Wilmington, North Carolina

Best Places to Retire in North Carolina


Wilmington (population 93,000) is an international port city on the Cape Fear River.  The earliest explorers sailed in through the treacherous Frying Pan Shoals, which extend nearly 40 miles out into the Atlantic, and traveled about four miles up the river to explore this area in 1524.  Today it is a vibrant city and an important seaport. http://www.wilmingtonchamber.org/

Once the largest city in North Carolina, and an early state capital, Wilmington prospered because of its thriving port. The city has lived through the perils of pirates, blockade-runners, American Revolutionary War forces, Civil War battles, and German submarines that patrolled the coastline in World War II.  Its waterfront historic district, with buildings and homes that date to the 1700s has been beautifully preserved and restored.  It has one of the statesí richest collections of historic buildings and homes.  By day this area is the scene of banking, government office activities, and retail establishments, and in the evening the area is transformed into the entertainment center of the city.  It features a full range of amenities, including theater productions, concerts, dance bars, fine dining, numerous art galleries and studios, seasonal venues, and the riverwalk along the Cape Fear waterfront.  Nearby neighborhoods feature canopies of live oaks, large magnolias and well-kept streets.

Wilmington is fortunate to be the home of University of North Carolina at Wilmington, one of the outstanding public universities in the state. The region is also one of the most productive and cost-effective filmmaking destinations, having hosted over 300 features, mini-series, movies of the week and six TV series along with numerous commercials and music videos.  It is home to one of the largest production studios east of Hollywood with nine stages, from 7,200 up to 35,000 sq. ft.   Wilmington also has excellent healthcare facilities and its own regional airport.  In the 1990s, greater Wilmington grew nearly 33 percent.

Popular beach oriented communities in the area have over 30 miles of sandy shoreline with great beaches.  These include Surf City, Topsail, Wrightsville Beach, Carolina Beach, Kure Beach, Fort Fisher, Bald Head Island, Southport, Oak Island, Long Beach, Holden Beach, Ocean Isle Beach, Sunset Beach, Calabash, and Carolina Shores.  These communities offer a wide variety of lifestyles from secluded or gated upscale resorts with grass tennis courts and signature golf courses by Jack Nicklaus, Pete Dye and others, to family beach communities dotted with 1950ís style motor courts and oceanside condominiums.  There are over 50 parks and gardens, 40 golf courses, dozens of annual festivals, and many arts and cultural attractions in the area.  There is also great fishing with 20 marinas — mostly along the Intracoastal Waterway — and many boat charters.  In addition, there is deep-sea, pier, surf and bottom fishing, and 12 annual fishing tournaments.

Arts & Culture

Historic Thalian Hall, one of the oldest and most beautiful theatres in America, has been in continuous use since 1858.  It forms the east wing of Wilmington City Hall and hosts over 250 events annually.  The complex houses three performance venues, the main Stage, Grand Ballroom and the Studio Theatre.  It offers a season package that includes a wide variety of artistic performances including musicals, dance, jazz, theater and more.  http://www.thalianhall.com/

The University of North Carolina at Wilmington music department sponsors a performance series annually titled ìArts In Action,î and performances of the Wilmington Symphony Orchestra.  Most performances are at Kenan Auditorium.  The music department can be reached at (910) 962-3390.

The North Carolina Azalea Festival has been an annual event for more than 50 years.  It features a street fair parade, circus, concerts, and more. http://www.ncazaleafestival.org/

Riverfest, celebrated in early October, has its roots as a ìcultural street festivalî begun in 1979.  Today it includes over 160 craft vendors and dozens of concession stands, fireworks, the Great Waiters Wine Race, Run The River, exhibits and more. http://www.wilmingtonriverfest.com/

Cape Fear Museum collects, preserves and interprets objects relating to the history, science and cultures of the Lower Cape Fear River, and interprets and exhibits them for the public. http://museumofthecapefear.ncdcr.gov/

Louise Wells Cameron Art Museum opened in April, 2002.  It is dedicated primarily to collecting, preserving and exhibiting art of North Carolina.  It is a 42,000 square foot state-of-the-art facility with a permanent collection from the 18th century to present.  http://www.cameronartmuseum.com/

The Battleship North Carolina has a majestic presence as it rests at its permanent berth across the Cape Fear River from the historic downtown district.  It is a magnificent monument to those who served in World War II.  It is among the most decorated ships of that conflict.  Visitors can go aboard and tour throughout the vessel.  http://www.battleshipnc.com/


There are nearly limitless opportunities in the area for all types of water sports and fishing with an estimated 20 marinas, over 30 miles of sandy coast with great beaches, many miles of the Intracoastal Waterway, and mile after mile of inland waters.  There are also about 40 golf courses, including very good ones, that are open to public play, and members.

