Wilmington is a coastal city, famous for its historical monuments and folklore, as well as beautiful beaches and good ol’ Southern hospitality.

This quirky little city in southeast North Carolina is one of the best American riverfront towns and is where the Cape Fear River meets the Atlantic Ocean. For those looking for watersports, Wilmington has access to four beautiful beaches.

Deciding where to stay in Wilmington is an important task. Whether you enjoy history, shopping, amazing food, or the quintessential beach experience – you’ll want to find the area in Wilmington that best suits you!

If you’ve never been to Wilmington before, it’s likely at this point you’ll be thinking “shit, I don’t know where is best for me?” But never fear, I have put in the hard yards and explored the areas of Wilmington so you don’t have to. And in this guide, I shall impart everything I know over to you.

I’ve compiled the best areas to stay by interest and even thrown in the best places to stay and activities to do in each. Whether you’re after the high-end luxury dazzle or a cheap bed to crash in, I’ve got you covered.

So, when you’re ready, let’s take a look at the best places to stay in Wilmington.

Where to Stay in Wilmington

Need an answer fast? Here are my top picks for the best hotels and hostels in Wilmington.

The Side Piece Cottage | Best Airbnb in Wilmington

The Side Piece Cottage

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Located just ten minutes away from the Downtown area, this is the best neighborhood in Wilmington to stay in if you want to be close to everything. This charming cottage is packed with vintage charm. It sleeps up to four people and has two bedrooms, a fully-stocked kitchen, and a fenced backyard to enjoy. This is one of my favourite Airbnb’s in North Carolina.

Zen 2 Getaway in the Woods | Best Luxury Airbnb in Wilmington

Zen 2 Getaway in the Woods

This one-bedroom home is one of the best places to stay in Wilmington for a relaxed, romantic getaway. It’s a very private oasis in the woods and has its own hot tub, kitchen, and a fenced-in backyard that you can enjoy. It’s also just 10 minutes in the car from the Downtown area and the beach!

Days Inn by Wyndham Wilmington | Best Hotel in Wilmington

Days Inn by Wyndham Wilmington

This hotel in Wilmington offers a pool, free parking, and a bar, as well as pet-friendly accommodation right in the heart of the city. It’s close to the airport and to local shops and restaurants. The rooms are large and have their own bathtubs!

Wilmington Neighborhood Guide – Places to Stay in Wilmington

FIRST TIME IN WILMINGTON
City center of Wilmington
FIRST TIME IN WILMINGTON

New Center

New Center is a small neighborhood located between the beaches and the city’s Historic District. This makes it one of Wilmington’s best neighborhoods if you want to enjoy both of these city attractions. It also boasts a good collection of shops and restaurants at every price point.

ON A BUDGET
Carolina Beach State Park Wilmington
ON A BUDGET

Sentry Oaks

If you’re trying to decide where to stay in Wilmington on a budget, then take a look at Sentry Oaks. This neighborhood is popular among retirees, so you know that you’ll be in a quiet atmosphere. It also offers several Wilmington accommodation options at a variety of price points.

FOR FAMILIES
Downtown Wilmington
FOR FAMILIES

Mayfaire

Mayfaire is the kind of neighborhood with a real focus on community. This safe, relaxed vibe is what makes it the best choice when you’re deciding where to stay in Wilmington for families.

NIGHTLIFE
Wrightsville Beach Wilmington
NIGHTLIFE

Wrightsville Beach

Wrightsville Beach is technically a town in its own right, but it’s also just a few minutes from Wilmington. It’s the best choice when you’re trying to decide where to stay in Wilmington for nightlife as it gives you unfettered access to great bars, restaurants, and shops all close to the charms of the ocean.

COOLEST PLACE TO STAY
Cape Fear River Wilmington
COOLEST PLACE TO STAY

Historic District

If you’re into history or just want to enjoy the heart of this city, then the Historic District is hands down one of the coolest places to stay in Wilmington. It’s filled with 18th and 19th-century architecture, popular brewpubs, and some of the city’s top restaurants.

