Living like a local: A hike with history

Apr 26, 2023 • 3 min. read | By Karen Bright

At the end of the 1.1-mile Basin Trail at Fort Fisher State Recreation Area, hikers are met with an observation deck with a panoramic view of the marsh. (Photo by Charlie Peek/Courtesy of Fort Fisher State Recreation Area)


Wilmington is a great place for a walk. We have a lot of scenic parks, walking trails and, of course, the beaches – then there is the perfect combination, a trail that runs along the beach. We have some pretty hot days here, so why not get sweaty on a trail and cool off with a swim?


The best way to enjoy this fine combination is to walk the Fort Fisher Basin Trail. The Basin Trail is at the end of Kure Beach near the Fort Fisher State Recreation Area visitor center. The visitor center includes a small exhibit area, and it is where you can purchase your pass to drive on the beach. The trailhead is located just past the access gates, which allow you to drive on the beach. When you enter there is a sign that includes facts and information about the trail. 


When you decide to take on this trail, I recommend wearing sneakers, sunscreen and bug spray. You will be tempted to wear your flip-flops, but the walk is 1.1 miles. It is by no means a difficult trail, but active footwear is necessary. The trail rambles through marshes, wooded areas and the beach. It is very interesting to see the toll the ocean breeze and saltwater take on the live oaks along the trail. In addition to providing a beautiful backdrop as you trek the trail, these formative trees help provide shade for your walk. 


Another reason to walk the trail is to stand on the bridges and take in the wildlife living in the marshes surrounding the area. Don’t be startled when tiny mischievous crabs scurry across your path; this is another point in favor of sneakers over sandals! When you get to the end of this trail, you’re met with a panoramic view of the different waterways and marshland coming together. It is a gorgeous place to take a break and reward yourself before turning around and heading back. 


One of the most unexpected sights along the way is the World War II bunker. This bunker is worth checking out and maybe will inspire you to brush up on some history! If you still have energy after completing the trail, then I recommend stopping at the nearby Fort Fisher State Historic Site. This museum provides maritime and Civil War history. When touring the museum, you start out with a short audiovisual program depicting the importance of Fort Fisher during the Civil War, where you’ll learn how Fort Fisher was one of the most influential battles of the war. There are many exhibits, photos and artifacts to add to your experience. Outside features a quarter-mile walking trail with informational placards along the way. The museum hours are Tuesday through Saturday from 9am to 5pm and admission is free! The historical site is a great way to learn some Cape Fear history.


If you spend your day walking the Basin Trail and touring the Fort Fisher museum, you will exercise your body and mind. Who knew a day at the beach could be so productive?