aerial view of downtown Wilmington, NC

What’s Life Like In Beachy Wilmington? 13 Things to Know About Living in Wilmington, NC

City Guides

by Sofia Rivera Posted on October 31, 2022

You likely know of North Carolina’s capital, Raleigh, and you may be familiar with its largest city, Charlotte. But if you haven’t heard of Wilmington, you’re in for a treat. Living in Wilmington, North Carolina, means dwelling in a place that is unbelievably quaint, brimming with beaches and friendly people, and relatively affordable to boot. Whether this is the first you’re hearing of this North Carolina port city, or you’re keenly interested in moving to Wilmington already, here’s a glimpse of all the best things to do in Wilmington, NC, and a peek into what life there is like.

Q: Is Wilmington, NC, a good place to live?
A: Locals will tell you Wilmington is a wonderful place to live. If you like long, hot summers, frequent beach trips, al fresco dining along the river, and a small-city feel with lots of friendly people, this may be the place for you. 

Fast Facts

  • Cost of living: The Wilmington, NC, cost of living is about the national average.
  • Average rent: The average rent for a typical (964-square-foot) apartment in Wilmington is about per month. 
  • Typical home value: The is about $379,506, which is up nearly 23 percent since September of 2021. 
Q: Is it expensive to live in Wilmington, NC?
A: Relatively speaking, no — the cost of living in Wilmington, NC, is actually 4 percent below the national average. It’s also about 6 percent less expensive to live in Wilmington than the . However, , Wilmington is a bit more expensive overall. If you love near-instant access to the beach, though, slightly elevated prices may be worth it. 

1. There’s a wealth of covetable neighborhoods to live in 

From the historic downtown to the family-friendly RiverLights development or the beach community of the Cape, the 53-square-mile city packs in many unique areas to call home. 

“Although I love downtown Wilmington and our historic riverfront, I tend to gravitate toward the coastal side of New Hanover County,” admits , a real estate agent with Coldwell Banker Sea Coast Advantage and 27-year resident of Wilmington. “I’m a beach guy, and I love the many ‘loops’ that provide access to the tidal creeks branching in from the Intracoastal Waterway.” He says some of his favorite areas are:

  • Landfall
  • Anchors Bend
  • Demarest
  • Providence
  • Bayshore
  • Marsh Oaks
  • Many of the Porters Neck communities

In particular, he notes, “Waterstone, Porters Neck plantation, and especially Bald Eagle Lane, a high bluff of established properties, almost all enjoy water access of some sort. Figure Eight and Wrightsville Beach may be my favorite beaches in all of the southeast, but not surprisingly, these happen to come with the highest price tags in this area.”  

Q: How much do you need to live comfortably in Wilmington, NC?
A: The average salary in Wilmington, , is $48,520 annually or $23 per hour. says the living wage for one adult without children is $16.30 per hour. For a single adult with three children, that number goes up to $55.40 per hour, while for a working couple with three children the living wage is an hourly rate of $28.18. It’s important to note, however, that Wilmington’s minimum wage is only $7.25 an hour.

2. It’s the perfect blend of a small town and a big city 

“For me, it’s the perfect combination of small town and big town,” says Sheesley. “Over the past 25 years, I’ve watched as our opportunities in the area have grown tremendously.” But as the eighth-largest city in North Carolina, its . The result? A community that feels familiar and easy to settle into, but with plenty of ways to fill up your weekends. 

A live, outdoor performance at Greenfield Lake Amphitheater in Wilmington, NC.
A live show at Greenfield Lake Amphitheater
(Source: )

3. There are ample opportunities for live entertainment 

Speaking of things to do in Wilmington, North Carolina, why not go see a show? The arts scene has grown dramatically over the years and now offers plenty of chances to see live concerts and comedy shows. “When in college, I used to go to any one of only a few small bars to enjoy a live show. Now, I’m seeing great regional acts grace the stage at the most scenic setting, , all summer long,” Sheesley says. “The acoustics are great, and there’s simply not a bad seat in the house. With the additions of Cape Fear Community College’s , and now , I’ve got opportunities to see national acts, whether musicians, magicians, comedians, or whatever, that I used to have to travel to Raleigh or Charlotte to see.”

4. You’re never far from the water 

Not only is Wilmington bordered on the east by the Atlantic Ocean (and all the beaches that brings), but the Cape Fear River defines its western perimeter. The result? You never have to travel far to reap the benefits of being by the water. The are too many to count, but think: lower stress, more physical activity, better social interactions, and generally better moods. Not to mention, the gorgeous azure views all along the riverwalk and beyond.

5. Living in Wilmington, NC, makes for friendly neighbors

Maybe it’s all the vitamin D, that famous southern hospitality, or the residual benefits of living by the water, but locals tout the friendliness of people who live in Wilmington. “People are happy to live in a place that is essentially a paradise,” Sheesley says. “Happy people — which equates to nice and fun people — in a beautiful setting! What more could you ask for?” , a broker and real estate agent with Intracoastal Realty Corporation who was born in Wilmington and has sold real estate there for over 22 years, agrees. Her favorite part of living in Wilmington, NC, hands down? “The friendliness of the people,” she says. 

Sunset at Wrightsville Beach in North Carolina
Wrightsville Beach
(Source: )

6.  You can go to the beach anytime you want 

No need to plan a whole day trip to go to the beach, if you don’t want to. Given Wilmington’s proximity to several beautiful beaches, including Wrightsville Beach (a mere 15-minute drive), Carolina Beach, and Kure Beach, you can soak up some sun in the morning and head downtown to grab a bite to eat in the afternoon. Just get used to shaking sand out of your shoes and carrying a tube of SPF in your bag. 

