Getting Around Wilmington, NC
The best way to get around Wilmington is by car. Although the city is very pedestrian-friendly in certain places – including its Riverwalk, its Historic District and nearby beaches like Wrightsville – the city is far too big to manage on foot alone. If you're downtown, you can also hop aboard a public bus or the free trolley; both are operated by Wave Transit. Hailing a taxi or using your smartphone to order an Uber or Lyft is an option too.
To reach Wilmington, you can fly into Wilmington International Airport (ILM), which is located just 5 miles north of downtown Wilmington. You can rent cars at the airport, or you can take the Wave bus service No. 207 to get from the airport to downtown Wilmington. Keep in mind:
The Wilmington airport only operates flights arriving from and departing to northeast destinations, such as Atlanta, Charlotte and New York City. So if you're coming from anywhere else in the country, you'll likely have to make a layover in one of these cities. Alternatively, you can fly into Charlotte Douglas International Airport (CLT) and drive a little more than three hours to the coast.
The easiest way to traverse the 10 miles between Wilmington and the Wrightsville Beach area – which most travelers do on a Wilmington vacation – not to mention seeing all that's in between those areas, is by car. You can rent cars at the Wilmington airport, or you can find several car rental agencies in different locations throughout the region.
Wilmington is a very walkable city in places. Its Historic District, and nearby beaches like Wrightsville practically beg for long walks, but the region is too large to explore on foot alone.
Wave Transit offers 14 public bus routes that run throughout Wilmington and surrounding communities, such as Carolina Beach. Visitors can purchase tickets on board any Wave bus, but it's important to note that drivers only take cash and they won't make change: A one-way pass costs $2; an unlimited one-day pass costs $5. You can also buy passes at Forden Station, located at 505 Cando Street, from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday. The buses run Monday through Saturday from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. and on Sundays from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Wilmington's Wave Transit also offers a free trolley service, which makes 10 stops throughout downtown at places ranging from the public library to the city's convention center. It operates every 20 minutes from Monday to Friday, from 7:10 a.m. to 8:50 p.m.; on Saturday, from 10:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m.; and on Sunday, from 10:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.
Visitors to Wilmington can also call a cab or order an Uber or Lyft – good options for traversing the distance between the airport and downtown Wilmington – or reaching your hotel after a night on the town.