Best Summer Things to do in Wilmington, NC – like a local!

January 13, 2022

Wilmington, North Carolina is one of my favorite beach towns to spend a weekend in the summer! There’s so many things to do and experience like a local, it made it so hard to choose the best summer things to do in Wilmington! Keep reading to learn everything you need to add to your summer bucket list – from places to eat to things to do!

Photo by Hannah Walser Photography

LOCAL COFFEE SHOPS

When planning your adventure filled summer day with some of the best things to do in Wilmington, you’re probably going to want to start with some coffee to fuel up. These coffee shops are not only some of our favorite local coffee shops in Wilmington, but some of our all time favorite!

Port City Java

Port City Java has a few different locations around town and has a similar feel to a Starbucks, but local. It’s our go to shop when we’re wanting to grab something quick. Most of them have a drive through so it makes it super easy when you’re loaded up to head to the beach and want to grab coffee and some breakfast. All of their food and pastries are made fresh at a central bakery in town. We truly love everything on their menu but their chocolate chip muffins are literally my favorite chocolate chip muffins I have EVER had! It’s one of the first things we do when getting to Wilmington.

Our go-to order: Chocolate Chip Muffin, heated; Mocha [iced or warm]; Iced Coffee; Mediterranean Wrap

Casa Blanca

Casa Blanca is one of the most aesthetic coffee shops I’ve ever been to! It’s name means “white house” and you can understand why as soon as you pull in the parking lot. It’s a little bit further from Wrightsville beach so we tend to go there with friends to hang out, rather just pass by quickly! This coffee shops minimalistic, neutral interior makes you want to sit there for hours. Luckily, there’s plenty of indoor seating and a huge outdoor patio with a fireplace. In addition to coffee, they have the most dreamy branding and merchandise, you’ll want to buy it all!

Our go-to order: Hot or Iced Mocha

Social Coffee + Supply Co.

Social Coffee is a place you can almost pass by since the outside of it looks like your typical house, but once you walk inside, it’s like a hidden gem! It’s an easy in and out place on your way to the beach. Something that makes them unique is that they have an ever changing seasonal menu. Their drink menu leaves you wanting to come back and try something new, no matter how many times you’ve been there! One of Caleb’s favorites was the Loop Latte, it had fruit loops in it! One of the owners is a graphic designer so all their “Social Merch” is designed in house, which makes their apparel it even cooler!

Our go-to order: Hot or Iced Local or a seasonal drink on the menu!

Drift Coffee + Kitchen

Drift Coffee shop has 2 locations in town that both have the most inviting beach vibes! One of their locations is just minutes from Wrightsville beach and both locations have indoor and outdoor seating. In addition to their drink menu, they have a very delicious, health conscious food menu. It has a lot more to choose from than your typical pastries so you truly enjoy breakfast, brunch, or lunch there!

Our go-to order: Cold Brew; Harvest Bowl; Avocado Toast or Breakfast Burrito

LOCAL PLACES TO EAT

Islands Fresh Mex Grill

$1 tacos for dinner – say no more!! Islands is one of our all time favorite Mexican restaurants. Think fast, casual Mexican similar to a Moe’s or Chipotle set up but with it’s own unique flare!While their menu has a lot more than just tacos, they’re famous for their $1 tacos special. Every day, any time after 5pm you can order up to 4 tacos for $1 each with the purchase of a drink! It’s our go-to dinner place when we’re in town because it’s so delicious, quick, and cheap!

Pro-tip: make sure you get their Island’s Sauce on any of their tacos for the best flavor!

Fish House Grill

Fish House Grill is right on the water of the intercostal water way, giving you beautiful views as you eat! They do not take reservations so I recommend you getting there early if you want a good table. Their menu is filled with lots of fresh seafood and options the whole family will enjoy. My personal favorite is the fish tacos!

Bento Box Sushi

Bento Box Sushi is a sushi bar and asian kitchen that focuses on sustainable seafood! It’s located near the Mayfair shopping plaza, near a location of Drift Coffee. It’s one of our favorite places to out to dinner with Caleb’s family! Since we order so many of our favorite rolls, it get’s presented on a sushi board shaped like a surf board – so fun! They take reservations and have plenty of indoor and outdoor seating.

Some of our favorite rolls are the Miami Vice, The Catch, Bonzi, and Shrimp Tempura!

Beach Bagels

Beach Bagels is one of our favorite places to get a quick breakfast on the way to Wrightsville beach! They have lots of different breakfast wraps, sandwiches, and of course, bagels! I’m kinda of basic when it comes to bagels and I LOVE a plain bagel toasted with butter [don’t come for me ha!]. You can order online or call ahead so all you have to do it pick it up when you get there!

