Because of where we stayed in Wilmington is technically not a marina but a waterfront dock, I'm giving it a different review treatment. Make sure you check out the full-blown review of Seapath Yacht Club in Wrightsville Beach. The two go together. They're 25 miles apart by water, but they're both part of the same metro area.
The city docks in Wilmington, NC are floating docks along the boardwalk shoreline in downtown Wilmington. The depths are fine, the docks float, there's 30 and 50 amp juice, and there isn't any wifi other than what you can get using your phone as a hotspot. The docks are not secured, and you should pay close attention to tie your boat up in a manner that would deter troublemakers. There's no shower or toilets. (We were at the H dock, and I confess I snuck into the Hotel Ballast [aka “The Hilton”] to use their bathrooms.) Our total coast was $122.00 for two nights for our forty-five foot boat. There is a pump-out apparatus on the south end of the H dock. There is also an employee who monitors the dock, collects the money, and helps with the pump-out, but don't count on him to assist you with docking or other things like that. It was surprisingly rocky and rolly.
Clever marketing is like magic. It can take an otherwise humdrum, boring, dying (or at least sick) waterfront town and, presto-chango, turn it into a shinning star, a destination with near magical qualities, at least in their brochures and websites. But more often or not it's an illusion. They look great on paper but are big, fat nothings in reality. (I'm looking at you, Crisfield and Cape Charles.) With this as a background we went up from Bald Head Island to Wilmington with our eyes as wide open as we could have them. We were in store for just about anything, good or bad, but what would we actually find.?
I'm very happy to report that Wilmington was delightful.
The downtown area was energetic and engaging. There were actual things to do there. And there were people, yes, real people on the streets coming in and out of stores and doing things! There were several very nice restaurants along the riverfront. (We ate at the Pilot House restaurant. Very good food.) Lisa actually got some shopping in. Everyone was pleasant. It was a place that was actually worth the effort to get to.
There are museums and tours and lots of history to discover. And for you war buffs, the 800 pound gorilla in the room is just on the other side of the river from downtown: The USS North Carolina battleship is there.
So, by all means, if you're cruising up or down the ICW, make the time to go up the Cape Fear River to the city docks at Wilmington. It's a pleasant cruise with a town at the end itching to help you make it worth the effort.
Stay tuned for the review of Seapath Yacht Club at Wrightsville Beach to lean how the whole thing ticks. Hint: They're neighbors with less distance between them by land than by water.