Wilmington & Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina
Wrightsville Beach was named one of the "Last Best American Beach Towns" by National Geographic Traveler in 2014 and its Blockade Runner Resort was identified as one of the "10 Best Lodges in North America" by Outside Magazine. What's more, last year, Wrightsville Beach hosted the first stand up paddle board surfing contest. While other local stand-up paddleboarding events happen on flat water, this one took place on the seas. If you would rather enjoy some time on land, check out the 2.45-mile fitness trail that circles the island or hit the shops at Mayfaire Town Center and Lumina Station, a charming shopping village that plenty of charming boutiques. And if you're looking for a historic perspective, stop by the Wrightsville Beach Museum of History.When it comes to dining, excellent breakfast spots abound, including Causeway Café and Café Del Mar.
Perhaps the biggest surprise for visitors is Wilmington itself, the sweet spot between the Atlantic Ocean and the Cape Fear River. (You might remember the river from the thrilling 1991 film "Cape Fear" that starred Robert Mitchum and later Robert DeNiro). Wilmington is full of history, and much of its rich heritage still stands, with a 230 block National Register Historic District. Tour Victorian homes or take a 90-minute "Ghost Walk" of old Wilmington's most haunted homes and burial grounds.
But for all its history, Wilmington also offers plenty of contemporary enticements. The fun starts with the 1.75-mile Riverwalk downtown. Beyond the lively boardwalk, you won't want to miss The Pilot House Restaurant, which overlooks Cape Fear River and is beloved for its low country cuisine. Downtown, you'll find shops carrying an eclectic mix of antiques, vintage clothes, accessories and souvenirs. And don't skip grabbing a bite at the PinPoint Restaurant to sample appetizers like the baked oysters Rockefeller, with wilted greens and bacon or Blue Crab fritters with fried okra, fried green tomato, spring onions and pickled red onion. Wilmington is also known for it's brew scene. The Front Street Brewery was the first place to leave its mark, and the last couple of years, a rising number of breweries have been garnering attention from beer-loving locals.
Where to Retire Magazine voted Wilmington, NC as "One of the country's best places to settle".