Monday, February 29, 2016

Wilmington NC – Coastal Carolina

Back in September when we were touring the coastal areas of the Carolinas, we’d been fortunate enough with the weather while in the Charleston area but we were not so lucky in the Wilmington NC vicinity. 

Despite the deteriorating weather scene, we decided to do a bit of exploring.  This patch of ‘wild’ in the midst of overdevelopment is part of the North Carolina Estuarine Reserve on the tip of Wrightsville Beach.  It’s a tiny part of the 5,097 acre Masonboro Island portion of the Reserve.  Masonboro Island itself is an undeveloped barrier island accessible only by boat that lies south of Wrightsville Beach and north of Carolina Beach.

The estuarine system of the North Carolina National Estuarine Research Reserve is the third largest in the country, encompassing more the 10,000 acres.  This system is of is critical to the coastal area and the economy as 90% of the commercial seafood species caught in the state spends at least part of their lives in an estuary.  The beaches of Masonboro Island are a nesting ground for loggerheads and green sea turtles, and the waters on the sound side of the island are a nursery for spot, mullet, flounder and pompano.

With the weather the way it was, we decided to head on into Wilmington to explore the downtown area on the Cape Fear River.  There are a number of interesting shops in this area including the Cape Fear Spice Merchants.  We did pick up a couple of interesting spices and/or blends for future use.  They also carry loose leaf teas, oils and vinegars and gifts.  Bill likes to cook so he and Bonnie both liked this store…

This trolley-like conveyance was a little different approach to a ‘carriage ride’.  As it turns out, Springbrook Farms, Inc. also offers actual carriage rides too and they do refer to this vehicle as a ‘trolley’.  This tour operator uses rescued horses for tours along the riverfront and past Wilmington’s historic mansions.  Check them out on Facebook at

Oh Oh!  Could this be trouble for us ‘healthy’ foodies?!

Yes indeed!  We did indulge in a bit of candy.  The caramels and chocolate were excellent but we managed to resist the homemade ice cream, Mackinaw Island fudge and candy apples but Laurie's sister Bonnie got a caramel apple!  Kilwin’s is based in Petoskey Michigan and they’ve been in business since 1947.  This location is operated by a franchisee and there are now 80 Kilwin’s stores in 21 states from Colorado east… To learn more, go to

This is a foggy rainy view of the Cape Fear River in downtown Wilmington NC.  The Cape Fear Memorial Bridge is a steel vertical-lift bridge that carries US Hwy 17 Business, US Hwy 76 and US Hwy 421 across the Cape Fear River.  This is currently the highest bridge in North Carolina.  It features a 408 foot long lift span that can be raised 135 feet to allow ocean going ships to pass through.
While the Port of Wilmington isn’t one of the USA’s busiest ports, in 2013 it still processed almost 7,000,000 tons of cargo…

Looking right across the Cape Fear River from historic downtown Wilmington, one can clearly see the retired battleship, the USS North Carolina.  The USS North Carolina Battleship Commission was established by North Carolina in 1960 to provide an organization whose charter was to oversee the administration and operation of the ship as a self-sustaining memorial and exhibit for the State's World War II veterans.  Laurie and I toured the ship several years ago and enjoyed the experience… To learn more, go to

The USS North Carolina was the first newly constructed American battleship to enter service during World War II.  She took part in every major naval offensive in the Pacific Theater of Operations.  Her 15 battle stars made her the most highly decorated American battleship of World War II.

The small old-fashioned looking boat in the foreground is the Capt. J.N. Maffett.  This tour boat provides tours of the riverfront and the port of Wilmington.  To learn more, go to

This was the first time that I’d ever been able to get any photo of a Bell Boeing V-22 Osprey in flight.  This multi-mission, tiltrotor military transport aircraft has both a vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL), and short takeoff and landing (STOL) capability.  They are currently in service with the US Marine Corp and the US Air Force.

For anyone who might be interested, here’s a photo of an early version of the Osprey landing on a ship…with the motors tilted up.  The motors are tilted back down for horizontal flight.

This is a photo of the main street in historic downtown Wilmington.  It is very laid back and peaceful with restaurants and shops along the way…

The Wilmington Metropolitan Statistical Area had a population of 263,429 as of the 2012 Census Estimate.  The community was first founded in 1732 and it was named Wilmington after an English lord, Spencer Compton, the Earl of Wilmington in 1739 or 1740.


·       Many notable personalities have called Wilmington their home over the years.  They include Sugar Ray Leonard, David Brinkley, Meadowlark Lemon, Sonny Jurgensen, Althea Gibson and the 28th President of the United States, Woodrow Wilson.

This is the Bellamy Mansion, a historic home close to historic downtown Wilmington that is open for tours.  The mansion was built between 1859 and 1861 and it’s a mixture of Neoclassical architectural styles, including Greek Revival and Italianate. 

This 22 room house was constructed with the labor of both enslaved skilled carpenters and freed black artisans.  The adjacent authentic and unique slave quarters, which were fully restored in 2014, serve to depict the conditions in which slaves lived.  Because the property's slave quarters were constructed only a few years before the abolition of slavery, they are some of the best preserved examples of urban slave housing in the country.

What…!!  No photos of the interior of the house, just the gardens?  Nope… This is the first historic mansion that we’ve toured in a long time where photos, non-flash or otherwise, were not allowed.  We were told that it was an insurance issue due to the high value of some of the rare antique furnishings.
While we wish that we had some photographic memory of our tour, we would concede that it was interesting and informative and well worth the price of admission.  To learn more, go to  

That’s about it for our cloudy rainy tour of downtown Wilmington and the nearby beach area.  Just click on any of the photos to enlarge them…

Thanks for stopping by for a visit!

Take Care, Big Daddy Dave

1 comment:

  1. The NC coast is a very pretty part of the country and you've captured it beautifully. Kilwin’s is big in NC and I highly recommend their ice cream. How fun that you got to see an Osprey. My husband constantly is pointing out planes wherever we go. I had no idea this was Woodrow Wilson's home, much less Meadowlark Lemon. We were fortunately enough to see him & the Globetrotters in action when we lived in Houston. Talk about entertaining...