Daytrips from Wilmington: Heading South
With its winning combination of beautiful beaches and a vibrant historic downtown, Wilmington might just satisfy you enough to stay put. But there are plenty of nearby destinations that offer fun day-trip diversions.
A first on most lists is Southport, a delightful small town that can be accessed via ferry, adding to its allure and getaway feel. The quintessential small southern town, Southport provided the perfect backdrop for the filming of several Nicholas Sparks novels, Safe Haven, Dear John, A Walk to Remember, and Message in a Bottle, among them.
Southport offers plenty of antique shops, art galleries and restaurants to justify a full day, along with a lovely view over the water toward the Oak Island Lighthouse and beyond to Bald Head Island.
Speaking of Bald Head Island, this is another delightful destination that might be harder to justify as a day trip – if only because it can be hard to return to the mainland after enjoying a day void of cars and full of nature and all that promises.
Bald Head Island is accessible via its own ferry, departing from Southport. Once there, visitors should rent a golf cart or bicycle to explore the island’s history, natural splendor, quaint commercial villages and stunning residential architecture.
Staying on a southern trek, head further to North Myrtle Beach. Golfers will have a seemingly endless menu of courses to try that wind through salt marshes and take in ocean views. Shoppers can dive into retail therapy with abandon. There are two Tanger outlet malls in Myrtle Beach, along with Barefoot Landing and Broadway by the Beach, each of which offer tremendous variety, restaurants and entertainment options.
While in Myrtle Beach, take in the Ripley’s Believe it or Not Museum and the Ripley’s Aquarium, or Alligator Adventure. Entertainment options include the Alabama Theater and House of Blues, but that’s just the two at the top. Myrtle Beach offers no shortage of venues for live entertainment.
Still further south, and perhaps at the outer reaches of the distance for a true day trip, at two hours, lies Brookgreen Gardens. Both a botanical garden and a sculpture garden, Brookgreen offers a stunning blend of art and nature. And given its subtropical climate, the gardens enjoy stunning color and variety at any time of year.
While maintaining a southerly direction but staying closer to home, consider Carolina Beach State Park for hiking, biking, paddling and fishing. Or explore Fort Fisher State Recreation Area which accommodates four-wheel-drive beach access. Visit during summer months and you might encounter loggerhead sea turtles nesting. Add the Fort Fisher Aquarium, with interactive exhibits and fascinating live programs, and Fort Fisher Historic Site, a Confederate fort during the Civil War, and you’ll round out a full day, or more, of a delightful getaway near home.
Next month, I’ll share favorite day trip destinations heading north, including Moores Creek National Battlefield, Karen Beasley Sea Turtle Hospital, New Bern, Beaufort and Raleigh.