Named one of the “Best Beaches in the U.S." by Condé Nast Traveler in 2022, Wrightsville Beach will continue winning hearts with even more exceptional experiences in store this year. From “Year of the Trail” expeditions to a revitalized iconic seafood spot, 2023 brings fresh ways to enjoy island life in an ideal getaway destination. Dive into what’s new in Wrightsville Beach.
Scenic Tours Galore
Epic Excursions’ newest offering is an Oyster Farm Tour and Tasting. Hop aboard a 24-foot skiff for a scenic ride to the Middle Sound Mariculture Farm, where you’ll learn about raising these mouth-watering mollusks from seed to harvest. Then, you’ll cruise to the pristine Masonboro Island to savor raw and steamed local oysters paired with complementary wine – and to sharpen your shucking skills!
Salty Feet Adventures, a recent addition to Wrightsville Beach, takes groups of up to six on private boat excursions through the area’s waterways and popular landmarks. Plus, pups are welcome aboard these dog-friendly charters. Their Sandbar Hunter skiff stops and anchors smoothly on shallow private sandbars, where passengers can step off to explore serene sands and fauna-filled tidal pools. Add a stand-up paddleboard (SUP) upgrade to receive expert instruction while navigating waterway marshes. Salty Feet Adventures also offers steaming seafood boils, catered by Topsail Steamer, to savor on your own private island.
By popular demand, Wrightsville Beach Scenic Tours recently expanded its boat fleet to accommodate more cruise times and offerings, including the Airlie Gardens/Bradley Creek Boat Trip. Take a scenic tour through local history as your guide recounts tales of Bradley Creek’s nautical heritage and the pioneer families that lived and labored in the wetlands. In addition, The Clover luxury pontoon boat is available to charter for a private island-hopping pleasure cruise. You’ll encounter crystal blue waters thanks to the two barrier island inlets that keep Wrightsville Beach’s surrounding waters clean, enhancing clarity and color.
Reopened Restaurant Royalty
First established in 1947, King Neptune is one of the area’s oldest restaurants – and the backdrop for many generations of family vacation memories. The Wrightsville Beach staple closed during the pandemic before reopening in late 2022 under new management. Now owned by a long-time Wrightsville Beach restaurateur, King Neptune sports a modernized look after extensive interior renovations. However, returning fans will still recognize the original Pirate Bar! The restaurant, now open for dinner and Sunday brunch, features a reimagined menu of fresh, local seafood and other delicious dishes with Chef Nick Chavez at the kitchen helm.
An Island Take on “Year of the Trail”
Situated on the coast of “the Great Trails State,” Wrightsville Beach offers scenic routes to discover by land and water during North Carolina’s “Year of the Trail” in 2023. Take in views of the Intercoastal Waterway as you walk, jog or run along The Loop, a 2.5-mile paved fitness trail circling the inner island. Bikers can also ride on the road alongside The Loop or pedal down the River to Sea Bikeway. This 10-mile on- and off-road bicycle route stretches from Johnnie Mercers Fishing Pier to Wilmington’s River District. Bike rentals are available through Aussie Island Surf Shop, Wrightsville SUP and other local outfitters.
Known for world-class watersports (and named one of the best "SUP hubs" by Outside magazine), Wrightsville Beach lets visitors leave land worries behind while paddling through scenic soundside waters. Traverse salt marsh habitats on a sunrise or sunset SUP tour with Cape Fear Paddleboarding. Nature-seekers can explore calm coastal waterways on an Epic Excursions paddleboarding charter, or a Soundside Adventures eco-paddle kayaking tour. Paddlers can also support the North Carolina Coastal Federation’s “We the Water” paddling initiative, which empowers coastal visitors to help protect and restore our water quality and natural habitats. Visit this website to learn more and get involved.
Choose your own aquatic “Year of the Trail” expedition by renting a kayak, canoe or paddleboard from Wrightsville Kayak Company, Soundside Adventures or Wrightsville SUP. Embark on a self-guided tour to observe the natural marvels of Masonboro Island Reserve, which can only be accessed and explored via kayak or boat. The picturesque barrier island’s marshes and tidal flats harbor Loggerhead sea turtles, rare nesting birds and many other threatened native species of plants and animals.
Events to Enjoy Year-Round
Check our full events calendar when planning your 2023 travels. In February, the Novant Health Wilmington NC Marathon, a Boston Marathon qualifier beginning at Johnnie Mercers Pier, will set the pace for an action-packed year. The Carolina Cup, an internationally recognized SUP race, will bring even more fitness-minded visitors and spectators to Wrightsville Beach this spring. During the summer season, our coastal town will offer Art in the Harbor Way Gardens, the 50th Annual Cape Fear Blue Marlin Tournament and Turtle Talks at the Fred and Alice Stanback Coastal Education Center, among other island happenings. The action continues into fall and winter with the IRONMAN 70.3 North Carolina, 10th Annual Taste of Wrightsville Beach and NC Holiday Flotilla celebration.
The new year provides new unexpected, unparalleled experiences to enjoy at Wrightsville Beach. Elevate your 2023 travel plans with a vacation in our active and always-refreshing island town.