Leaving Charleston and South Carolina we had a few days until our next hotel was booked over the border in Asheville, North Carolina. We had several choices of how to get there through NC and what to do in between. I thought I’d get on to the Lonely Planet forum and ask for some advice from those who live here. We were thinking about heading north up the coast to a place called Wilmington – the replies were along the lines of “why bother”, “what do you want to go there for”, “if you want so see the coast you can see that in Charleston.”
Mmmm, Wilmington didn’t sound good but we booked it anyway. After that was through what is known as the research triangle due to three universities in neighbouring cities – Raleigh, Chapel Hill and Durham. The advice was “these are just strip towns with nothing go direct”, “Durham is dead”, “If anywhere, stay at Chapel Hill”. We booked Chapel Hill.
The expert advisors wanted us to travel north/east from Charleston through the NC capital at Colombia – we didn’t and luckily as the weather through that area had some of the heaviest rains they have had for a while.
We had some not too bad weather driving north along the coast, which you couldn’t actually see anyway. But what we did want to do was drive through Myrtle Beach and North Myrtle Beach. I have never seen so many tacky mini-golf courses before. These were the ones with mountains, waterfalls, smoke machines, dinosaurs – in fact, you name it they had it. And restaurants of any brand you could think of, including a Greg Norman Grille, and golf carts, and not too many people – it was kind of dead because November is not Myrtle Beach time. However, I could imagine what it would be like during summer and schoolies time – think Gold Coast multiplied by ten by ten by ten.
We were happy with Wilmington, even if it does sit on the Cape Fear river system. I am sure the Lonely Planet people have probably never been there. We stayed at a new hotel in the historic river district. Short walk and we were in the middle of a lot of bars, restaurants, buskers, live music and a really nice river walk, which we considered better than Savannah’s tourist-trap waterfront. They are obviously doing a fair bit of work in Wilmington to bring it up to more tourist standard (but no mini-golf). The riverfront area is being expanded and there is a nice boardwalk. Not sure what is beyond the areas we walked but there was enough for an overnight stay.
Wilmington is also known as the second Hollywood and over 400 films and TV shows have been made there including Dawson’s Creek and Homeland. It attracts a bit of a young arty crowd (and people like us, or me at least). We had a good pub meal at a place called Copper Penny and nothing was annoying, apart from the rain in the morning when we thought we’d take a walk in the daylight along the river. And when I say rain, I don’t mean rain, I mean RAIN – and guess who didn’t have an umbrella or raincoat with them?
A change into dry clothes for Jim and off east to Chapel Hill, putting the windscreen wipers to test.