Wrightsville Beach is a special place - quite unlike any of the commercial beaches you may have visited. Wrightsville Beach is primarily an affluent residential community that has its roots in Wilmington. For nearly a century, the 5-mile-long island beach has been a retreat from the summer heat for residents of Wilmington. Wrightsville Beach was incorporated in 1899 as a resort community. The Tidewater Power Company built a trolley system from downtown to the beach, providing the only land access to the island until 1935. The company, which owned the island, was interested in development and built the Hotel Tarrymore in 1905 to attract visitors and revenue. Later named The Oceanic, this grand hotel burned down in 1934, along with most structures on the northern half of the island. Lumina, a beach pavilion, was also built by the Tidewater Power Company to attract visitors. On the site of the current Oceanic Restaurant at the south end of the beach, Lumina offered a festive place where locals gathered for swimming, dancing and outdoor movies. The building was demolished in 1973.
The Carolina Yacht Club, the first large structure on the island, was built in 1856 and is the second oldest in the country, after the New York Yacht Club. Developers, seeing an opportunity for expansion, filled in the remaining water and joined the islands together. Today, the area is the site of the Shell Island Resort Hotel, numerous condominiums and large homes.
Today, Wrightsville Beach is a very busy and prosperous place. Because of its popularity with both residents and tourists, there is almost no available land for sale. The area is still a stronghold of long-term residents who summer in family homes built to catch the ocean breeze. The permanent residential population is about 3,000, but that figure swells considerably in the summer. With a land mass of nearly a square mile, this island manages to maintain its charm despite an increasing influx of visitors. Boaters, sun worshippers, swimmers, surfers and anglers will find much to appreciate and enjoy about the setting. Public beach access points are liberally sprinkled along the shoreline.
Opportunities for water-related sports and entertainment are plentiful on Wrightsville Beach. Some of the most luxurious marinas along the North Carolina coast are clustered around the bridge at the Intracoastal Waterway and offer a full range of services. Charter boats, both power and sail, are available in abundance. Diving, Jet Ski rentals, windsurfing, parasailing, kayaking and sailing lessons are here for the asking. Bait, tackle, piers and more than enough advice on the best way to fish are all easy to find. Visitors who bring their own boats will appreciate the free boat ramp just north of the first bridge onto Harbour Island, the island between the mainland and Wrightsville Beach.
Be forewarned - a visit to Wrightsville Beach is such a pleasant experience - it becomes habit-forming! The island is wonderfully walkable, and you can find everything you need for a comfortable and memorable vacation almost any time of the year.
The Cape Fear coast will forever be tied to the centuries old nautical legacy of the area. Its rich heritage dates back to the early explorers who named the area Cape Fear for its rugged shoals and treacherous waters that, even today, give even the saltiest of sea captains reason to pause.
Wrightsville Beach, one of two barrier islands in the mouth of the Cape Fear River, is unlike any other place in the world, a fact of which island residents are considerably proud. In the 1840s, the island became a vacation spot for the well-todo of nearby Wilmington. Following the Civil War, Wrightsville Beach became one of the first island communities to incorporate. Shortly thereafter, rustic bridges were built to connect the island community to the mainland.
Today, Wrightsville Beach has become a prospering small island town that has found the right balance between preserving both the environment of the island and the island village feel. Though development has been steady on the island, it has not been allowed to overwhelm the island.
The waterfront location of Wrightsville Beach allows for a multitude of recreational options. The clean and uncluttered five mile white sand beach is perfect for a day of lounging in the sun, collecting shells, swimming, surfing and fishing. And after a morning at the beach, residents and visitors alike can enjoy the Wrightsville Beach City Park, complete with lighted tennis courts, volleyball and basketball courts and soccer fields. And for fitness buffs, there is a fitness trail that circles the inner island.
The island is not short of culture either. The Wrightsville Beach Museum of History has a fascinating collection of local artifacts, including pirate treasure. Riverboat cruises on the Intracoastal Waterway are another favorite activity, and provide a glimpse into the past of the area.
Neighboring Wilmington is only a short drive for residents of Wrightsville Beach, providing many of the big-city amenities the island is lacking. National retail and restaurant chains, as well as high-quality medical care are an easy drive from Wrightsville Beach.
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