Scenic Drives In and Around Wilmington

The Wilmington area offers a number of different opportunities to go off the beaten path for a scenic drive. While most of the area can be accessed driving up and down just a few main thoroughfares, there are a few much more enjoyable driving adventures.

Drive on the Beach

Driving on the beach is most definitely an adventure! And, it’s a great way to escape the crowds – and limited parking – that can be issues at the most popular beaches. Of course, four wheel drive is required! Located just south of Wilmington in Carolina Beach, Freeman Park allows driving and even camping on the beach. Annual passes are $60 if purchased before April 1st, and $100 after that. Day passes are also available for $20. The area, known as the North End, offers beautiful views of Masonboro Island and the Intercoastal Water Way. It can, however, get crowded. For an even more isolated stretch of beach, try the South End, located about 5 miles south at Fort Fisher in Kure Beach. An annual pass is $50, and a daily pass is $12. North of Wilmington lies Topsail Island, which also offers off road driving at the very south end, by permit. Permits are $25 for residents and $50 for visitors, and are available at Town Hall.

*Prices subject to change. Check the city’s website for more information.

Take the Ferry to Southport

Another unique, and incredibly scenic, drive is from Wilmington to Southport by ferry. The ferry leaves from the very tip of Fort Fisher regularly throughout the day with the first departure at 6:15 am. Vehicles are $5 each way. Once the ferry departs, passengers are free to exit their vehicles and sit up in the enclosed cabin or out on one of the balconies to enjoy the beautiful views of the Cape Fear River. Southport is a wonderful town to explore, featuring many antique shops, historic sites and seafood restaurants, most notably Fishy Fishy. From Southport, you can also park at the ferry terminal and take a different ferry over to Bald Head Island, an upscale resort community that has beautiful unspoiled beaches as well as posh shopping, lodging, and dining. Cars are not allowed on the island, so all transportation once off the ferry is by foot, bicycle or golf cart.

*Prices subject to change – Check the Ferry Schedule and Pricing Online

Cruise Airlie Road

In town, one of the most beautiful drives is on Airlie Road. Just before crossing the bridge into Wrightsville Beach, turn right onto Airlie Road for a short drive lined with majestic oaks draped in Spanish Moss. Views include the Intercoastal Waterway, Bradley Creek and Airlie Gardens. Also on Airlie Road is one of Wilmington’s favorite waterfront restaurants, Dockside, which served as “The Bait Shack” during the filming of the TV series Dawson’s Creek. If you continue over the bridge into Wrightsville Beach, take the first right and drive along the other side of the Intercoastal to the tip of the island for fabulous views of Masonboro Island, as well as small beach town life.