Boating Guide Sections:

One of the most popular pastimes in the Cape Fear region is boating, and for very good reason. Surrounded by water that can range from the Cape Fear River itself to a network of salty canals and inlets that connect with the Atlantic Ocean, there are literally hundreds of miles to explore in this divinely coastal region.

Enjoy a long and scenic trek down the Intracoastal Waterway, or just enjoy a cruise or tour of the Downtown Wilmington, NC waterfront. No matter how you prefer to explore, the Cape Fear boating scene is always beautiful, diverse, and ideal for an open water ride.

Cape Fear Boat Ramps and Launches

Visitors who are bringing their own boat along on a Cape Fear vacation will find plenty of boat ramps in the area which makes it easy launch an on-the-water adventure. From the heart of the Cape Fear River to the Intracoastal Waterway, virtually every coastal town in this region has a public boat ramp or two where mariners can effortlessly connect with the water.

Scope out these boat ramps which are wide open to the public on your next vacation, and discover the miles of scenic terrain that’s in your own Cape Fear backyard.

Dram Tree Park ramp

Castle Street Boat Ramp
Dram Tree Park (Castle Street and Surrey Street), Wilmington, NC 28401
34° 13'38.95" N    77° 57'01.12" W
This boat ramp is found in the Downtown Wilmington, NC area along the Cape Fear River, and features two launching lanes, a separate launching area for kayaks and canoes, and parking for 36 vehicles with trailers.

River Road Park ramp

River Road Park boat ramp
River Road Park, Wilmington, NC 28412
34° 06'49.57" N    77° 55'32.22" W
Located on the edge of the Cape Fear River on the borders of Wilmington and Carolina Beach, this site within a public park features a single lane ramp, an on-site fishing pier and restrooms.

Trails End boat ramp

Trails End Boat Ramp
621 Trails End Road, Wilmington, NC 28409
34° 09'21.50" N    77° 51'24.97" W
This Wilmington launch site is directly across from Mansonboro Island and is close to the Masonboro Sound. Facilities within the public site and park include a single launching lane, a courtesy dock, a fishing pier, and parking for 40 vehicles with boat trailers.

Sutton Lake Boat Ramp

Sutton Lake
301 Sutton Lake Rd. Wilmington, NC
N34° 18' 04'' N     77° 59' 37'' W
Located in Wilmington, this launch site borders an expansive manmade lake and features launching lane(s) and parking for 49 vehicles with boat trailers.

Carolina Beach State Park ramp and marina

Carolina Beach State Park Boat Ramp
B Road, Carolina Beach, NC 28428
34° 02'59.05" N    77° 55'08.71" W
Situated on the edge of the Cape Fear River in the expansive Carolina Beach State Park, this launch site features two launching lanes, a marina, on-site courtesy docks, and roughly 40 parking spaces for vehicles with trailers.

Snows Cut boat ramp

Snows Cut Boat Ramp
220 Annie Drive, Carolina Beach, NC 28428
34° 03'25.09" N    77° 53'30.06" W
This popular launch site which borders the Intracoastal Waterway has five launching lanes, a separate  hand launching site for kayaks and canoes, a courtesy dock, and approximately 100 parking spaces which includes 81 spaces for vehicles with boat trailers.

Wrightsville Beach boat ramp

Wrightsville Beach Boat Ramp
Channel Walk Drive, Wrightsville Beach, NC 28480
34° 13'06.41" N    77° 48'40.80" W
Located on the edge of the Intracoastal Waterway in Wrightsville Beach, and close to the Masonboro Sound, this popular site features five launching lanes, and 68 parking spaces for vehicles with boat trailers.

Federal Point / Buzzard Bay boat ramp

Federal Point / Buzzard Bay
2515 South Fort Fisher Blvd., Kure Beach, NC
33° 57' 34'' N    77° 56' 30'' W
Located on the southern tip of Pleasure Island near the Fort Fisher State Recreation Area, this launch site which borders the Cape Fear River and the outlying Atlantic Ocean features launching lanes(s) and parking for 36 vehicles with boat trailers.

Castle Hayne boat ramp

Castle Hayne, Northeast Cape Fear River
6418 Orange St., Castle Hayne, NC
34° 21' 49'' N   77° 53' 47'' W
Located north of Wilmington along a northern portion of the Cape Fear River, this extensive launching site features launching lanes(s) as well as 76 parking spaces for boats with trailers.

Cape Fear Marinas

Mariners who are cruising along the Intracoastal Waterway and who want a short or long term place to anchor, as well as visitors who just need a few supplies and a fill-up, will find no shortage of options when it comes to Cape Fear area marinas.

The list of marinas in the area is extensive, and includes everything from resorts with a bevy of community amenities to public docks that are perfect for day-trippers.

Transient mariners who want to stay an evening or two in order to look around and explore will want to search for central marinas that feature full hook-ups, public bathhouses and restrooms, on-site ships’ stores, restaurants and accommodations, and / or all of the above. Many of these fully equipped marinas are situated in popular areas – like the heart of Wilmington, Wrightsville Beach, and Carolina Beach – which makes it nicely easy to discover the area and enjoy an adventure on foot.

