I went to Wilmington this past weekend for a wedding and was pleasantly surprised with this southern coastal town. We stayed in Carolina Beach which is a sleepy town about 30 min from downtown Wilmington. Slow-paced lifestyle with a couple unique coffee shops, bars, and a pier that is packed with fisherman. The beach had nice white sand, but the water was a bit too cold to jump in.
The highlight of our time in Carolina Beach was the Fat Pelican which is a 30 year old dive bar complete with garage sale furniture, odd sea animal art, jukebox, an old speed boat turned into a bar, and good mix of local Miller Lite drinking regulars and tourists. You can write your name on virtually everything in the bar and people do. My favorite part is that they have a 40 foot cooler that is lined with hundreds of craft brews on either side. The process to get a beer: 1. You walk inside the cooler. 2. You pick a craft brew of choice. 3. You hand said craft brew to bartender and they open and charge you for it. 4. Drink up. Pretty wild setup… You can also buy 6 packs of beer and bottles of (terrible) wine to go. If in Carolina Beach, you must try the Fat Pelican!
We also ventured into Downtown Wilmington, which is small but really nice. Right on the Cape Fear River, Wilmington does have a river walk, but unfortunately it was all torn up with construction when we visited. Front Street is the main thoroughfare and has some nice shops and a couple solid restaurants. My top 3 restaurant choices in downtown are Front Street Brewery, The Copper Penny , and Fork and Cork. The Fork and Cork was our favorite. As a former food truck, it offered a great “foodie twist” on your favorite pub food. The Reuben sandwich and onion rings were some of the best I have ever had. They slow-cook and brine their corned beef brisket for 2 weeks! Downtown also had a historic City Hall and some really cool Victorian houses just a couple blocks off Front Street. The only other place I would suggest checking out in Wilmington is Airlie Gardens, which is where my buddy got married. The 10 acres of historic gardens are beautifully complete with walking paths, huge old oak trees (including 1 Oak that is 450+ years’ old), and charming flowers.
Wilmington Brewery Review: Fly Trap Brewery