The local and county parks and recreation departments organize a staggering selection of activities, including team sports for all ages. http://www.insiders.com/wilmington/main-sports.htm

Carolina Beach Parks and Recreation – (910) 458-7416
New Hanover County Parks Department – (910) 798-7181
Wrightsville Beach Parks and Recreation – (910) 256-7925

Oak Island Parks and Recreation – (910) 278-5518
Southport Parks and Recreation – (910) 457-7945
Brunswick County Parks and Recreation – (910) 253-2670, (800) 222-4790

Onslow County Parks and Recreation Department – (910) 347-5332

There are 25 parks in New Hanover County, ranging from the walkways along the Cape Fear River in downtown Wilmington to Fort Fisher State Park  which has seven miles of beach.  One of the best-known parks is Hugh McRae Park which hosts outdoor concerts and an Annual Chili Cook-Off.  Park facilities include tennis courts, lighted athletic fields, playground equipment, picnic areas, jogging trails, and more. http://www.insiders.com/wilmington/main-sports6.htm#Heading31

The city of Wilmington maintains 32 public parks.  Some of the larger ones include Empie Park which has lighted athletic fields, picnic shelters and playgrounds; Greenfield Park which is a 158-acre park with Greenfield Lake and surrounding gardens; Legion Sports Complex, located beside Greenfield Lake; Riverfront Park along the Cape Fear waterfront, and Robert Strange Park which features a swimming pool, a recreation center, playground, picnic shelters, lighted tennis, softball and basketball courts.  http://www.insiders.com/wilmington/main-sports.htm#tod


The University of North Carolina at Wilmington is a part of the state education system.  Programs include four-year degrees in the Arts, Music, Science, and Social Work.  Among its list of graduate programs is a Ph.D in marine biology.  Enrollment is approximately 11,000 students. http://www.uncwil.edu/

Cape Fear Community Collegeís main campus is in the downtown historic area of Wilmington.  It also has campuses in Burgaw and Hampstead, and a campus just north of the city.   Day and evening courses are offered at all campuses.  Over 24,000 people attend classes at the college each year and enrollment in credit programs is about 7,000.  http://cfcc.edu/

Brunswick Community College, Supply, NC, – http://www.brunswickcc.edu/

Senior Programs

New Hanover County Senior Center offers classes in exercise, dance, ceramics, oil painting, investing, Tai chi, tai kwon do, yoga and osteoporosis rehabilitation exercise.  (910) 452-6400 http://www.nhcgov.com/AgnAndDpt/AGNG/Pages/

Katie B. Hines (Senior) Center, Carolina Beach, NC, Is open Monday through Friday.  (910) 458-6609 http://katiehinesseniorcenter.blogspot.com/


Cape Fear Hospital is a community hospital with 141 beds.  It operates an Orthopedic Specialty Center, offers 24-hour emergency service and provides other services including inpatient and outpatient surgery, endoscopy, respiratory therapy, rehabilitation medicine, radiology, and laboratory services. http://www.nhhn.org/body.cfm?id=26

New Hanover Regional Medical center is a teaching and regional referral centerthat offers specialty medical and surgical care, and has a rehabilitation and a psychiatric hospital.  It also has a Level II trauma center and a neonatal intensive care unit.  Other specialty services include four adult intensive care units, open-heart surgery, cardiac catheterization and designated teaching center program.  The medical center has 18 operating rooms, including an endovascular room that is one of just a few of its kind in the nation.  It is licensed for 628 beds.  http://www.nhhn.org/body.cfm?id=25


Wilmington International Airport has 8,000- and 7,000-foot runways and is served by six major carriers. http://www.flyilm.com/


Wilmington enjoys a moderate, but at times quite humid climate.  Average temperatures in January are a high of 55 degrees and low of 35 degrees.  The July averages are 89 degrees and 72 degrees. http://www.wunderground.com/US/NC/Wilmington.html


Wilmington Star-News is Wilmingtonís major daily paper. http://www.wilmingtonstar.com/apps/pbcs.dll/frontpage
ìEncoreî is an online guide to weekly Arts & Entertainment in Southeastern North Carolina.  http://www.encorepub.com/
Challenger News is a weekly newspaper. http://www.challengernews.com/
Wilmington Journal, a weekly, is part of the BlackPressUSA Network. http://www.wilmingtonjournal.com/news/default.asp

Property Taxes

New Hanover Tax Department

State Taxes


Chamber of Commerce


State Aging Agency



Wrightsville Beach, NC – 10 miles
Southport, NC – 28 miles
Myrtle Beach, SC – 72 miles
Jacksonville, FL – 433 miles
Charleston, SC -170 miles
Raleigh, NC – 130 miles

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