Though there are literally dozens of options to choose from, visitors who want to be close to everything the Cape Fear area has to offer will want to check out the following marinas which are situated in the heart of the action.

Wrightsville Beach Marina
6 Marina St, Wrightsville Beach, NC 28480
Phone: (910) 256-6666

Seapath Yacht Club
330 Causeway Dr, Wrightsville Beach, NC 28480
Phone: (910) 256-3747

Bridge Tender Marina
1418 Airlie Rd, Wilmington, NC 28403
Phone: (910) 256-6550

Dockside Marina
1306 Airlie Rd, Wilmington, NC 28403
Phone: (910) 256-3579

Airlie Marina
1402 Airlie Rd, Wilmington, NC 28403
Phone: (910) 231-6099

Sea Gate Boating
2 Marina St, Wrightsville Beach, NC 28480
Phone: (910) 256-0638

Cape Fear Marina
1701 Jel Wade Dr, Wilmington, NC 28401
Phone: (910) 762-1256

Port City Marina
10 Harnett St, Wilmington, NC 28401
Phone: (910) 251-6151

Wilmington Marine Center
3410 River Rd # 201, Wilmington, NC 28412
Phone: (910) 395-5055

Masonboro Yacht Club & Marina
609 Trails End Rd, Wilmington, NC 28409
Phone: (910) 791-1893

Watermark Marina
4114 River Rd, Wilmington, NC 28412
Phone: (910) 794-5259

Bradley Creek Marina
6338 Oleander Dr, Wilmington, NC 28403
Phone: (910) 392-2584

Middle Sound Marina
2107 Middle Sound Loop Rd, Wilmington, NC 28411
Phone: (910) 262-5566

Creekside Yacht Club
6334 Oleander Dr, Wilmington, NC 28403
Phone: (910) 350-0023

Scotts Hill Marina
2570 Scotts Hill Loop Rd, Wilmington, NC 28411
Phone: (910) 686-0896

Carolina Marina & Yacht Club
1512 Burnett Rd, Wilmington, NC 28409
Phone: (910) 790-0172

A sunset boat cruise in Wrightsville Beach

Cape Fear Boat Tours and Rentals

Visitors who do not have a vessel handy but who still want to cruise the waters will find ample options for boat tours and rentals throughout the Cape Fear area.

For Boat Tours: The towns of Wilmington, Carolina Beach, and Wrightsville Beach all have boat tour options available for visitors who want to cruise and explore the Cape Fear River, the Intracoastal Waterway, and even outlying barrier island destinations. Downtown Wilmington has a number of boat tours, including historical area tours, dinner cruises, and dozens of other options, that can launch via a myriad of vessels – even a stunning and multi-story riverboat. Meanwhile, Carolina Beach is home to several large “party boats” as well as smaller vessels that provide area tours, dolphin watching, sunset cruises, and fishing trips. Wrightsville Beach has a similar assortment of area tours, as well as water taxi or ferry service to Masonboro Island, which is only accessible by boat, and where exceptional shelling and beaching can be enjoyed.

For Boat Rentals – Visitors who want to rent a vessel for an afternoon, a full day, or even for the duration of their stay can head to the coastal towns of Carolina Beach and Wrightsville Beach. These popular island communities that are next to the Intracoastal Waterway have several boat rental providers that can supply skiffs, pontoon boats, and even larger vessels for a self-guided tour of the area. Jet Ski vendors are also available in the beach communities, and there are a number of watersports companies throughout the region that can supply kayaks, canoes, stand-up paddle boards and other, non-motorized vehicles for exploration.

Cape Fear Boat Sales and Services

The Cape Fear area is arguably one of the best spots for southern North Carolina mariners to go boat shopping, simply because of the large and diverse supply of options.

Most all of the area marinas offer repair and maintenance services, as well as short or long-term docking, dry storage, fuel, and other necessities for mariners who want to keep their vessel in ship shape.

For sales, visitors will want to head to the towns of Wilmington and Wrightsville Beach, which combined have dozens of different boat dealers that offer popular brands, models, sizes, etc. In addition, because so many local residents have vessels, visitors can pursue classified ads and websites for used vessels at a traditionally attractive price.

Regardless of whether a visitor wants a new vessel from one of the shops along US 421 or US 70, or just needs a couple minor repairs to continue a trek along the Intracoastal Waterway, the Cape Fear boating scene has everything a mariner requires to enjoy life on the water.

Cape Fear Fishing Charters

In addition to boat tours and rentals, the Cape Fear region is also home to a far-reaching range of fishing charters which can take anglers out on expeditions to the best fishing grounds in the region. From small rivers and creeks that can only be reached by a skiff, to the open ocean waters where the big catches lurk, there’s no shortage of adventures that can be enjoyed with the help of an experienced captain and / or fishing guide.

Generally speaking, there are two types of fishing trips available for visiting anglers: inshore charters and offshore charters.

