One person’s weekend guide to the East Coast’s small town surf spot.
CNN recently released the top beaches for 2019, Wrightsville Beach didn’t make the cut, but is one of the best beaches in North Carolina *outside of the Outer Banks that is. Pockets of this city contain ice cream and t-shirt shops (dare I say a Ron-Jon Surf Shop vibe), dive bars and live music, the beach and casual-wear crowds (making swim trunks socially acceptable again) and of course fresh and delicious seafood.
We managed to explore a decent amount of the Wilmington area in one weekend, but my personal highlight as well as my boyfriends, was the Tony Silvagni Surf School lessons. We took private lessons at Carolina Beach Saturday and Sunday morning for an hour and returned on Monday for surfboard rentals to independently (semi-successfully) surf.
Tony and all of his instructors were positively delightful. They all had a great sense of humor, proved to be excellent teachers and genuinely seemed to enjoy being paid to tread water for an hour trying to teach old dogs new tricks. If you head to Carolina Beach, I highly recommend stopping by. They have surfing, SUP and even umbrella rentals for the beach bums. Make sure to make surf reservations in advance, especially when traveling on holiday weekends.
While out on the water I encountered (a little too closely) jelly fish, pelicans swooping and scooping their lunch, and of course, difficult currents and waves. Exhausted is a word that describes my physical state both during our lessons and day three post-lessons. The waves and tides were rough conditions on our second and third day, paddling out sometimes took what felts like 15 minutes just to get far enough to catch a wave to ride back in, on repeat, but maintain I have no regrets! Those of you with upper body strength will have no problems (and no soreness), anyone who doesn’t love push-ups like myself, you can handle it, just remember to stay hydrated ?? The water was surprisingly warm and the weather was beautiful. It’s been on my bucket list to learn to surf (since 2017 to be exact) and I plan on keeping the habit when the opportunity presents itself.
Overarchingly, I would say we were a bit lazy on this trip due to prioritizing surfing and the 90 degree consistently sunny heat. We ate a little, we drank a little, and we sat on the beach and read.
Here’s a quick list of where we ate:
- *The Basics (brunch pictured). The potato cake is highly recommended as a side, overall this spot was a great relatively healthy option with a good size mango-mosa.
- Circa 1922 (small plates – dinner) also downtown Wilmington. It wasn’t our cup of tea, but their bar menu downstairs had $5 apps. Next time that’s the route I would go.
- Orton’s Billiards & Pool Room (beers & skee ball) this is my type of establishment. You walk downstairs and there’s free skee ball, pool tables and a very low key vibe.
- Lazy Jack’s Ice Cream Shack. We were desperate for something cold, we saw it, we had to have it. It’s right on the water near the boat tours. We kept walking around and found a popular ice cream spot nearby, Kilwins. This is where it seems we should have gone instead…
- *Ceviches was by far our favorite restaurant. It was recommended by our sweet AirBnb host. It’s a local family run Panamanian style restaurant with delicious seafood. We ended up going there for dinner twice and I even ordered the same entree both nights! It’s not technically in Wrightsville Beach, but more-so on the way to it.
- Oceanic is on the Atlantic Ocean, beachside. Needless to say, it’s a great location. We grabbed a drink at the bar near the end of the pier, and the restaurant was very busy.
- Lagerheads is a dive bar in downtown Wrightsville Beach. There are approximately four bars in this area, you can probably check them all off your list in one sitting. We ordered vodka sodas, and it’s one of the strongest (smallest) drinks I have had in a while.
- Jimmy’s at Red Dogs to keep it simple, this is a dive bar with dogs. There were two giant dogs walking around like they owned the place, keep in mind the music was incredibly loud, and they were unfazed. If you are looking for a dive bar with dogs, surfers and college kids, this is your spot.
Wrightsville Beach was quite busy, to be fair it was Memorial Day Weekend. Parking along the road is possible, after waiting in a line amongst cars in all directions. If you are going out at night I highly recommend Uber/Lyft. We had no issues getting a car all weekend. We didn’t pay much for parking throughout the weekend when we did drive, but we did have a trek approximately .6 miles. Thankfully, I am one to wear comfy (over cute) sandals on vacation. Bonus, we parked not too far from Oceanic, on our walk back to the car we strolled along the water and stopped for a beer on the pier.
Exploring Wilmington and Wrightsville Beach was so much fun over the extended weekend. I loved the AirBnb we stayed at on the creek with oyster shells sticking out from the low tide and a gorgeous sunset, as well as the rolling ocean waves and white sand beaches in our day-ventures. I would recommend a trip there to just about anyone.