Wilmington is a city that’s constantly updating itself and getting more and more down with the times. It has lots of interesting little neighborhoods, with more new developments popping up all the time, but still retains its independent, slightly quirky charm.

If you’re trying to decide where to stay in Wilmington for the first time, then try New Center. This central neighborhood offers lots of shops and restaurants and is ideally located between the Historic District and the beaches, giving you easy access to both.

Sentry Oaks is mychoice if you’re on a tight budget. This neighborhood is away from the city center but close to the beach and offers a quiet, relaxed, and safe atmosphere suitable for all kinds of travelers.

When you’re trying to decide where to stay in the city for kids, try looking at Mayfaire. This is an up-and-coming residential part of the city, so it offers lots of apartment accommodation that is best suited to group travellers.

And then you have Wrightsville beach, because who doesn’t want to sit on the beach all day and explore beachside bars at night? Wrightsville beach is the ideal location for those who want to relax and soak up the sun.

The final area in this list is the city’s Historic District. This is one of the best places in Wilmington to stay if you like history, lots of shops and restaurants. It has plenty of attractions, all within walking distance of each other.

Wilmington’s 5 Best Neighborhoods to Stay in

There are lots of hotels and hostels in Wilmington to choose from, and narrowing down where to stay can be a daunting task. No matter, I have compiled a list of what I believe to be the best places to stay in Wilmington.

All you really have to do is pick your area and then look for a property that suits your needs. Enjoy!

1. New Center – Where to Stay in Wilmington for First Timers

City center of Wilmington

New Center is a small neighborhood located between the beaches and the city’s Historic District. This makes it one of Wilmington’s best neighborhoods if you want to enjoy all of the cities top attractions. It also boasts a nice collection of shops and restaurants that range from cheap food to fine dining.

New Center offers comfortable accommodation for every type of traveller, including high-class hotels and apartments. It’s also close to the city’s main roads, which means you’ll enjoy easy transport links to anywhere you want to go!

Quiet Court | Best Luxury Airbnb in New Center

Quiet Court

This is a good choice for anyone looking at where to stay in Wilmington for nightlife as it’s centrally located and close to local restaurants, bars, and shopping areas. The interior has fitted with trendy furniture and top-of-the-range appliances. The apartment has two bedrooms, each with its own private bathroom for the ultimate convenience during your stay.

Wingate by Wyndham | Best Hotel in New Center

Wingate by Wyndham

Located on Market Street and close to some great shops and restaurants, this property is 10 minutes in the car from the Historic District and from the beach. It offers a daily hot breakfast, a fitness center, 24-hour reception, and a seasonal outdoor pool. The rooms are modern and include basic cooking amenities, so you can store and heat up meals and snacks during your stay.

Rustic Townhome | Best Airbnb in New Center

Rustic Townhome

With 2 bedrooms and 1.5 bathrooms, this comfortable home is five miles from the beach and close to some of the best restaurants in the entire city. During your stay, you’ll enjoy access to the neighborhood pool, and the home has its own bathtub and kitchen.

Things to See and Do in New Center

Stanley Rehder
  1. Have a meal at Bonefish Grill or Arby’s
  2. Play a round of golf at the Cape Fear Country Club
  3. Head out for a relaxing drink at Might As Well Bar & Grill
  4. Let the kids burn some energy on the playground and basketball courts of Maides Park
  5. Wander among the flowers at the Bluethenthal Wildflower Preserve
  6. Feast on some oysters at the Hieronymus Seafood Restaurant & Oyster Bar
  7. Take the kids to a trampoline park for kid-friendly activities
  8. See the darker side of the local flora at the Stanley Rehder Carnivorous Plant Garden at Piney Ridge Nature Preserve

2. Sentry Oaks – Where to Stay in Wilmington on a Budget

Sentry Oaks is the top choice on any good list of where to stay in Wilmington on a budget. This neighborhood is popular among retirees, so you know that you’ll be in a quiet atmosphere. It also offers several different accommodation options from budget to big spender.

