A sweet, quaint college town on the coast! Near several beaches. Mild Climate. Low (sort of) taxes. An airport. Shopping. Health care. Not much traffic. Only five hours from our daughter and her family. That’s all we are looking for.
That was our vision about Wilmington, North Carolina. When it is time to switch from our dream life traveling in our motor home, we are dreaming about the perfect little dream town to settle down. How we hoped it was Wilmington. It has been on our radar for years, we just never could get there. A few times while here in Myrtle Beach, we thought about running up there. We thought it was only an hour or so away (in fact it’s 80 miles and took us nearly two hours). We just never could justify leaving this beautiful beach….Yes, we are still in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.
Until the horses returned to the beach for three days last week. That means, no walking on the beach as it’s too trampled and people and horses don’t really know how to share the “beach” to our satisfaction. You can read here our write up about it last time we tried to share the beach and one “hot dog” challenged me! We pretty much vowed we wouldn’t be here at the same time. Even if it is for a worthy fundraiser for the American Heart Association.
Originally, our 2017 fall plan was to stay in Wilmington for a month and then two weeks around Greensboro, NC, looking at our potential future home base. But alas, no reservations available in Wilmington and no convenient RV Parks around Greensboro. You are kidding me, right? We’ve never been to an area where 10-15 campgrounds were booked – until we met Wilmington! And then to find a town we wanted to visit with out any convenient RV Parks?
We talked further about why we returned to Myrtle Beach here this fall. After all, we had declared to each other, we wouldn’t return! We’ve been here enough. We want to see new places like those mentioned. But alas, since we couldn’t find suitable sites, we decided to extend our stay for six weeks total. But we forgot about the horses (originally, we would have left the day before they arrived). So that gave us a good reason to leave for an overnight trip.
Doesn’t Wilmington sound like a dream town to you? We could see it was close to a lot of beaches, and after all, we do love the beach! (You can click here to read how we met and how the beach was one thing we had in common.) We do love our current hometown of Sebring, Florida. We lived there for 12 years and it is still our legal residence, but we don’t travel there anymore. It met our needs while we lived there: year around great weather, small town (everything is conveniently located), quiet, had a college nearby which enhances any small town we think, decent health care, little traffic, easy to get around – but it wasn’t near the beach! We did enjoy our motor cycle rides over to the beach – but it was always an outing. The main reason we no longer go there is because it’s 14 hours or 900 miles away from our daughter, son in law and grandsons!
From afar, Wilmington looked like it might have it all.…We just had to go and see for our selves. We have been a bit suspicious as we have not come across many (only one person and that was her hometown) RV travelers who have blogged about it. Hummm….
We’ve learned how to travel cheaply. We could safely leave our motor home in Myrtle Beach where we are paying for each night. We don’t like to pay to “live” in two places except in cases of emergencies. We “bank” free hotel stays. How? We pay for everything on credit cards and then earn points (we earn hotel and airline points) or get cash back. We have several we use. And the money saving secret is to pay them off every month! We had enough hotel points to stay for free at the Comfort Inn Suites on Market Street. It was a comfortable suite, with everything we needed and was clean. We brought our own breakfast so we can’t comment on the free breakfast.
Once we got to Wilmington, we checked in and then went to see the Wilmington KOA. Would it have been worth the extra price? We could have stayed here for $800/month while the other places we wanted to stay, on the beaches, were only $500/month. As mentioned in our last blog, we are not big fans of KOAs, but for the most part, they are nice – but overpriced for what we need (just the basic full hook ups – no swimming pool, laundry or bathing facilities needed). The Wilmington KOA was nice, the staff great but it was a bit small for the price and right in the midst of the traffic crossroads. Although, that was nice as you could easily go east, west, north or south. And this seems to be where all the traffic meets!
And that was the worst thing we learned upon arriving – was the traffic! Wilmington is more or less a narrow peninsula, between the Cape Fear River and the barrier islands. There were several things we wanted to see and learn about Wilmington. Since we were there Thursday and Friday, we learned the home tours were only open on weekends in the “off season.” We didn’t plan to stay longer, but we were tempted had we not missed the ferry – more below on that. We are glad we didn’t stay there for a month as it would have been a minimum of 30 minutes to the closest beach and 45 to an hour to Topsail Beach – where we really wanted to go.
Click on this live map to see our complete day Thursday:
After we checked into the hotel and checked out the KOA, we drove over to Wrightsville Beach. It was a 45 minute drive to go 13 miles! We arrived as the high tide was coming in, so we just got a flavor of the beach walking up and down it for a mile each way. Nothing compares to walking on Myrtle Beach and this was one thing we wanted to determine: how do the beaches in lower NC compare to Myrtle Beach?
After a full day driving over 100 miles and a two-mile walk on the beach, we were hungry. We’ve never been big on eating out. And now that Bill has to eat a heart healthy diet it’s a bit unnerving to have to go out to eat. We went to Trip Advisor to find a good seafood restaurant – but none of the menus appealed to Bill. Then we saw a number of “healthy” foods restaurants. We looked at the reviews. One review really spoke to us: “I really wanted to love it.” Yep, that was a review on one of the restaurants and it became our theme as we drove around Wilmington.
We finally decided we would go to an old standard, a Ruby Tuesdays. We each enjoyed the salad bar, Bill had a sirloin steak and steamed broccoli. I had grilled salmon with roasted brussel sprouts. We felt successful with our meal choice but then suffered sticker shock. All we could think of was how many groceries we could have bought for the price we paid for a pretty spartan meal! The service was great so we rewarded our waitress, a college student. I supported myself for a while as a waitress while in college.
The next morning, we had to make a decision. Now what to do? We looked for the longest hike we could take – Sugar Loaf Trail at Carolina Beach State Park. The park boasted of seven miles of trails. And it had a campground, so off we headed after we checked out of the Comfort Inn. It was a 15 mile drive but took us 45 minutes to get there. Ah, the traffic! Click on the pictures for a slide show:
After that invigorating hike and walk around the campground, we were pretty jazzed. We had time to do something else fun. We hoped we could catch the Fort Fisher Ferry over to Southport, NC. If we did that, we were going to stay another day. While we are pretty sure that wouldn’t be a potential future home, we thought it sounded like a beautiful place to visit. We checked our GPS and looked at the Ferry Schedule. 😢 We couldn’t make it in time. So we decided to head back to Wilmington and at least visit downtown and walk around the River Walk.
We enjoyed the River Walk but decided to just head home. We thought about spending another night and do some more sightseeing. We really couldn’t decide on another restaurant. We had time to get home and cook dinner. Click on the live map to see our route for the day and our trip home. Maybe we will return one day. To see more of our Wilmington/Wrightsville/Downtown pictures, click here.
We’re pretty sure we will never drive our motor home there – but then the State Park was so nice. We just don’t think we could meander our motor home down there. The roads were old and narrow, landlocked so no way to widen them on the way in and out. They are doing some road improvements on the in-land road system but it was easy to see they have over developed the city without the road systems to handle the traffic. That is our biggest requirement where we plan to settle down – little to no traffic! So it looks like this dream was shattered. We really wanted to love it!