In 1866 a steamship began carrying vacationers down the Cape Fear River to Snow's Cut and a small railroad took them the rest of the way into Carolina Beach. In later years, a high-rise bridge was built over Snow's Cut connecting the island with the mainland.
Carolina Beach also offers one of the few state parks in the region. For a modest fee, you can camp and enjoy the wonders of coastal nature. The Venus's flytrap, a carnivorous plant that eats insects, is abundant in the park. This plant, a relic from pre-human existence, grows naturally within a 60-mile radius of Wilmington.
Away from the seasonal bustle at the center of the city, Carolina Beach is a quiet community of about 5,000 year-round residents. That number jumps three to five times at the peak of the vacation season. The community is growing in appeal to both locals from Wilmington and newcomers from other areas for two big reasons:Â It isn't crowded yet and it's affordable. Many a Wilmingtonian has given Wrightsville Beach over to visitors for the summer in the past few years and turned to Carolina Beach for a quiet spot on the sand.
Once upon a time, some of the best real estate deals could be found in Kure Beach, but today this sleepy beach town is fast growing in popularity and price, although it's still possible to find a bargain. What you won't find is a lot of amusement park–style entertainment here, although there is an arcade, and there is very little in the way of shopping.
A permanent population of about 1,500 residents makes for a very close community, but Kure Beach's small size should not lead visitors to think they're out in the boondocks. The town maintains its own municipal services and fire protection, and a local planner describes the community as being "like any big city, only smaller."
To the south of Kure Beach are the Fort Fisher State Historic Site and Fort Fisher State Recreation Area. The Historic Site, amidst twisted live oaks on the west side of U.S. Highway 421, was the largest of the Confederacy's earthwork fortifications during the Civil War. It fell to Union forces in 1865, cutting off the last of the Confederate supply lines from the sea. During World War II, as an arm of Camp Davis to the north, it became an important training site for anti-aircraft and coastal artillery defenses and a large airstrip was located there. An extensive visitors center offers an historical perspective and guided tours. The Recreation Area on the east side of U.S. 421 has 4 miles of wide, unspoiled beach, a visitors' center with a bath house, a snack bar and restrooms