Sentry Oaks is close to the beach and the perfect location for a mostly outdoor vacation, with wide streets and lots of green areas to lounge in. It’s also not far from the city’s center, so you can head in there any time you want a busier crowd.

Carolina Beach State Park Wilmington

The Traditional Cottage | Best Luxury Airbnb in Sentry Oaks

The Traditional Cottage

This cottage is surrounded by some of the most gorgeous natural landscapes possible, making it the best neighborhood to stay in Wilmington if you enjoy the outdoors. Suitable for up to two guests, it offers views of the marsh and comes with one bedroom, a small kitchen, a large outdoor space, and pool access.

Hideaway Cottage | Best Airbnb in Sentry Oaks

Hideaway Cottage

This quiet apartment sleeps up to four guests and is close to the shops, restaurants, and the coast. Located 500 meters away from the main road, it provides perfect peace and serenity but with excellent transport links at the same time. The apartment has a private entrance, kitchen, and a deck where you can enjoy your surroundings with a drink in hand.

Beau Rivage Golf and Resort | Best Hotel in Sentry Oaks

Beau Rivage Golf and Resort

This 3-star hotel is in a quiet area just ten minutes in the car from the city center and seven minutes from Carolina Beach. It has a pool, tennis court, and golf course to encourage you to get out and enjoy the weather. It also has an on-site restaurant for when you don’t want to travel far for food. The rooms are comfortable and modern and have their own fridges and microwaves.

Things to See and Do in Sentry Oaks

Masonboro Island Wilmington
  1. Have a meal at Rucker John’s or the Fish Bites Seafood Restaurant
  2. Explore the walking trails in Veteran’s Park
  3. Enjoy a meal with river views at Smoke on the Water
  4. Head down to explore the Brunswick Town/Fort Anderson State Historic Site
  5. Look for wildlife and enjoy the beaches at Masonboro Island Reserve
  6. Go hiking, camping or fishing in the Carolina Beach State Park
  7. Take a boat onto the river to explore Shark Tooth Island
  8. Head to Pleasure Island beaches for sunset views and surfing

3. Mayfaire – Best Neighborhood in Wilmington for Families

Mayfaire is the kind of neighborhood with a real focus on community. This safe, relaxed vibe is what makes it the number one choice to the question of where to stay in Wilmington for families. It’s also close to the beach and to the Downtown area, so you won’t have to go far to enjoy most of Wilmington’s attractions!

Mayfaire provides a variety of accommodations that are a little more luxurious, but not overly expensive. There are also a good collection of restaurants and bars in the area, in case you want to head out one night without the kids.

Downtown Wilmington

SpringHill Suites by Marriott | Best Hotel in Mayfaire

SpringHill Suites by Marriott

This hotel is one of the coolest places to stay in Wilmington if you want to be close to everything. It’s just a short drive from the beach and the Historic District and has an outdoor pool, fitness center, and free daily breakfast. While you’re at the hotel you can relax in the on-site bar or grab a snack at the hotel’s snack bar before heading out to explore the city.

Coastal Getaway Loft | Best Airbnb in Mayfaire

Coastal Getaway Loft

This one-bedroom loft is in a quiet neighborhood and within walking distance of the Mayfaire Town center and all its shops and restaurants. It’s attached to a family home but has its own private entrance, living area, and kitchenette. It’s ideal for a couple but is probably too small to fit more guests comfortably.

Coastal Home | Best Luxury Airbnb in Mayfaire

Coastal Home

This home is a good choice for even the biggest of families as it sleeps up to 13 guests with five bedrooms and 2.5 bathrooms. It’s close to the Mayfaire area and all its attractions and offers large family spaces, a covered back deck, and lots of amenities such as supermarkets and shops within walking distance.