Inshore charter fishing trips explore the Cape Fear River, the local sounds, the inlets, the salty creeks, and all waters that are close to shore. These trips are typically available in hourly, ½ day or full day increments, can accommodate 6 passengers or less, and are slightly less expensive than their offshore counterparts. Inshore fishing trips can launch from Wilmington, the coastal beach towns, Southport, and virtually any waterfront region in the Cape Fear area.

Offshore charter fishing trips explore the outlying ocean waters, including the local shipwrecks, offshore light stations, and / or Gulf Stream waters. These trips result in big catches – including trophy sailfish and citation game fish – and are generally full-day adventures. Offshore fishing trips traditionally launch from coastal towns, including Wrightsville Beach and Carolina Beach, which are close to the inlets and the open ocean.

Both varieties of fishing trips can be reserved well in advance before a vacation through an individual fishing trip provider / charter business, or through a local marina. Call or book online as far in advance as possible, as when the fishing is good, these trips tend to fill up fast.

Local Charter Boats

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Boats on the Cape Fear River

Tips and Tricks for Cape Fear Boating

  • Many tours and cruises can be customized to suit a visitor’s interests! From unique shelling tours to private wedding receptions or special events onboard big party boats, the sky is the limit for customizable tours.
  • Transient mariners staying in Wilmington and the surrounding area will want to reserve a slip as far in advance as possible, especially for visits that coincide with some of the town’s big festivals, (like the Azalea Festival and Riverfest), which can attract thousands of visitors to the Cape Fear area.
  • Sailing is also a popular activity in the area, and there are several options for would-be sailors. Local companies like Wrightsville Performance Sailing or Sail Ava Grace Charters offer both lessons and chartered sailing trips for a more leisurely exploration of the area.
  • Want to bring your vessel along but not sure where to dock? Try a vacation rental home. There are a nice handful vacation rentals, (specifically in Wrightsville Beach), which may offer on-site docks and / or boat slips for smaller vessels.

Boating is a part of life in the Cape Fear area, and has been since the region was established roughly 300 years ago. With miles of water in every direction, and ample ways to join in the fun, visitors will have no trouble fulfilling a love of the water in this corner of North Carolina that celebrates an inherently coastal lifestyle.

A boat outside of Southport NC

Victory Beach Vacations

Visitors who are on the hunt for the postcard-perfect vacation rental in the heart of the Carolina Beach or Kure Beach area will find an enticing selection and plenty of friendly customer service when they rent through Victory Beach Vacations. Based in Carolina Beach in the coastal Cape Fear region, Victory Beach Vacations has more than 100 vacation rentals in all shapes and sizes to ensure that every vacationing family can find their dream home away from home on the beach.   When you book your Cape Fear getaway with Victory Beach Vacations, the fun doesn’t end when you leave the beach, it continues with an array of privately-owned properties outfitted with all of the amenities needed for a fabulous beach vacation.   Jenna Lanier, General Manager, explains that her family first opened the rental and property management business in 2002. At the forefront of Victory Beach operations is Lanier’s mother, Caroline Meeks. Meeks is both the Broker in Charge and co-owner with husband, Buck Meeks, who manages the Field Services team with Lanier’s husband, Scott.   For nearly 20 years, the Victory Beach team has worked tirelessly to establish a network of top-of-the-line rental properties for Cape Fear visitors to enjoy. “As far as our properties go,” explains Lanier, “they are all updated, well-furnished and appointed. “We have always performed post-cleaning inspections and since the pandemic, have put freshly laundered duvets over all of the comforters between rentals.”   Lanier emphasizes how important the guests experience is “we strive to give our guests a relaxing, stress free, memorable vacation.” This emphasis on customer service has led to Victory Beach Vacations having a 4.8 Google rating with over 300 reviews by happy owners and guests.In addition to Victory Beach’s superior sanitation practices, the company offers properties for every type of visitor. Choose from luxury oceanfront houses and condos to more reasonbly priced 2nd row properties with oceanviews. Many properties include pools and hot tubs as well, perfect for outdoor entertaining, and many are dog friendly.   Lanier also notes that all properties are within walking or driving distance to Pleasure Island’s main attractions – Carolina Beach and Kure Beach. The former, as described by Lanier, is the more commercialized of the two destinations and features a boardwalk, outdoor dining options and a plethora of weekly activities including fireworks, live music, amusement park pop-ups, and movies under the stars. Kure Beach offers a more residential feel with its fishing pier, intimate restaurants and family favorite, North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher.More water fun awaits, too. “There is a harbor and a canal that feed into the intercoastal. We have several properties on the harbor so guests can bring their boat, kayak, [or jet ski] and travel between islands,” says Lanier.   A stay with Victory Beach Vacations is an annual pilgrimage for most. “A large percentage of guests are previous guests. Some even reserve the same property for the next year as they’re checking out,” Lanier says. “It’s almost like it’s their personal vacation home.”   Even before guests arrive at their vacation destination, the Victory Beach Vacations’ website greets them with a live beach cam and exquisite aerial footage of both Carolina and Kure Beaches. See for yourself by scanning the QR code and call Victory Beach Vacations at 910.458.0868 to book your Cape Fear getaway. Start making your memories today! —Grace Silipigni

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