Prior to European settlement, the area encompassing Wilmington was inhabited by numerous Algonquian peoples. Reportedly, Giovanni da Verrazano was the first explorer to spot the area in the early 16th century, but permanent settlement wouldn't come until the 1720s, when English colonists moved to the area. In 1732, a community formed on the Cape Fear River and was dubbed New Carthage. It took on a number of names before the town was incorporated as Wilmington around 1740 in honor of Spencer Compton, Earl of Wilmington.
Today, Wilmington is a popular East Coast vacation destination boasting numerous attractions, beautiful beaches, and affordable accommodations. Whatever your reasons for visiting this port city, it's important to plan ahead, so you can find the right hotel that allows you to explore everything Wilmington has to offer.
Best Time to Visit Wilmington, NC
The most popular time of year to visit Wilmington is in the summer, when families from across the region flock to the city's sunny shores in search of an oceanside getaway. Average highs hover in the high 80s to low 90s, resulting in perfect weather for swimming, surfing, water skiing, and visiting water parks. With the influx of tourists, however, comes increased hotel rates; you'll be lucky to find a reasonably priced room during the summer months. Still, if you plan your vacation months in advance and book your room early, you can take advantage of discounted prices.
Tourism tapers off in September, which is an ideal time to visit Wilmington. Hotel rates start to level off, but temperatures remain in the mid-80s, giving visitors the best of both worlds. While most of the fall season is a prime time to visit, Wilmington does experience a small surge of visitors in October, although it's nothing like the summer months.
Winter in Wilmington can be quite chilly, with temperature averages reaching the mid to high 50s in December and January. While winter isn't the ideal season for water activities, hotel rates are at their lowest and provide great opportunities to explore the city's attractions on a budget. Just be sure to pack a few layers, and be prepared for chilly wind gusts.
Spring is another great time to visit Wilmington because the weather is warming back up but tourists haven't yet descended on the city, so hotel rates stay low through early May. If you plan on jumping in the ocean, plan your spring vacation for April or May when the weather is warm enough.
Below is a chart of the current pricing seasonality of hotels and motels in Wilmington, NC:
Wilmington, NC: Prices by Star Rating Class
Below we've posted 3 graphs illustrating avg. nightly cost patterns by star rating class in Wilmington, NC. Browse these illustrations to determine the best time period to make a reservation in Wilmington for upcoming travels.
Luxury Hotel Options in Wilmington, NC
If you're looking to splurge on an upscale property in Wilmington, you have a number of options.
Staybridge Suites Wilmington – Wrightsville Beach is a modern all-suite property set just 5 miles from the Wilmington International Airport. The hotel offers bright, airy studio suites with paid Wi-Fi access, full kitchens, 42-inch flat-screen TVs with DVD players, pullout sofas, and work desks. One- and two-bedroom suites add separate living areas for extra space. The property hosts evening receptions with refreshments and provides a complimentary airport shuttle service. Additional amenities include an exercise room, business center, a BBQ area, a heated indoor pool, and laundry facilities.
Hotel Riverwalk is a charming property in the historic district boasting large sweeping porches, abundant foliage, a lobby bar, and sophisticated guest lounge, all offered with a warm, welcoming service that exudes Southern hospitality. Guest rooms feature flat-screen TVs, plush bedding, large windows, 11-foot ceilings, minifridges, coffee makers, irons with ironing boards, hair dryers, and microwaves. Hotel Riverwalk also places you within steps of unique shops, entertainment venues, and fine restaurants.
Beau Rivage Golf & Resort is a colonnade-fronted lodge and golf resort set off Highway 421 less than 6 miles from Carolina Beach. The resort offers traditionally decorated two-room guest suites with separate living areas, microwaves, minifridges, Wi-Fi access, and golf course views, making it the perfect choice for avid golfers. Guests receive a discount on the property's championship golf course and also have access to tennis courts and the clubhouse bar and grill.
Affordable Hotel Options in Wilmington, NC
3 Star Average Prices: $152.93
Finding an affordable hotel in Wilmington is easy if you're willing to be flexible.
Howard Johnson Express Inn – Wilmington is a modest low-rise property 5 miles from Airlie Gardens and 7 miles from Wrightsville Beach. Guest rooms are low-key, offering cable TV, free Wi-Fi internet access, tea and coffee makers, minifridges, and microwaves. Enjoy a free continental breakfast served in the hotel's dining room, as well as free parking.
Super 8 Wilmington is a simple budget accommodation located off Highway 17 close to downtown. Guest rooms and suites boast cable TV, minifridges, coffee makers, microwaves, and free Wi-Fi, plus kids 17 and under stay free with a paying adult. Additional amenities include an on-site business center, free large-vehicle parking, and a complimentary continental breakfast.