Things to See and Do in Mayfaire

Creek Park Preserve Wilmington
  1. Take the kids to see a movie at the Mayfaire Cinemas
  2. Eat a delicious seafood meal at the Coquina Fishbar
  3. Dip some fondue at the Melting Pot restaurant
  4. Raise your glass at the Noni Bacca Winery or Fermental Beer and Wine
  5. Take the kids for a picnic or to play some ball at Ogden Park
  6. Go kayaking or hiking at Pages Creek Park Preserve
  7. Head to the coast to enjoy one of the nearby beaches
  8. The Mayfaire Town Center shopping center is perfect for shopping, eating, and entertainment

4. Wrightsville Beach – Best Neighborhood in Wilmington for Nightlife

Wrightsville Beach is technically a town in its own right, but it’s also just a few minutes from Wilmington. It’s the only real answer to the question of where to stay in Wilmington for nightlife as it gives you unfettered access to great bars, restaurants, and shops, all close to the charms of the ocean.

Wrightsville offers a good collection of hotels as well as attractions that will keep the youngest members of your travel party happy. The hotels aren’t the cheapest in this area, but you can always find an apartment that suits your budget!

Wrightsville Beach Wilmington

Lumina by the Sea Retreat | Best Luxury Airbnb in Wrightsville Beach

Lumina by the Sea Retreat

This private apartment sleeps two guests and is next to Johnnic Mercer Pier, one of the best areas to stay in Wilmington. It’s been kitted out with a modern bathroom and soaking tub, laundry facilities, and a full kitchen. And all this is located a short walk from the beach.

Shell Island Resort | Best Hotel in Wrightsville Beach

Shell Island Resort

Located right on the beach, this hotel has indoor and outdoor pools and large rooms that have their own kitchenettes. With direct beach access, you’ll want to spend more time out of this hotel than in it, but you should still try out its fitness center, on-site restaurant, and children’s playground if you’re traveling with the family.

202 Interested in Intracoastal | Best Airbnb in Wrightsville Beach

202 Interested in Intracoastal

This condo is a good budget choice for travelers who want to be close to the best bars and restaurants in the entire area. It has one bedroom, a fully-equipped kitchen, a private bathroom and a balcony with views. The apartment walking distance of supermarkets and restaurants, and includes a parking spot so you can safely park your car during your stay.

Things to See and Do in Wrightsville Beach

Airlie Gardens Wilmington
  1. Have a meal at Ceviche’s or the Shark Bar and Kitchen
  2. Try to catch your own dinner off Johnnie Mercers Fishing Pier
  3. Fit in a bit of history at the Wrightsville Beach Museum of History
  4. Watch the sunset from Crystal Pier
  5. Head out for a late-night drink at the Fox and Hound or Seven Mile Post
  6. Relax or go hiking in Airlie Gardens
  7. Relax on the beach
  8. Go to The Jungle Rapids Family Fun Park for water slides, go-karts, laser tag, and more

5. Historic District – The Coolest Neighborhoods to Stay in Wilmington

If you’re into history or just want to enjoy the heart of this city, then the Historic District is hands down one of the coolest places to stay in Wilmington. It’s filled with 18th and 19th-century architecture, popular brewpubs, and some of the city’s top restaurants.

Wilmington’s Historic District is on the river, so you’ll also have the popular Riverwalk to explore, which will take you to some of the city’s top sites. It’s also a surprisingly affordable neighborhood and offers a range of accommodations for every budget.

Cape Fear River Wilmington

Riverfront Wilmington Condo | Best Airbnb in Historic District

Riverfront Wilmington Condo

This budget apartment must be in any good Wilmington neighborhood guide because of the river views alone. It overlooks Riverfront park and is within walking distance of the shops and restaurants of the downtown area. The condo has its own laundry facilities, one-bedroom, and a living area/kitchen, as well as a balcony overlooking the river.