BEST DESSERTS IN WILMINGTON

Some of the best summer things to do in Wilmington include eating delicious desserts! These local places are a MUST to include on your summer bucket list!

Boombalatti’s Homemade Ice Cream

I LOVE BOOMBALATTIS!!!! It’s by far my favorite thing in Wilmington [with a VERY close second to the Port City Java Chocolate Chip Muffin]. All of their ice cream is homemade and you can truly taste the difference compared to other ice cream stores and brands in general. It’s no surprise that Boombalatti’s a super popular summer place to grab a refreshing treat! If you don’t go anywhere else I’ve recommended, you MUST go here!

My favorite thing is the Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Ice Cream in a Waffle Cone!

Britt’s Donuts

Britt’s Donuts is located at Carolina Beach, a little bit south of Wilmington. They are opened from Memorial Day to Labor day each year. Britt’s first opened it’s doors back in 1939 and is famous for it’s glazed donuts! The donuts are served warm since they’re freshly made almost to order. There’s usually a super long line and they’re constantly making more donuts to serve everyone! The famous glazed donuts are super light and almost melt in your mouth! I highly recommend you get more than one or else I promise you, you’ll be going back for more! We usually get a dozen donuts for $10 and share it with our friends! Make sure you bring cash because it’s cash only.

This photo was taken from the Britt’s Instagram – I always forget to take a photo of the donuts because we eat them so quickly! :)

MUST DO ACTIVITES

You can’t have the best summer things to do in Wilmington without having some activities! Below are some of our favorite things to do when visiting Wilmington.

Wrightsville Beach

Wrightsville Beach is my absolute favorite beach in the Wilmington area! You can swim, surf, hang out with your friends for a beach day, play spike ball or frisbee, lay out in the sun, and so much more. There’s plenty of street parking at different beach access points and at the Johnnie Mercers Fishing Pier.

From other beach related activities in the area:

  • Walk the Loop – a 2.45 mile paved walking path that goes around the heart of Wrightsville Beach
  • Take a boat to Masonboro Island to spend your day on the beach there [only accessible my private boat]
  • Rent a Kayak or Paddle-board
  • Watch the sunset on Cape Fear Bridge

Fort Fisher

Fort Fisher Historic Site not only has tons of historical areas where you can learn about its history but has a beautiful Beach and grassy areas covered with trees of the maritime forest. You could definitely spend a beach day here but it’s actually one of our favorite places to have a picnic or watch the sunset!

South Port

While Southport technically isn’t in Wilmington, it’s about a 45 minute drive or ferry ride south. You may recognize it from the famous Nicholas Sparks movie, Safe Haven. It’s a cute beach town with lots of local places to explore while biking around the tree lined streets or walking on the pier and riverwalk. I’d recommend a short day trip either to enjoy lunch or dinner in Southport!

SHOP LIKE A LOCAL

Aussie Island Surf Shop

Aussie Island is a surf shop filled with beach appeal, surf boards, and so many other summer time necessities! If you’re looking to purchase anything beach related on your trip, I highly recommend you go shopping here. I’m not kidding when I say that half of Caleb’s closet is apparel from Aussie Island!

MISSIO

MISSIO is a local Wilmington hair product line that uses hair care products to restore hope and fight human trafficking. 30% of all their profits go towards fighting human trafficking through education, service and giving. Not only am I huge believer in their cause but also love their products! My favorite hair is their Coconut Cleaning Powder [dry shampoo]!

OTHER LOCAL SHOPS

niche. – home decor and gifts!

Bigger’s Market – fresh farm market providing local produce and other local goods!

Want to remember these summer things to do Wilmington for planning your next summer vacation? Save it below!

BEST SUMMER THINGS TO DO IN WILMINGTON OUTLINE:

Coffee Shops:

  • Port City Java
  • Casa Blanca
  • Social Coffee + Supply Co.
  • Drift Coffee + Kitchen

Resturants:

  • Islands Fresh Mex Grill
  • Fish House Grill
  • Bento Box
  • Beach Bagels

Desserts:

  • Boombalatti’s Homemade Ice Cream
  • Britt’s Donuts

Activities:

  • Wrightsville Beach
  • Walk the Loop
  • Take a boat to Masonboro Island
  • Explore Fort Fischer
  • Walk about South Port
  • Watch the Sunset at Cape Fear Bridge

Shop Local:

  • Aussie Island Surf Shop
  • MISSIO Hair Products
  • Niche Home Decor
  • Bigger’s Market

Other Favorites Not Mentioned Above:

  • David’s Deli
  • Sweetwater Surf Shop
  • K Buenos
  • Bitty + Beau’s Coffee
  • PT’s Grille

What to keep inspiring your adventure for your next summer trip? Read my other blogs Places You Must Visit on your weekend in USVI or Adventurous Things to do in Olympic National Park!

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