Set in a retail area, Red Roof Inn Wilmington is a low-key property 7 miles from the USS North Carolina exhibit. The hotel offers complimentary coffee, parking, and continental breakfast, and also features a seasonal outdoor pool. Guest rooms are straightforward, offering free Wi-Fi, comfortable beds, and televisions. Upgraded rooms add minifridges, microwaves, and coffee makers.
2 Star Average Prices: $76.09
Wilmington, NC Hotels with Discounts
If you plan your trip in advance, you can save even more money by taking advantage of discounts.
Many area hotels, including Fairfield Inn & Suites Wilmington/Wrightsville Beach, offer both early-bird and last-minute promotions. Early booking at these properties can save you anywhere from 10 to 30 percent off the hotel's best available rates, so don't be afraid to book your trip well in advance.
Alternatively, if you need to book a room at the last minute, many area hotels offer a reduced rate on last-minute weekends if you're willing to stay at least two nights. These deals vary by hotel and aren't always available since many rooms fill up during peak tourist season.
Most hotels, such as Hilton Wilmington Riverside, extend special rates to seniors, AAA members, AARP members, government employees, military personnel, travel agents, and corporate travelers. Depending on where you stay, these special rates could save you as much as 20 percent off the total cost of your trip.
Best Value Options in Wilmington, NC
Wilmington offers a number of midrange hotels that give travelers the best bang for their buck.
Hampton Inn Wilmington-Medical Park is a modern property just two blocks from New Hanover Regional Medical Center. Guest rooms are classically decorated and include custom-designed beds, free Wi-Fi, work desks, lap desks, flat-screen TVs with HD channels, minifridges, and coffee makers. Some rooms add pullout sofas and kitchenettes, which are ideal for extended stays. The hotel also offers a free hot breakfast, weekday breakfast bags to go, an outdoor pool, a fitness room, meeting rooms, a business center, a garden with a gazebo, and free parking.
Best Western Plus Coastline Inn is a relaxed waterside property overlooking the Cape Fear River. Guest rooms are understated but feature free Wi-Fi, flat-screen TVs with HD channels, minifridges, and coffee makers. Some include river views. Upgrading to a suite will also get you a lovely mezzanine-level bedroom. Guest amenities include on-site parking, a free continental breakfast, 24-hour gym, business center, and a boat dock behind the property.
The Wilmingtonian is a unique all-suite option set in a trio of historic buildings. Located within walking distance of the Cape Fear Museum, The Wilmingtonian offers individually decorated guest suites and themed rooms with private porches or balconies, free Wi-Fi access, minifridges, coffee makers, cable TV, and microwaves. Some rooms feature four-poster beds, kitchens, and laundry facilities. Guests can enjoy a free continental breakfast, gourmet coffee in the lobby, free parking, rocking chairs, and a private courtyard.
Top Museums in Wilmington, NC
With so much to explore in Wilmington, you may be wondering where to start. The USS North Carolina Battleship is one of the city's most popular attractions and is open every single day of the year. This WWII battleship and museum has been moored across the river from downtown Wilmington, beckoning visitors to explore her many decks. You'll begin your experience by viewing an introductory movie and browsing the exhibit hall before boarding the ship. After that, you're free to explore the battleship at your own pace before finishing your journey at the gift shop.
The Cape Fear Museum of History and Science is a delightful facility that collects and preserves objects related to the culture, history, and science of the Lower Cape Fear. It's also the oldest museum in the state, making it a must-see for anyone visiting Wilmington.
Exploring Wilmington is a tall order, but with a little planning, you'll walk away with countless memories and the urge to return. Whether you're looking for an affordable hotel near downtown or a riverside property with all the amenities, you'll find the perfect hotel in Wilmington to meet your needs and budget.
Verified reviews of the city of Wilmington
Below are reviews of the city of Wilmington, NC from an actual visitor's perspective.
Score 4.0 / 5
Close enough to beach and restaurants. Also Worked out perfect for our needs.
Score 5.0 / 5
The downtown life and the food was great. Hell's Kitchen is a great place to eat.
Score 4.0 / 5
We enjoyed dining at K38 Baja Grill and The Cape Fear Seafood Company. Hugh McRae Park was a great park for our 9U State baseball tournament.
Score 4.0 / 5
We really only went to the ice hockey rink but it was very enjoyable.
Score 5.0 / 5
Lot of things to see and do and there was something of interest for each of the members of our party.
Score 5.0 / 5
We liked that there were numerous activities to choose from and hundreds of places to shop and eat at. We took advantage of the amazing proximity to both Kure and Carolina Beaches as well as Wilmington Beach. We had great fun!
"Everything to do in Wilmington."
Score 5.0 / 5
Wilmington offers many things to do. We enjoyed our stay there.
Score 5.0 / 5
Loved the waterfront and the historic district looked very interesting.
"Friendly and Nice"
Score 5.0 / 5
Good variety of restaurants and shopping. Friendly people. Nice downtown and riverfront.
The average traveler rating of the city of Wilmington, NC shown above is 4.7 out of 5 based on 9 reviews