Fall is the New Summer in Wilmington and Island Beaches

by Kristy Tolley
Wilmington waterfront at sunset

Tans may fade as summer comes to a close, but Wilmington and its island beaches – CarolinaKure and Wrightsville – are still open for the perfect escape for families needing a break from in-home learning or working from home at the beach, couples searching for a getaway or quarantine pals with cabin fever. With moderate temperatures, fewer crowds, off-season rates and summer activities available well into the autumn months, fall is the new summer in Wilmington and Island Beaches.

Lodging properties, restaurants and other local businesses have implemented enhanced safety protocols as recommended by the CDC and respected industry associations in response to COVID-19. Many are participating in Count on Me NC, a public health initiative committed to keeping both locals and visitors healthy and safe. Find the full list of local businesses that have completed the training program here.


kayakers on the water in Wilmington


Morning Splendor. Still on Deck. 

Whether you’re seeking soundside, beachside or riverside views, find off-season deals on stays, with plenty of spacious vacation rentals, full-service hotels and resorts, boutique inns and cozy bed & breakfasts to choose from. Contact your AAA Travel Agent to discover off-season rates, and look for weekday stays (Sunday-Thursday) for the best savings.

For first-class amenities and spacious rooms with a view, book a stay at one of these full-service hotels or island resorts.

For something equally luxurious but more intimate, look no further than one of our quaint boutique inns.

Choose one of our cozy bed & breakfasts to experience ultimate Southern charm and history.

Live like a local with a wide variety of vacation rentals to choose from for every size family and budget, from beachfront houses and centrally located cottages to campground cabins. With amenities like private pools, porches with views and fully stocked kitchens, you’ll be ready to relax with all the comforts of home. Or better yet, rent one to work from home at the beach.


basket of fried shrimp and fries


Coastal Fare. Still in Season. 

Whether you crave alfresco dining on the waterfront or grabbing a seafood pot to go, there are plenty of coastal flavors to savor this fall.


people at the pier in Wimington taking a yoga class


Same Adventures. More Stretching Room. 

Find your fall flow with yoga in the garden or stand-up paddleboarding on the sound. Grab your yoga mat, sign up for one of Salty Dog Yoga & Surf’s virtual classes and take your practice on the beach or under the shade trees at Harbor Way Gardens in Wrightsville Beach. Test your balance with a private stand-up paddleboarding lesson led by the experienced instructors at Cape Fear Paddleboarding to gain confidence on the water while taking in scenic views of the coastal ecosystem and local wildlife. Not to mention, it’s a great low-impact core workout!

Embark on a guided kayak tour with one of Kayak Carolina’s trained interpretive naturalists to explore Zeke’s Island Reserve or Masonboro Island, the longest undisturbed barrier island ecosystem in southern North Carolina. Or, learn to ride a wave with a surf lesson from Tony Silvagni Surf School, where you may even meet Olympic gold medalist Tony Silvagni himself.


Wimington Airlie Gardens at sunset

Airlie Gardens


Trails and Ales. More Room to Wander. 

With stunning sunset views over the water and mild temperatures, discover whatever helps you unwind. The iconic Wilmington Riverwalk features nearly two miles of scenic walkway alongside the historic Cape Fear River, along with an unbeatable view of the iconic Battleship NORTH CAROLINAmoored across the river. Experience a quintessential autumn activity with the Wilmington Ale Trail, the ultimate beer-lover’s guide to local breweries, bottle shops and bars.

Become one with nature at Airlie Gardens. Wander along the trails to discover the beautiful 67 acres of formal gardens, wildlife, lakes and more. Greenfield Lake Park & Gardens is the perfect place to spend a fall day enjoying nature with family and friends. A year-round birding oasis, the 250 acres of park land offer plenty of biking and walking trails to explore.

Discover some of North Carolina’s best fishing spots and hiking trails at Carolina Beach State Park. Head out on Sugarloaf Trail to journey through a variety of terrains on your way to Sugarloaf Dune, a 50-foot sand dune where more than 5,000 troops camped during the Civil War. Or, head out for a hike through the salt marshes along the Basin Trail at Fort Fisher State Recreation Area.


three ladies enjoying outdoor dining in Wilmington


Golden Hour View. Happy Hour Mood. 

Enjoy breathtaking views while sipping on craft cocktails, ice cold brews or a glass of your favorite wine at one of the area’s restaurants known for their bold beverages.

With plenty of accommodations to choose from and a wide array of restaurants and activities to still enjoy well into fall, Wilmington and its island beaches offer everything your readers need for a COVID-friendly escape.


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