Stroll: Across the Cape Fear River from Wilmington sits the Battleship North Carolina, a retired WWII ship-cum-floating-memorial. She’s an intimidating sight, but the silhouette she cuts as the sun sets can be breathtaking. From Wilmington’s Riverwalk, a nearly two-mile riverfront boardwalk (www.wilmingtondowntown.com/go/riverwalk), soak up the view of the battleship and get a taste for downtown’s mix of tourist, local and busker.
For a bit of nature, try Airlie Gardens (www.airliegardens.org), which boasts 100,000 azaleas, the 468-year-old Airlie Oak and 1.2 miles of paths and trails that crisscross the property. Highlights include the Bottle Chapel (made from 2,800 colored glass bottles), Pergola Garden and 1835 Lebanon Chapel.
Shop: Wilmington’s Ivy Cottage (www.threecottages.com) is a three-building antique and consignment bonanza just north of downtown. Finds here range from antique jewelry to furniture of nearly every era and style to folk art.
The Riverwalk passes three former warehouses that are now home to a host of boutiques. Chandler’s Wharf (www.chandlerswharfshops.com) has a mid-century modern furniture shop, a costume jeweler and art gallery. The Old Wilmington City Market (www.oldwilmingtoncitymarket.com) has a gallery, home deco shops, boutique clothing and antiques. And at The Cotton Exchange (www.shopcottonexchange.com) you can pick up essential oils, supplies for making jewelry, something to read and a cup of coffee.
Hike: Six miles of trails wind through the pinewoods and dunes of Carolina Beach State Park, and on the half-mile Flytrap Loop you’ll be treated to the sight of native orchids and the Venus flytrap. Venus flytraps only grow in nature within a 75-mile radius of Wilmington, so it’s a rare sight to find this plant in its native habitat. On the Sugarloaf Trail, a three-mile trek takes you along the Cape Fear River, through a marsh and into the pinewoods before reaching Sugarloaf Dune, where you’ll spot all sorts of wildlife. Keep an eye out for bald eagles, osprey and other raptors; but watch also for wading birds in the tidal marsh and fiddler crabs along the trail’s side. Details: Use the “Find a park” at www.ncparks.gov.
Bike: The five-mile loop around Greenfield Lake is popular for cyclists and runners. This azalea-lined, 250-acre manmade lake and path are part of the East Coast Greenway, a proposed unbroken path running from Maine to Florida. Though you can’t go that far yet, the five miles around Greenfield is enough to satisfy. The flat ride is easy and several spots are inviting enough to make you linger longer than a snapshot or Instagram post. Stop and walk your bike over the high, arched wooden bridge featured in “Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood.” Details: At www.wilmingtonnc.gov, type “Greenfield Lake” in the search window. Jason Frye
It’s hard not to sit at the bar at manna(www.mannaavenue.com) and make a meal of charcuterie and cocktails, but pry yourself off the barstool and take your drink to the dining room. The playful menu is loaded with serious eats, every one of which could be your next new favorite. And don’t skip dessert: The pastry chef knows her stuff.
At Le Catalan (www.lecatalan.com), the view rivals the company you’re with. Sit outside on the Riverwalk and chat over a glass or bottle and a little nosh while you watch the sun set behind the Battleship North Carolina.
Beer lovers should head to Flytrap Brewing (www.flytrapbrewing.com), a small brewery with a sizzling selection of American and Belgian style ales and an impressive list of sours to sample. Palate Bottle Shop and Reserve (www.palatenc.com) is a hip spot with a broad selection of beer in bottles and on tap, and an impressive selection of wine.