Labor Day may be over, but that doesn’t mean the fun stops in Wilmington and the island beaches of Carolina Beach, Kure Beach, and Wrightsville Beach. Visitors who love being outdoors and whose favorite fall colors are shades of blue and green are in luck. One of the best ways to experience fall on the coast is to participate in a nature hike or cruise. Did you know that alligators, bobcats, black bear, river otters, and rare birds can be found in the wilderness in Wilmington and its island beaches? And that common migratory bird species that nest along our beaches include brown pelican, terns, gulls, willets, American oystercatcher, herons, and black skimmers? Did you know that Venus flytrap grows in the wild only within a 60-100 mile radius of Wilmington? You can see these and other carnivorous plants in their native habitat at Carolina Beach State Park, at the Stanley Rehder Carnivorous Plant Garden, and on Masonboro Island. From the river to the sea, there are many opportunities to explore the coast’s natural wonders, including nature hikes and birding tours at state and municipal parks, bird sanctuaries, botanical gardens and estuarine research reserves. Nature cruises along Wilmington’s scenic rivers and coastal waterways reveal an abundance of wildlife and beautiful scenery.
Cape Fear Riverboats: Black River Nature Cruise. Wilmington’s original 4-hour Black River cruise offers narrated plant and wildlife interpretation by coastal ecologist and author Andy Wood. Cruisers aboard the Captain J.N. Maffitt will experience the tranquility, breathtaking scenery, and amazing wildlife along the northwest Cape Fear River and the wilds of the Black River. Just minutes after leaving the dock, the river appears almost as it did to early explorers—rich, dark waters surrounded by moss-draped cypresses and other ancient trees. Wildlife may include alligators, snakes, bobcats, river otters, black bear, deer, fox, rare species of fish and neo-tropical songbirds. Cruises board on September 3, 17 and 20; October 8 and 29 at 9:30 a.m. at the Battleship North Carolina dock. Cruises may be added; group charters available. Limited seating; pre-paid reservations required. For reservations and information about this and other cruises, contact Cape Fear Riverboats at 800-676-0162 or 910-343-1611 or www.cfrboats.com.
Wilmington Water Tours: Black Water Adventure Cruise/Autumn Escape. Board the Wilmington, a state-of-the-art catamaran, for a memorable fall nature cruise. This is among the captain’s favorite trips! The Cape Fear River and the other “black rivers” that converge in Wilmington, N.C. have a long, rich history. Each Thursday, Friday and Saturday from now through October, two-hour nature cruises will feature birds, wildlife, changing leaves, local history, and river ecology. Cruises depart from the Wilmington Riverwalk, 212 S. Water Street (between Orange & Ann sts.). For reservations, tour calendar, and more information about this and other cruises, contact Wilmington Water Tours at 910-338-3134 or www.wilmingtonwatertours.net.
Wrightsville Beach Scenic Tours & Cruises: Eco-Tours. Join Captain Joe, the Cape Fear Naturalist, for a cruise and guided tour of Masonboro Island, a North Carolina National Estuarine Research Reserve. Morning and afternoon eco-tours aboard the M/V Shamrock (a 27-foot motorized catamaran) cruise to Masonboro Island, a pristine, undeveloped 8 ½-mile barrier island just south of Wrightsville Beach. Captain Joe and crew will transport you to this ecological jewel and its miles of unspoiled beaches. Special fall birding, fishing, shelling tours also available. Departs across from the Blockade Runner Resort (275 Waynick Blvd., Wrightsville Beach). For reservations or details about this and other tours, contact Wrightsville Beach Scenic Tours & Cruises at 910-200-4002 or www.wrightsvillebeachscenictours.com.
Guided nature hikes are available at Carolina Beach State Park (weekend carnivorous plant hikes: www.ncparks.gov/Visit/parks/cabe/events.php); Halyburton Park (bird/nature hikes: www.halyburtonpark.com); Airlie Gardens (2nd Wed. bird hikes: http://airliegardens.org/events-news/calendar); Greenfield Lake (iPod nature tours: www.capefearriverwatch.org/education/greenfield-lake); N.C. Aquarium at Fort Fisher (salt marsh exploration & canoe trips to Zeke’s Island: www.ncaquariums.com/fort-fisher); Fort Fisher State Recreation Area (Basin Trail hikes: www.ncparks.gov/Visit/parks/fofi/activities.php); N.C. Coastal Federation (birding: www.nccoast.org); and Wrightsville Beach Scenic Tours (explore Masonboro Island: www.wrightsvillebeachscenictours.com). For additional outfitters that offer individual and group tours: www.wilmingtonandbeaches.com/things-to-do.
See where the water takes you! From Wilmington’s historic river district to the island beaches of Carolina Beach, Kure Beach and Wrightsville Beach, there are plenty of outdoor adventures in store. For seasonal events and special offers, visit www.wilmingtonandbeaches.com/seasonal-page. For free visitor information and a complete calendar of events, visit www.GoWilmingtonAndBeaches.com, call 866-266-9690, or email email@example.com.