While you may know Wrightsville Beach as a destination for relaxation, sea-to-table dining and outdoor adventures, the island and its crystal blue waters harbor a diverse ecosystem filled with plants and animals that depend on the area for their livelihood. Organizations across the island work to preserve and maintain these natural habitats – and visitors are invited to join in their efforts.

Coastal Preservation

Masonboro Island Reserve is the longest undisturbed barrier island in southern North Carolina and home to loggerhead and green sea turtles, as well as many other threatened native species. As a National Estuarine Research Reserve, this site supports coastal research, long-term monitoring, habitat conservation studies and educational experiences to raise awareness about the importance of estuarine systems. For adventure seekers, Wrightsville Beach Scenic Tours offers conservation-focused eco-tours. Led by a knowledgeable guide, you’ll explore the island while spotting wildlife and learning about sensitive coastline habitats. Respectful visitors can also rent kayaks or canoes from Soundside Adventures and paddle out to observe the island on a solo expedition.

Masonboro.org is a volunteer-run organization with a mission to protect public access, promote responsible use and preserve traditions of Masonboro Island, such as surfing, camping and fishing. Throughout the year, Masonboro.org organizes clean-up events when volunteers come together to clear thousands of pieces of trash from the beach. More than 700 volunteers have joined this effort since 2009, and visitors can visit Masonboro.org to get involved.


Wrightsville Beach Sea Turtle Project

The Wrightsville Beach Sea Turtle Project was founded in 1994 to help protect sea turtle populations and habitats. As ambassadors for sea turtles, volunteers work with the project to identify signs of nesting and rope them off as federally protected areas. After hatchings, the project performs nest excavations to safely release any unhatched turtles. Join the project’s seasonal Turtle Talks to learn how to spot turtle tracks and safely navigate nesting areas, and attend exciting nesting excavations.


The Sea Turtle Project also helps rescue sick and injured sea turtles, which are then rehabilitated and released back into the ocean. Beachgoers can contact the Turtle Hotline if they come across an injured turtle to ensure it gets proper care. Additionally, the project promotes environmentally friendly practices such as reducing single-use plastics and straws, turning off beach house lights after dark and keeping the beach free of holes and trash. The Sea Turtle Project participates in Wrightsville Beach’s Earth Day Festival and NC Holiday Flotilla Festival. Visitors can get involved with its projects here

Locally Sourced Dishes

Wrightsville Beach’s restaurants go beyond typical beach fare – and many take advantage of the island's abundance to lessen their carbon footprint as certified Ocean Friendly Establishments. EAST Oceanfront Dining’s award-winning dishes feature local seafood, produce from its own garden and other ingredients harvested by local purveyors. Shark Bar & Kitchen is a casual lunch and dinner spot located near Johnnie Mercers Pier that highlights locally and sustainably sourced seafood, meat and produce. Menus change seasonally to feature fresh findings, and oysters and fresh catch of the day vary depending on what the boats bring in.

Set sail for dinner and an adventure with Epic Excursions’ Oyster Farm Tour and Tasting. The tour kicks off with a guided tour through Middle Sound Mariculture, an oyster farm that relies on 100% clean water and has deployed 14 million baby oysters that will filter 700 million gallons of water every day when mature. Following the tour, cruise to a nearby uninhabited island to taste steamed oysters fresh from the farm. Many of the shellfish served in nearby restaurants are sourced from local farms and fisheries like Middle Sound Mariculture and Shell ’em Seafood, a zero-waste shellfishing company.


Certified as an Ocean Friendly Restaurant by the Plastic Ocean Project, Oceanic Restaurant is dedicated to protecting the coastal environment. Oceanic prioritizes local seafood sources and relies on a multitude of North Carolina farmers for produce, poultry and pork. As part of the restaurant’s efforts to minimize its footprint, Oceanic has pledged to reduce waste by not offering plastic straws unless specifically requested – and the business continues to evaluate its paper, plastic, glass and aluminum usage.

Wrightsville Beach Brewery, located just over the drawbridge, is featured on the NC Oyster Trail, and offers a variety of fresh, local seafood. The brewpub also donates 11% of its monthly profits to a different cause-driven nonprofit, including several organizations focused on protecting the environment. Since opening in 2018, Adapt Kitchen + Juice Bar has demonstrated its commitment to sustainability by only sourcing eco-friendly and sustainable product packaging. The business composts hundreds of pounds of organic matter weekly for redistribution to local farmers.


Accommodations with a Cause

Blockade Runner Beach Resort was recognized as an Ocean Friendly Establishment in 2016 by the Plastic Ocean Project, an initiative formed alongside Wrightsville Beach Keep it Clean to reduce plastic pollution from local businesses. North Carolina Green Travel Initiative granted the property its highest honor, Three Dogwood Blossoms, for efforts to reduce waste, conserve energy and provide community outreach.


Led by a sustainability expert, Blockade Runner’s in-house green team works to lessen the hotel's footprint through several initiatives, including recycling, composting, using energy-efficient lighting and reducing single-use plastics. The green team has built over 60 feet of oyster reef, collected 200 bags of oyster shells and sorted 1,868 pounds of trash. In 2017, Blockade Runner partnered with the NC National Estuarine Research Reserve to form an innovative stormwater runoff plan, which earned recognized from the EPA.

Wrightsville Beach is filled with diverse coastal habitats, as well as sustainable initiatives striving to preserve and protect them. Plan your visit now to learn about sustainability on the island and get involved with hands-on opportunities.