Wilmington, North Carolina is the perfect romantic destination with its moss covered live oaks, brick lined streets and friendly people. Wilmington has several delicious restaurants and tons of local breweries that will make your romantic getaway more fun!
You might not think of North Carolina being a romantic state compared to its neighboring, South Carolina, but there are enough romantic getaways to go around in the Carolinas.
To start off your couple’s getaway check in at the Beacon House Inn City Flat, just steps from a majority of attractions in the heart of the River district in downtown Wilmington. The flat is only two short blocks from the scenic Wilmington’s Riverwalk.
The historic Beacon House Flat is cozy and clean. It comes with a full kitchen and all the modern amenities you need to enjoy your vacation. It also offers on-site parking.
Day 1: Explore the River District in downtown Wilmington
Go for a romantic stroll along the Cape Fear River
The Wilmington Riverwalk is a two miles boardwalk along the Cape Fear river and it is teaming with boutique shops, art galleries, and riverfront restaurants. We recommend visiting the Battleship North Carolina, which is a restored WWII battleship open to the public. It takes about 90 minutes to tour the ship.
Visit some of the historic homes downtown
The are several historic homes in Wilmington that are open to the public to tour. Our favorite is the Bellamy Mansion which is one of the best examples of antebellum architecture. The mansion has a carriage house, a victorian garden and a recently restored original slave quarters.
Another beautiful option is to visit the Burgwin-Wright House. It is the only structure in Wilmington from the colonial era, built in 1770, open to the public. Operated as a museum house, it offers a unique opportunity to view a fine example of Georgian architecture and experience what life was like during pre-revolutionary Wilmington.
Lunch at Stalk and Vine
After walking along the river and visiting one or two of the historic homes, you are probably ready to have some lunch. We recommend eating at Stalk and Vine. The charming atmosphere is paired with a well curated menu and cocktail list.
Even if you are not looking for a full lunch, it is the perfect spot to get out of the sun and enjoy a fresh pretzel and cold drink with exceptional service.
Go for a stroll down Market Street and Front Street
Market and Front Street are the most commercial streets in downtown Wilmington. The buildings are filled with clothing stores, antique shops, boutique stores, cafes and bakeries. Some of our favorite shops are Edge of Urge, Cape Fear Spice Merchants, Mercantile, Unleashed, and The Black Cat Shoppe.
Have a snack at Kilwin’s Chocolates
You must try one of the countless sweets at Kilwin’s Chocolates as they are delicious! I loved the oreo covered in salt caramel and the fresh fudge. Kilwin’s is most well known for its ice cream, which is good but it is up you on what your favorite sweets are, or just try them all. If you end up buying ice cream get the Superman, it looks so cool with a rainbow of colors and taste like bubblegum to us.
Go on a Romantic Horse Drawn Carriage Ride
Finish your day taking a 30-minute narrated horse drawn tour through downtown Wilmington. There are nine different routes that they take, so you can even enjoy this several times during your stay and see something new each time. We did route #1 and we loved learning about the historic homes in the city.
It is so romantic, informative and fun, with the guide even taking some photos for us in the carriage and with the rescued horse. The tours run until 10:00 p.m. but we recommend doing it right before sunset, so you get to see the city at the golden hour.
Dinner at Marina Grill or Anne Bonny’s Bar & Grill
Anne Bonny’s Bar has the best spot to watch sunset over the Cape Fear River as it is actually a floating barge tied on the docks. The restaurant quickly fills up around sunset, so if you want a waterfront view make sure to arrive early, as they do not take reservations.
Another option is the Marina Grill, which is a few minutes drive north of the city center. Its large and modern atmosphere overlooks the Port City Marina with many large yachts. We loved the Blackened Tuna with sweet roasted red pepper jam.
Day 2: Spend the day at the beach
There is nothing more romantic than spending some quality time at the beach with a loved one. Our favorite beaches are Wrightsville Beach, Carolina Beach and Kure Beach.
The water at Wrightsville Beach is more choppy and is known as the perfect place to go surfing. The town is super beautiful and worth going for a stroll through. It is near other main attractions including the Arboretum of New Hanover County and the Airlie Gardens. Both are beautiful places to enjoy part of the day.
The Arboretum is free to the public and is a small Japanese themed botanical garden.
On the other hand Airlie Gardens is a premier garden of the coastal south featuring 67 acres of walking paths, formal gardens, seasonal blooms, live oaks, art installations and historic structure. The entrance fee to Airlie Gardens is $9 per person.
If you are into watersports we recommend taking a paddle boarding tour or class with Cape Fear Paddleboarding. We did a private two hour SUP tour where our guide took us to a low tide island with a fake plant tree and a parking meter.
The coolest thing about this island is that when the tide comes in it gets completely covered and you can only see the palm tree and the American Flag “floating”.
A good place to stop for a meal and local beer is the Wrightsville Beach Brewery. They offer both an indoor seating area and a large self serve beer garden with a nice shade tree.
The calm water of Carolina Beach make it more of a family friendly beach with kids running around. Make sure to spend some time at the Carolina Beach Boardwalk, as it has a beautiful view of the ocean and some romantic swings for you to just sit and relax.
You can also visit the Carolina Beach State Park and go for a short hike with water views of the Cape Fear River, of which our favorite spot is near the marina.
A good place in this area to grab a cool is the Good Hops Brewery but if you are more into eating a full meal head to Stoked Restaurant in downtown Carolina Beach. Not only is the fresh seafood super delicious but it also has a gorgeous view of the Carolina Beach Marina, where you can watch the boats drive by.
Kure Beach a little bit farther from Wilmington than the other two beaches but it is worth the extra drive as it is a more quiet beach. Visit the Fort Fisher State Recreation Area, where you can explore the Basin Trail and see the WWII Bunker where the legendary Fort Fisher Hermit once lived.
Alternative things to do in Wilmington:
The most important thing to Wilmington during your romantic getaway is to find attractions and restaurants that you both will enjoy. While this romantic itinerary covers our favorite spots in Wilmington, there are many additional options to chose from.
Tour of a local brewery
In and around Wilmington over the last few years has seen a surge in local breweries pop up, producing a full range of beers. Several offer a tour of the brewery and learn how beer is made along with sampling a few of the brews.
There are many breweries in Wilmington to choose from including: New Anthem Beer Project, Wrightsville Beach Brewery, Edward Teach Brewery, Palate Bottle Shop & Reserve, The Brewer’s Kettle, Flytrap Brewing, Flying Machine Brewing Company, Wilmington Brewing Company, and Waterline Brewing.
View some wildlife on a river cruise
Wilmington Water Tours offers an hour and a half Breakfast with the Birds River Cruise with three on board ornithology experts helping you spot the local bird species along the Cape Fear River. The tour also includes a simple continental breakfast with some small pastries and fresh fruits.
Take ghost walking tour
With hundreds of years of history, it comes as no surprise that there is some haunted history. Sign up for a Ghost Walk of Old Wilmington for a walking tour of haunted homes & burial grounds. Just be prepared for a possible encounter!