Comprised of Carolina and Kure beaches, Pleasure Island on the southern tip of North Carolina offers many educational and fun activities for the whole family.
Just over Snow’s Cut Bridge from Wilmington is Pleasure Island. And just like its name suggests, the strip of sandy earth is rife with fun activities for the entire family. The U.S. Census listed Pleasure Island’s permanent population at just over 6,000. That number swells multiple times during the warmer months. With a state park, aquarium, and the unspoiled beaches, it’s easy to see why families choose to vacation on Pleasure Island year after year.
Step back in time at Fort Fisher
Constructed in 1861, two battles were fought at Fort Fisher before the end of the war. Today, visitors can tour the Civil War Museum on-site and the grounds of the military site that also served as a training firing range during World War II. What most visitors remember about the WWII bunker, though, is that it was the spot where the Fort Fisher Hermit lived for 17 years (from 1955 until 1972). The area and beachfront are free to explore, and visitors can check with the welcome center to grab a map or sign up for a guided tour.
Meet Luna, the albino alligator
Just south of the Fort Fisher historic site is one of three North Carolina aquariums. The aquarium takes visitors on a tour of the Cape Fear River. Learn about the inhabitants of the river and the surrounding ocean. Exhibits allow visitors to get up close and personal with animals such as starfish and sea turtles.
Daily programs allow visitors to talk to divers and watch sharks, stingrays, and dolphins being fed. A snack bar is on-site to feed weary travelers. An outdoor walking path through indigenous plant life leads visitors back to the parking lot. The aquarium is open daily (except for major holidays) 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. Admission is $8 for adults, $7 for seniors, $6 for children (children under 2 are admitted free).
Take a ferry trip
One of the best ways to see the surrounding area is to take the Ft. Fisher-Southport Ferry. Located just south of the aquarium, the ferry takes pedestrians or vehicles across the Cape Fear River. At just $5 per car, it’s an amazing bargain. During the 40-minute trip, visitors can see the Wilmington skyline, Old Baldy Lighthouse, and the quaint coastal town of Southport. Spend a few hours exploring the seaside town full of antique shops and restored homes, and then take the ferry back to Ft. Fisher. While the trip can be completed entirely by foot, keep in mind the ages of family members and their exhaustion levels.
Hike the sand dunes at Carolina Beach State Park
The state park at Carolina Beach offers sandy hiking trails, camping sites, and birding spots for visitors to enjoy. A marina is also located in the park for visitors who have a boat. The park is open daily and leashed dogs are allowed. Take caution on the hiking trails, as some of the markers are hard to spot. The park is easily accessible just south of Snow’s Cut Bridge by following the brown road signs off of Dow Road.
While the Pleasure Island area offers many parks and historic sites to explore, many visitors come for the beaches and nothing else. Kure Beach, located between Carolina Beach and Fort Fisher, is unspoiled and perfect for relaxing in the sun, fishing off the pier, or walking the beach searching for the perfect seashell. Carolina Beach recently renovated its boardwalk area. The boardwalk is a perfect place to rent a scooter, take an oceanside yoga class, or sign up for a surf lesson. Whether visitors choose to relax or see all the sites, Pleasure Island is the perfect vacation spot.
The nearby port city of Wilmington has plenty of things to do as well, and the greater Wilmington area has more beaches to explore.