Coast is all too familiar. It has been called one of the country’s best small-town beaches, family friendly destinations and one of the most accessible beaches.  It’s a  small island of about 2,500 year-round residents near Wilmington.

We visited the quintessential beach community one August for a quick three-day sampler.

Experience has taught that a beachfront street can be frustratingly congested in summer, so we stayed off island, about 20 minutes away, in a non-descript motel. Online message boards are ripe with chatter about the difficulty securing parking spaces near the beach.  Nevertheless, the parking is $2.50 an hour or $20 per day.  UBER or a taxi may be less hassles, provided you don’t have loads of beach equipment.

The community appears as if it could be a set for one of those summer movies. You know the kind, where the kids run free and mom and dad look as if they haven’t a care in the world while sipping wine on the porch on a summer evening.

Many beach houses are simple, though it has its share or large homes. But it is not overwhelmed with those big, ostentatious beach homes that block the ocean view from the rest of us, which defines some destinations. That’s not to say the colorful or gray-cedar shake buildings and homes aren’t beautiful.

The beach is wide, long, lifeguard-protected with ADA-accessible points leading to the beach.

Enjoy the Wilmington historic district through a narrated trolley tour, walk along the boardwalk that runs along the Cape Fear River and explore eclectic shopping and host of restaurants along the pretty cobblestone streets. The area has a variety of hotels, motels, and condos on and off island, and if you’re so inclined, stay in one of the historic bed-and-breakfast inns in downtown Wilmington, where the charm is as long as the moss from the old oak trees.


Wrightsville Beach reeled us in with the promise of an alluring beach and beautiful memories. The experience left us happy we took the bait—hook, line and sinker.


Where we dined:

Bluewater Waterfront Grill – Enjoy outside views in a casual atmosphere. Slow service but nice selection of fresh offerings, including raw oysters, and fish and shrimp more plentiful than a Bubba Gump menu.

Crystal Pier – Perfect coastal ambience for listening to music, grabbing a cool drink and watching a beautiful sunset over the ocean.

Catch Restaurant – The favorite dining experience. Operated by chef Keith Rhodes. It’s located on Market Street in Wilmington in easy-to0-miss location. The crab cakes and shrimp and grits were among the best we’ve eaten.


If you go:


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