The Tar Heel State Part 3: Fayetteville, Wilmington and Wrightsville Beach
Updated: Feb 8
My third and final post about this trip takes us on a journey to the gorgeous beaches of North Carolina with a few stops along the way.
The first stop on my trip to the North Carolina coast was in Fayetteville, at the Cape Fear Botanical Gardens, which were established in 1989. Though I visited during the winter season, leaves still hung on trees in vibrant hues of deep oranges and yellows.
The gardens span 80 acres, of which I only saw a small part. It was a lovely place to meander down pathways, stretch my legs and take in the native flora and fauna of North Carolina.
From the botanical gardens, I drove only two miles and arrived in the historic downtown district of Fayetteville. Fayetteville, along with several other cities and counties, is named after the Revolutionary War hero, Marquis de Lafayette. Fayetteville, North Carolina however has the distinction of being the "first and only." It was the first city named after the war hero and the only city where he actually visited.
This statue of Lafayette in Cross Creek Park honors the city's namesake. Born in Chavaniac, France, Marquis de Lafayette was a French aristocrat and close friend of George Washington, with whom he fought against the British in the American Revolutionary War. Shortly after the American victory, Lafayette returned home to France where he fought in the French Revolution as well.
Just steps from the statue is the First Presbyterian Church, originally built in 1816. Due to a fire in 1831, it was rebuilt the following year, incorporating brick from the original building.
After exploring the city of Fayetteville, I decided to grab a bite before getting back on the road and heading to the coast. I had lunch at The Friends Table which was started by friends Portia Grady, who operates as head chef, and Mahalia Robinson, who functions as CFO. The restaurant has great indoor and outdoor space and serves delicious, comfort food in a warm environment that makes you feel as though you are indeed dining at a friend's table.
Shrimp and Grits
Creamy grits topped with andouille sausage, cream sauce and shrimp.
About two hours southeast of Fayetteville is the city of Wilmington, located along the Cape Fear River. This port city, established in 1739, has a lovely boardwalk filled with shops, restaurants and galleries, that runs along the river.
The Battleship North Carolina, launched in 1940, is moored just across the Cape Fear River. During World War II, the battleship participated in every major naval offensive in the Pacific area of operations and earned 15 battle stars.
After walking along the Cape Fear River, I decided to explore things just inland from the water, in downtown Wilmington.
What better way to do that than in a horse drawn carriage?
My carriage ride took me up and down the streets of Wilmington and by many historic homes such as this one.
I drove a short distance from Wilmington to Wrightsville Beach and arrived just before sunset, and in time to take a long walk along the water, with waves crashing on one side of me and sand dunes and marram grass on the other.
After my walk, I decided to head to dinner. On my way, I came across the winestore (yes, it is spelled in lowercase). The first thing I noticed upon walking in was the self-serve wine machine. Intrigued, I grabbed a wine card, added some money and got to taste a variety of wines.
The winestore offers wines for any budget and guarantees the lowest prices. Whether you are a wine novice or a seasoned connoisseur, there is something here for you. I ended up spending much more time there than planned due to a passionate conversation about wine that the manager engaged me in. (Shout out to Josh for the engaging conversation, the restaurant recommendation and the complimentary bottles of wine.)
Based on Josh's recommendation, I cancelled my previous reservation and came to dinner here, at True Blue Butcher and Table. While True Blue has had some mixed reviews, I must say that my meal was excellent.
Steak, french fries, and side salad.
From Julia Child to Gordon Ramsey, though they say it in different ways, they all agree that fat is flavor. Because tenderloin has very little intramuscular fat, I am not really a tenderloin kinda girl. The steak offered at True Blue was a tenderloin. Let's just say, I was suspicious. To my surprise and delight, this steak was tender, flavorful and delicious!
I went home on a full stomach, fell asleep and woke up to this magnificent view from my hotel room, on my last day in North Carolina.
The Tar Heel State, where the Wright brothers took their first flight, where Pepsi Cola was birthed, where Babe Ruth hit his first professional home run, and where amazing musicians like John Coltrane, James Taylor and Nina Simone come from, is a must see. I will definitely be returning again to explore more of this beautiful state.