7. It’s not all about the beach, though — there are so many other things to do in Wilmington, NC

Sure, there are beautiful water views, chill people, and sandy shores all around, but Wilmington is so much more than just a beach town. If she were describing the city to someone who’s never been there, Boney says she would have to point out its various personalities and features. “Wilmington has many ‘faces,’” she says. “Beautiful beaches; a variety of areas to live, from large, new well-planned neighborhoods to one of the largest Historic Districts in the state of North Carolina (about 230 blocks!); an array of fine restaurants; a major medical center with a Level II Trauma Center; an unbelievable arts community; an airport with non-stop jet service to major U.S. cities; and a university that is veteran-friendly and known for its affordability and academic quality.” In other words, there’s a lot to love and something for everyone in Wilmington. 

A happy woman in glasses and a blue shirt is holding a variety of U.S. currency notes and smiling.
(Source: )

8. The cost of living in Wilmington, NC, is below the national average 

Though you wouldn’t think it, given its location right by the ocean, the cost of living in Wilmington, North Carolina is actually a sweet . Lower average prices in categories like housing and groceries help residents save some cash. Utilities and transportation costs, however, tend to cost more than the national average. , Wilmington is a bit more expensive overall, though in relation to the , the cost of living in Wilmington, NC, is actually about 6 percent lower. 

9. The Wilmington job market is still evolving 

Around between 2020 and 2021. Banking company Live Oak Bank and financial software company nCino have done well in recent years, while the small business and tourism industry have started to take more of a back seat, particularly since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Beyond the numbers, it’s a shift locals have noticed. “For years, our hospital was the largest employer in our area. I’m not sure that’s not still true, but there has been tremendous growth in other industries, such as banking and pharmaceutical research. Film is coming back after losing many projects to Atlanta and other areas over the past 5 to 10 years. GE is a big employer here, and there are several others,” Sheesley explains. “Historically, I’ve always felt there was a lot of money in this area, but much of it was not made here. We were an area filled with small businesses and old money passed down for generations. With increased wages in some of these industries and companies, things continue to get brighter in Southeastern North Carolina.”  

10. You may have to wait in traffic 

It’s hardly an uncommon gripe for city living, but it’s worth noting that you’ll likely want to have a car and a good amount of patience for getting where you need to go. “It's still a car town,” explains . “Don't kid yourself into thinking you can live a normal life without one.” Boney, who has lived in Wilmington since she was born, attests that: “The traffic is bad.  We’re playing catch-up, unfortunately, and it’s going too slowly.” Luckily, you’re bound to have a nice view while driving around and can roll down the windows to take in a balmy breeze. 

11. Wilmington has a humid subtropical climate 

A translates to hot summers and cool but mild winters. In December and January, temperatures tend to linger around the 40s and 50s. It can creep above 100 degrees Farenheit in the depths of summer, though average temps are in the 80s (which can feel a lot hotter when you add in the muggy air). Warm weather lovers, this is your time to shine!

A group of friends enjoying an al fresco meal in Wilmington, NC.

12. There’s a delicious food scene and plenty of al fresco dining opportunities

It’s no surprise Wilmington was once named one of the dining by USA Today — the gorgeous weather and buzzy riverwalk are perfectly suited for it. If you’re looking for a nice meal to take your date or a cozy spot for a family meal, check out Eater Carolinas’ list of . From oyster pie and swordfish schnitzel at Seabird, to BLT arepas and other Latin-inspired dishes at Savorez, the city is home to a mouth-watering range of dining-out options. “For a really memorable meal, I’d head downtown to the many wonderful restaurants there,” Boney shares. “My favorite restaurant is Caprice Bistro in the very first block of Market Street. The food is delicious, the service is wonderful, and afterward you can get an ice cream cone at Kilwin’s next door before strolling along the riverwalk and see the USS North Carolina, our WWII battleship, berthed just across the Cape Fear River.”  

13. The riverwalk — and life along the river — simply can’t be beat 

A few years ago, Wilmington topped USA Today’s chart of the . Take a stroll along the riverwalk and you’ll see why. The two-mile boardwalk hugs the Cape Fear River and boasts shops, restaurants, galleries, boutiques, and other attractions. Particularly in the warmest months, you’ll see the walkway burst into life with tourists and locals alike dining, drinking, and cruising along the river. Sheesley says his favorite way to spend a weekend day in Wilmington is this: “Take in a show or get some good eats. Get close to the water with the ones I love.” Then, he says, top it all off with a sunset cruise along Cape Fear. 

Pro Tip: If these facts about living in Wilmington, NC, have convinced you that it’s your place, PODS can help you get started on your move to Wilmington right away. Whether you’re moving from within North Carolina or making a cross-country change, make your move a flexible one by having a PODS portable moving container delivered right to your driveway. Pack and load on your own schedule and, when you’re ready, PODS will pick it up and deliver it to your new home in Wilmington, NC. Need storage? No problem! With PODS, one month of storage is built into every move.

Sofia Rivera is a Boston-based lifestyle editor and frequent contributor to the PODS Blog. Her work has appeared in Boston magazine, Apartment Therapy, and more. You can most often find her redecorating her apartment, trying out a new recipe, or trekking all over the city.

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