The island of Wrightsville Beach is the main go-to beach for the city of Wilmington and has been for the last century. It used to be connected to the city by a trolley and the old stops are now marked as historical. Like most of the barrier islands
North Carolina, it's a low, sandy, slender piece of land. On one side is the Atlantic Ocean, which, combined with
the sky, gives one a sense of infinity. Between the island and the mainland is the Intercoastal Waterway, which
starts in New England and goes all the way to south Florida. There are also miles and miles of bays, rivers, creeks
and wetlands, full of fish and shellfish. Because of it's proximity to the city of Wilmington and its nightlife,
in my opinion Wrightsville Beach is the best beach to spend a holiday or a weekend.
For people who are anti-development, Shell Island Resort symbolizes all the qualities that make you wish you
could move to a desert island. A giant multi-storied concrete structure that wouldn't look out of place in downtown
Belgrade, with a giant parking lot and swimming pool. But before you dismiss it as something to avoid, let me just
say that every room has a great view and the structure is a perfect subject for ethereal photographs like something
you would see in an Angelopoulos film. The sand dunes on the beach keep the sea from washing all the houses away. They're covered with a thin layer of
plants and beach grasses that keep them together. There are protected areas with boardwalks built over them and
signs that ask people not to walk on them. There are also nesting areas for many of the birds.
Fishing in Wrightsville can be done from the piers (you have to pay for the day) or in the surf (free). There are
also fishing boats that go out for the day or the half day. Otherwise you can just go to Mott's Seafood and buy
some or go to a seafood restaurant, of which there are several. For breakfast, the Causeway Cafe is popular, as is Middle of the Island. But my favorite place was Crabdaddy's where we got a peck of oysters for $9, the most delicious crab dip, and more seafood than we could eat for a lot less than we had been paying at other restaurants. The atmosphere was hip-southern with a bluesy feel similar to say the Flying Burrito in Chapel
Hill or even Tortuga's Lie in Nags Head. The bar made me want to ditch my family and make friends. Unfortunately as often happens with the type of restaurant I like, it went out of business. Try Buddies Crab House and Oyster Bar instead, right next to Johnnie Mercer's Pier.
Many of the homes on the beach and on the sound can be rented. Wrightsville Beach has some of the most expensive
real estate in North Carolina. Even so, you can find great rental deals in the off-season - and even in the summer
if you get a few friends together to share the cost it's still an affordable vacation. The Blockade
Runner, Shell Island Resort and the Holiday Inn are
the three large hotels on the island. All of them are right on the Atlantic with views of the ocean or the sound. There are several smaller hotels and even a couple B&Bs. You can find these and other hotels with photos, descriptions, guest reviews and booking information at Booking.com's Wrightsville Beach Page
Johnny Mercer Pier was destroyed by a Hurricane. The old wooden pier has now been replaced by a concrete one and it's a great place to fish or to watch people fishing. Kids will find Wrightsville a fun place to be because they will find lots of other kids. Skateboards and bikes seem to be the primary method of transportation for the younger
generation and running for everyone twenty and older. There are lots of cars here and parking can be a problem in the
summer, but a low speed-limit keeps the island relatively safe for pedestrians.
Though nightlife has picked up in the last few years, Wilmington is where much of the action is and it is just a 10 minute drive to downtown. If you are looking for someplace to eat and drink you will pass miles of shopping centers, restaurants, cafes, movie theaters and even a Hooters.