Wilmington, North Carolina Travel Guide

If you’re looking for an adorable beach town on the coast of North Carolina, Wilmington is an excellent option. It has its own small airport, but it is also a three hour drive from the Charlotte airport, which offers more frequent, direct flights from the Northeast. One of my favorite things about Wilmington is its versatility—there is an adorable downtown with plenty of shopping, restaurants, and bars, but there are also multiple beaches to visit that are 15-20 minutes away from the downtown area. Truly the best of both worlds! 


Where To Eat

The Copper Penny

Located within the downtown area, The Copper Penny was featured on Triple D and offers delicious, large portioned, pub food. We got here just in time on a Saturday at lunch because it was packed! The ambiance is low-key and casual, and the food was excellent. We shared a huge plate of nachos for the table, and my Copper Cobb salad was enormous and delicious. The Copper Penny is a go-to spot when you are famished from your shopping and need a lunch break.

Pilot House Restaurant

One of the prettiest areas of Wilmington is the Riverwalk area, and Pilot House is located right along the Riverwalk with a beautiful view of the water. If the weather is cool enough, I recommend grabbing a table in the outdoor seating area. When we visited, it was very hot outside so we opted for an indoor table, but still had a view of the water from our seats. The menu offers both local seafood flavors with added Southern twists.

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Wake N Bake Donuts

If you believe that no trip to the beach is complete without some amazing donuts, Wake N Bake is definitely worth checking out. This was my favorite food stop of the weekend and the assortment of donut flavors was mind-blowing. We couldn’t decide what to get, so we ended up ordering lots of flavors to try! If you want to reconnect with your inner child, the Pebble Rock donut topped with Fruity Pebbles is the way to go. Not to worry—if classic donuts are more your style, they have plenty of those as well.


What to Do


Wilmington boasts multiple beach options for relaxing and soaking up some sun. Carolina Beach, Kure Beach and Wrightsville Beach are all a quick drive from the downtown area. The beaches are wide and beautiful for a day of lounging. One big recommendation if you decide to go to the beach is to get there EARLY. Parking near the beaches fills up quickly (unless you are staying within walking distance of a beach and don’t need to drive), and the beach itself does get packed as the day goes on. 

Arlie Gardens

On our way home, we decided to stop by Arlie Gardens, as it’s one of the top noted attractions in the Wilmington area. The Gardens has over 67 acres of walking trails, lined with flowers and different structures. One of my favorite parts of the Gardens was the Butterfly House, which allows you to walk through the space with several different types of butterflies fluttering around you. Admission to the Gardens is $9/adult. 

Heather Slugaski is a clinical social worker living and working in North Carolina. You can follow Heather on Twitter @heatherlynnsw.