Boating Guide Sections:
- Boat Ramps & Launches
- Marinas & Public Docks
- Boat Tours and Rentals
- Boat Sales and Service
- Charter Fishing Boats
- Local Boating Tips & Tricks
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.
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.
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 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
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.
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 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
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
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
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, 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.
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.
1402 Airlie Rd, Wilmington, NC 28403
Phone: (910) 231-6099
Sea Gate Boating
2 Marina St, Wrightsville Beach, NC 28480
Phone: (910) 256-0638
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.
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.
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.
- 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.