Happy new week. I hope you all had a lovely weekend celebrating whatever it was you were celebrating. I had a very low-key Easter Sunday that involved a short run, the best yoga class that I’ve taken in a very long time, cleaning out my shed and a whole lot of pressure washing. I bought a pressure washer during the early days of the pandemic and that and my carpet cleaner are probably two of my most cathartic home appliances (I used the carpet cleaner on Sunday too, haha).
48 HOURS IN WILMINGTON, NORTH CAROLINA
Good news! I’m not here to talk about a mundane Sunday but rather to tell you about a fun 48-hour getaway to Wilmington, North Carolina. The scheduling stars aligned and I was able to enjoy a quick pre-Easter trip out of town with the person that I’m seeing. 🙂
We picked Wilmington/Wrightsville Beach because neither of us had ever been and both had friends who told us we’d love it. At just over three hours, Wilmington is an easy drive from Charlotte. Charleston is a similar drive and we considered that for our trip but the hotels were insanely expensive and I knew restaurant reservations would be hard to come by.
Short take: Wilmington and Wrightsville Beach ended up charming us in the best ways. This coastal corner of North Carolina is so laid back but but not short on things to do and delicious food to eat. We both agreed that we will be back. I’ll give you the long story as you continue to read!
We arrived in Wilmington around 4p on Thursday and checked into our hotel, the newly opened Aloft at Coastline Center. We took off on foot to explore downtown Wilmington and were pleased to find that it had a relaxed vibe with a casual college-town feel. We were there in the height of spring break and Easter weekend and nothing felt overly crowded. I did a little shopping at a cute boutique called Lure and then we grabbed a happy hour drink at the Dram Yard Gazebo Bar. We walked the riverwalk back to our hotel and got ready for dinner.
Dinner was a treat! Soooo many people recommended that we eat at Ceviche’s and it did NOT disappoint. It’s a Panamanian restaurant that specializes in Latin-inspired cuisine and delicious craft cocktails. The setting is relaxed and tropical. We were seated on their small patio and it was so private and cozy. I started with their Sea Love Margarita which was agave tequila, cognac and orange liqueur, fresh-squeezed lime juice, house-made simple syrup and a sea salt rim.
We shared a few things including the mahi ceviche, goat cheese guacamole, beef empanadas and shrimp skewers.
Everything was delightful but the shrimp skewers were the star of the show. They featured coconut rice, toasted cashews, pickled cabbage, sautéed snow peas and onions in a coconut curry sauce. Two things were perfection in this dish. 1) the combination of textures. 2) the flavor of the curry.
I honestly think I’d travel to Wilmington/Wrightsville for a night just to have dinner at Ceviche’s. They do it right! 10/10 recommend!
We slept in and then got ready to head to Wrightsville Beach for a beach day.
We grabbed an early lunch at South Beach Grill. It’s a locally owned spot that’s been in business since 1997 and offers views of the Banks Channel. They specialize in coastal southern cuisine from the sea and land and much of it is locally sourced. I chose the “Bless Your Heart” salad and added grilled mahi on top. The salad was hearts of romaine, roasted purple beets, feta crumbles, sweet Peruvian peppers and creamy avocado vinaigrette.
This was my first time trying these little sweet peppers and they were such a fun and tasty addition to the salad. I’ve done my research and apparently they’re most commonly found jarred or canned. I’ll definitely be looking for these sweet and tangy pepper drops on my next grocery run! I also loved the avocado dressing and need to recreate something similar at home.
While it was super sunny and 73 degrees on Friday, the wind was something else. It was constantly blowing around 15 mph with gusts up to 20-25 mph. It made for a chilly (and sandy!) beach day. I was pretty cold for the first little bit so we decided to get up and go for a walk.
We wandered around Wrightsville Beach and found some restaurants we want to try on our next visit (Trolly Stop, Khol’s Frozen Custard, Tower 7). We made our way through a residential area and then back onto the beach at one of the piers. By the time we walked down the beach and arrived back at our chairs, I had significantly warmed up.
I laid on a towel in the sand and used my chair to kind of block the wind. While I never made it into a bathing suit, I was warm enough to shed my sweatshirt and enjoyed reading my book in the sun. (I’m reading The Dutch House by Ann Patchett.)
We packed up a little after 4p and took a driving tour of the island. We got out at the south end of the island and walked from the channel side to the beach side. They had a lot of the area roped off for nesting birds. It was uncrowded and a relaxing place to walk and see some nature.
Overall, I found Wrightsville Beach to have a great vibe with the best of what Carolina beaches have to offer. I will definitely return in the future!
One final note about Wrightsville Beach, it’s an easy day trip from downtown Wilmington (just 12 miles away) and there are plenty of public beach accesses and several have bathroom facilities, which is nice. There is a good amount of public parking but do be aware that it is $5/hr and $25/day everywhere you go.
Back at the hotel, we got showered and dressed for dinner. Our first stop was the rooftop bar at our hotel for sunset.
I can’t find my romper online (I hate that because it’s cute, affordable and fits well!) but here is a link to my shoes. I got them last spring and they are hands-down the most comfortable wedges that I have ever owned. I want to get another pair of Kork-Ease shoes for this summer. Here is a lower-heeled version of the shoe, fyi. I may go with the golden sand color for everyday wear.
We had 8:15p dinner reservations at Manna. We had been told that Manna was not to be missed for both the food and the ambiance. You have to call for reservations and I couldn’t believe that I was able to snag us a Friday night spot just a few days before our trip.
Manna serves innovative American food in the heart of downtown Wilmington. The menu changes daily to incorporate the freshest ingredients and to keep things interesting for the regulars.
We shared everything you see in the photos above…
- baked oysters with crispy salami
- pillow soft bread with whipped ricotta, olive oil and balsamic
- shrimp and grits with a poached egg
- asparagus soup with crispy bacon and blue cheese
- pork with green and butter beans
The food was exceptional, the service was attentive and the ambiance was warm and cozy. I highly recommend Manna to anyone visiting the area and can’t wait to return!
Saturday morning was gray and overcast so we decided a nice walk would help us get moving and energized before we drove back to Charlotte.
We walked about three miles through historic downtown Wilmington checking out the homes and churches.
Loved the Easter decorations on this one.
Our final stop before hitting the road was Poe’s Tavern. I had a bloody mary (perks of not driving!) and a burger. I think this is the first bloody mary that I’ve had since pre-Finn days and it was delicious.
I’ve eaten at the original Poe’s in Sullivan’s Island, SC countless times. I had no idea that they had expanded but it totally makes sense as they have a unique restaurant concept (it’s all themed around Edgar Allan Poe) and great food. They now have locations in Wrightsville and Atlantic Beach and another location opening in Savannah soon.
It was an easy drive back to Charlotte and I arrived home with many fun memories from the trip and a full (but happy belly).
I would definitely recommend a trip to this part of North Carolina if you’re looking for a fun, beachy getaway with good food!
Have you ever been to Wilmington or Wrightsville Beach? Any recommendations for next time?
What are some of your favorite spots for weekend getaways? Always looking to add to my list!
What’s your brunch drink of choice?