Saturday, July 20, 2013

Meander Around Airlie: Gardens By the Sea

When the weather's fine and we have a yen to venture a little further beyond our beloved Sunset Beach, Wilmington has a plethora of delightful places that we return to again and again.  One of these is Airlie Gardens.  Right near Wrightsville Beach, it's about an hour's drive from our condo in Sunset Village; and well worth the time.  The Gardens are impressive, dating back to the 1880's, featuring their 467-year-old Oak tree, and acres and acres of both formal and educational gardens surrounding some magically beautiful lakes.

Bottle Chapel at Night

The gardens provide for a self-guided walking tour (about a mile total), as well as tram service for those with mobility issues.  Throughout the park are delightful spots to just linger, and numerous curiosities to be discovered, such as their 2,700 square foot Butterfly House, and the quirkily beautiful Bottle Chapel.

Picnic tables are scattered throughout the park and it's a great place to enjoy a decadent lunch (although, it is recommend to call ahead if you are planning a weekend visit).  Don't feel like packing a picnic? There aren't any cafes at the Gardens, but there are plenty of excellent restaurants to stop by on your way there.  The Gardens are also a popular setting for many film and TV productions.  So if you find a particular part of the Gardens strangely familiar, it may be that you've seen it before on the silver screen!

The Lakes at Airlie are also an excellent vantage point for viewing the incredible range of birds and other wildlife that call our unique coastal areas home.  Although there are no public boat ramps, but it is possible to arrange a tour by Kayak through the North Carolina Office of Environmental Education.  With a little advance planning, you can take your family for a delightful adventure.