Boating Along the Cape Fear Coast: Wilmington, NC
Along the Cape Fear Coast
Marinas in the Cape Fear area are found to be a specific headland in North Carolina, but it’s also the name used for the region around the city of Wilmington. It’s said that the area was given its moniker by long-ago sea captains who’d met their ruin in the treacherous waters. Just off the coast are the Frying Pan Shoals, a series of long, shifting sandbars that can wreak havoc on vessels, and while the area has become a great spot for divers, ships still need to take care when passing through. There are more than 30 confirmed wrecks sitting on the surrounding seabed.
Legend has it that pirates such as Edward Teach—better known as Blackbeard—plundered and pillaged in the waters around Cape Fear during the 18th century. In 1718, the Battle of Cape Fear River pitted a British naval commander against the pirate Stede Bonnet, who hailed from a wealthy Barbadian family. Bonnet lost the fight but not before giving the Brits a run for their money.
Over the centuries, many attempts have been made to adequately warn captains of the impending dangers on the approach to Cape Fear. Three lighthouses were built, which helped to a certain extent, but they could never project enough light to completely diffuse the situation. Today there is a lightship out in the water as well as a light tower and a by to mark the most hazardous spots.
What to Do
Take a self-guided tour of the USS North Carolina, the first newly built U.S. battleship to enter World War II and an active participant in every Pacific naval offensive during that time. She emerged as the most highly decorated U.S. battleship of the war. Now she is a floating museum,with nine levels to explore. (1 Battleship Rd., 910-251-5797)
Built in 1859, Bellamy Mansion is an elegant, lovingly restored example of antebellum architecture and well worth a visit. The gardens are planted with 19th-century flower species flanked by crushed-shell walkways. (503 Market St., 910-251-3700)
Don’t miss the wonderful area beaches, perfect for kicking back with a book or grabbing a board and paddling into the surf. Carolina Beach (www.carolinabeachgetaway.com) is framed by creeks and salt marshes that make for great kayaking adventures. Kure Beach (www.visitkure.com) has the Atlantic coastline’s oldest fishing pier and one of the region’s best surf schools (Carolina Surf School, 7213 Ogden Business Lane, 910-256-7873,www.wbsurfcamp.com). At Wrightsville Beach (www.visitwrightsville.com), rent a Jet Ski or try your hand at stand-up paddle-boarding.
Where to Eat
Elijah’s is set right on the river, overlooking the Cape Fear Memorial Bridge and decorated with nautical paintings and artifacts.The open-air Oyster Bar is a great place for sunset cocktails and some of the briny, shucked bivalves. (2 Ann St., 910-343-1448)
The stylish circa 1922 Restaurant has polished dark-wood booths, exposed brick walls, and an inventive tapas menu—duck pastrami, miso-shrimp saté—meant for sharing. (8 Front St., 910-762-1922)
If you're in the mood for delicious deli sandwiches and soups, then Chop's Deli is the place to go. The deli comes highly recommended by locals and vistors alike. Lunch is a must-have meal at this deli, which offers friendly staff, great sandwiches, and portion sizes that are larger than life.
Where to Dock
Bennett Brothers Yachts & Cape Fear Marina is in Wilmington on the banks of the Cape Fear River. The excellent facilities—including a full-service boatyard—make it a perennial stop for boaters cruising the ICW. (910-772-9277)
Also in Wilmington are the City Docks with a total of 1,200 feet of floating space located within walking distance of downtown attractions. (910-520-6875)
Southport Marina is not only a convenient stop along the ICW but also just a hop, skip and a jump to Wrightsville Beach and Myrtle Beach.Within walking distance to downtown Southport, floating docks, a large outdoor pool, a tiki bar, and a complimentary water pumpout are just some of the amazing amenities this marina has to offer. (910-457-9900)