Hip Loft in Heart of Historic District | Best Luxury Airbnb in Historic District

Hip Loft in Heart of Historic District

If you want to be right in the center of all the action, then this apartment is a good choice. It offers space for up to five guests, with a mix of industrial and boho decor, as well as large windows with city views. The city’s best restaurants and shops are literally within walking distance of the apartment and it has parking for one car.

Port City Guest House | Best Hotel in Historic District

Port City Guest House Wilmington

Located right in the heart of the Historic District, the best area in Wilmington to stay in for history and atmosphere, this guest house offers homey rooms and free breakfasts with your stay. The property’s units come in a variety of sizes and include air conditioning and private bathrooms.

Things to See and Do in Historic District

Battleship North Carolina Wilmington
  1. See the exhibits at the Cape Fear Museum of History and Science
  2. Grab a drink and some pub food at the Front Street Brewery
  3. Take a look at the offbeat displays at the Museum of the Bizarre
  4. Head over the river to tour the Battleship North Carolina
  5. Let the kids entertain themselves at the Children’s Museum of Wilmington
  6. Have a meal at Marina Grill or Pilot House
  7. Wander through the streets and check out the historic houses
  8. Check out what’s on at the Live Oak Bank Pavilion
  9. Explore the bank of the Cape Fear River on the Riverwalk.
  10. Visit The Bellamy Mansion Museum for a sometimes too real look into the past.
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What To Pack For Wilmington

Pants, socks, underwear, soap?! Take it from me, packing for a hostel stay is not always quite as straightforward as it seems. Working out what to bring and what to leave at home is an art I have perfected over many years.

Product
Description
Don’t Let Snorers Keep You Awake!
Don’t Let Snorers Keep You Awake!

Ear Plugs

Snoring dorm-mates can ruin your nights rest and seriously damage the hostel experience. This is why I always travel with a pack of decent ear plugs.

Keep your laundry organized and stink free
Keep your laundry organized and stink free

Hanging Laundry Bag

Trust us, this is an absolute game changer. Super compact, a hanging mesh laundry bag stops your dirty clothes from stinking, you don’t know how much you need one of these… so just get it, thank us later.

Stay Dry With a Micro Towel
Stay Dry With a Micro Towel

Sea To Summit Micro Towel

Hostel towels are scummy and take forever to dry. Microfibre towels dry quickly, are compact, lightweight, and can be used as a blanket or yoga mat if need be.

Make Some New Buddies…
Make Some New Buddies…

Monopoly Deal

Forget about Poker! Monopoly Deal is the single best travel card game that we have ever played. Works with 2-5 players and guarantees happy days.

Reduce Plastic – Bring a Water Bottle!
Reduce Plastic – Bring a Water Bottle!

Grayl Geopress Water Bottle

Always travel with a water bottle! They save you money and reduce your plastic footprint on our planet. The Grayl Geopress acts as a purifier AND temperature regulator. Boom!

Check out my definitive Hotel Packing list for even more top packing tips!

Don’t Forget Travel Insurance for Wilmington

ALWAYS sort out your backpacker insurance before your trip. There’s plenty to choose from in that department, but a good place to start is Safety Wing.

They offer month-to-month payments, no lock-in contracts, and require absolutely no itineraries: that’s the exact kind of insurance long-term travellers and digital nomads need.

SafetyWing is cheap, easy, and admin-free: just sign up lickety-split so you can get back to it!

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Final Thoughts on the Best Places to Stay in Wilmington

For travelers looking at where to stay in Wilmington for one night or for a longer visit, there are a lot of good choices, most of them based around the ocean or the city centre.

I hope this guide helped you to decide if you’d prefer to be closer to the beach or to the city’s historic areas. I tried to cater to all budgets and travellers, but my personal favourite would be the hip loft in the centre of the historic district. Not only is it close to all the top attractions, but it has a unique and rustic charm.

So, were you able to find a unique place to stay in Wilmington in North Carolina? Let me know in the comments. And if you’re not totally sold on Wilmington, check out my guide on other places to stay in North Carolina.

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