Hidden Sanctuaries & Gems
Explore the Path Less Traveled
First-time visitors will be enchanted by a number of hidden sanctuaries and gems found throughout Wrightsville Beach and its nearby barrier islands, while repeat visitors will have a chance to discover something new each and every visit.
Hidden Beach Escapes
Wrightsville Beach and the surrounding areas are ideal spots for visitors looking to get some peace and quiet beachside with a splash of scenic beauty. Only accessible by boat, kayak or canoe, Masonboro Island Reserve is home to the longest undisturbed barrier island ecosystem in southern North Carolina, as well as birds, fish, sea turtles and more that use the island for habitat and foraging. The reserve protects these coastal habitats for long-term research, education and stewardship, giving visitors a firsthand look at pristine examples of barrier island, salt marsh and tidal creek ecosystems.
Epic Excursions offer half-or full-day boat charters for up to six people on its 23-foot catamaran deck boat to Masonboro Island, as well as sunset cruises, island dining excursions, and camping and glamping trips for an unforgettable night’s stay on the uninhabited island. The company also conducts excursions to Mason’s Inlet, known for its clear water and sand bars, and Lea Island, the perfect destination for those who enjoy shelling and spending the day on a secluded beach. Wrightsville Beach Scenic Tours offer a variety of charter options to Masonboro, including a daily cruise from 12:30 p.m. to 2 p.m. that highlights the natural history and ecology of Wrightsville Beach’s waterways and a half-day eco-tour that focuses on the fascinating and complex ecosystem of the barrier island. Take the Masonboro Island Hopper Cruise offered by Soundside Adventures, which includes stops at Money Island and Masonboro Island and continues with a scenic cruise back to the docks.
Back on Wrightsville Beach, park at the last beach access on the north end of the island and continue northward on foot along the shore, keeping your eyes peeled for a solitary mailbox and bench surrounded by sand. Visitors to the Wrightsville Beach Mailbox can write anonymous letters, share stories and memories about their trip or read through the notes and musings left by others. The mailbox is filled with a constantly evolving collection of romantic poems, prayers for peace, letters to those long gone and more. Here on the north end, the ocean collides with Mason's Inlet, making it a perfect location for shelling or lounging in tidal pools during low tide.
Find a spot on one of Wrightsville Beach’s piers as the sun begins to set, then watch as the full moon rises over the island into the night sky. Bask in the moonlight from Johnnie Mercers Pier or the Crystal Pier at the Oceanic Restaurant, where full-moon rising celebrations are legendary.
Stop and smell the flowers at one of Wrightsville Beach’s tucked away gardens. Situated on the west end of Wrightsville Beach Park, Harbor Way Gardens is a one-acre garden that allows visitors to rest in the shade on benches set among paved paths, surrounded by large trees and seasonal flowers in bloom. Children can cool off and play in the Children's Fountain.
Nearby Airlie Gardens is home to more than 67 acres of formal gardens and walking trails, 10 acres of lakes, the majestic nearly 500-year-old Airlie Oak and hundreds of species of local flora and fauna. Open year-round, Airlie Gardens features a number of hidden oases and structures, including the Bottle Chapel, Pergola Garden and seasonal Butterfly House.
Hop aboard a boat, kayak or stand up paddleboard and explore a different kind of saltwater in Wrightsville Beach’s active sound to engage both the mind and body. Thanks to its location between the ocean and Intracoastal Waterway, the waves are calm and the breezes are steady in this unique body of water.
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