Wilmington was our New Year's Eve destination for 2005/2006. There's quite a lot to do in the area, even in winter. Plus we brought the dog, who never gets to go on New Year's trips and was more than happy to eat the sand off the local beaches. Here he is waiting for Melanie to kick more sand for him on a beach near Fort Fisher. Despite claims on assorted websites, this was the closest dog-friendly beach we could find to Wilmington. It also happens to be the last beach on the Cape Fear peninsula. The actual cape itself is a small tidal island off the southern end of this peninsula which has a few houses, but only on the north end. A kayak or boat would be required to get the exact spot, although I'm not sure there's really any reward for it. The cape is so-named due to the currents in the area combined with assorted random shoals and sandbars which have led to a long history of shipwrecks.
Between the peninsula and Wilmington are Kure Beach and Carolina Beach which are more or less indistinguishable from one another. Kure beach seems to have more colorful houses. It might even be some sort of local ordinance. Neither beach panders quite so obviously to tourists as the bulk of the Outer Banks do. High rise hotels are also kept to a minimum.
The biggest tourist attraction in Wilmington is supposedly the USS North Carolina battleship. Personally, we're not much on touring battleships so we took a picture from across the river in downtown Wilmington. An interesting sidenote is that the battleship is here as a museum and tourist attraction because North Carolina school children in the 1960s donated their pennies to save it from just becoming scrap.
Fort Fisher is a rather uninspiring historic site south of Wilmington. The beaches in the area on both the Atlantic side and the intracoastal side are quite nice and relatively deserted. Most of the other people we saw on the beach were shell-hunting.
Wilmington is a rather cute and historic looking place. Considering its proximity to the US Civil war and numerous hurricanes, there's a huge historic area ranging from 19th century Victorian homes to Federalist buildings that have survived.
Downtown is generally a lively area (moreso than it appears in this picture). There's a good concentration of restaurants, shops and bars and we had no problem finding interesting places to eat.
Along the Cape Fear river is a long boardwalk called the riverwalk (of course). It passes assorted party and cruise boats and some nice park areas.
We also visited Myrtle Beach on this trip out of some sort of weird sense of obligation because we'd never actually been there. Now that we have, we can report it's more or less what we thought. Lots of high rise hotels, lots of mega-entertainment complexes, lots of mini golf courses, (lots of sand for the dog to eat). Good for those spring break and family beach style vacations, though I think we'll stick to less congested beaches.