Wilmington, NC

Population: 113,724 livability score shield

Key findings

  • Wilmington has a Livability Score of 65/100, which is considered below average
  • Wilmington crime rates are 20% higher than the North Carolina average
  • Cost of living in Wilmington is 6% higher than the North Carolina average
  • Wilmington real estate prices are 43% higher than the North Carolina average
  • Rental prices in Wilmington are 7% higher than the North Carolina average

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      Wilmington, NC

      Wilmington is a beautiful coastal city found in eastern North Carolina. It sits in the southeastern portion of the state. The city has both a riverfront along the Cape Fear River and a beachfront along the Atlantic Ocean. It is one of the most populous cities in the state as well, with a population of over one hundred thousand. It is a city with great tourist attractions and great historical benefits.

      Wilmington is great for young professionals and for families. There are neighborhoods available to fit anyone's budget throughout the city. There are even upscale neighborhoods such as Autumn Hill as well as Brunswick Forest close to downtown Wilmington. Wherever you choose to live, you can find access to the beach, whether Wrightsville Beach or another, as well as great shopping at locations such as Mayfair Town Center.

      The costs of living in Wilmington are, on average, much lower than the costs across the rest of the city. This includes both mortgage pricing and rental pricing. There are homes with a value of around $1 million dollars, but most homes are valued at less than $200,000. There are even apartments available for under $600, though there are more expensive as well.

      As mentioned above, there are many attractions to keep you or your family busy in Wilmington, North Carolina. There are great shopping centers such as Mayfair Town Center and beaches such as Wrightsville Beach that offer sunbathing, surfing, swimming and more. There is even a movie studio in Wilmington called EUE Screen Gems Studios, one of the largest in America. There is Coast Guard and World War II history throughout as well which can be experienced through visiting the USS North Carolina or the Cape Fear Museum.

      Wilmington has a great small-town vibe despite its metropolitan amenities. Within this small town feel, there is public transportation available through the Cape Fear Public Transportation Authority. This transportation office offers buses and shuttles throughout the city. There is also a free trolley that goes around downtown Wilmington.

      As mentioned above, most of Wilmington's home prices are lower than those in the rest of the country. This trend continues in the cost of living. Gas prices and electric bills are much less expensive than those in the rest of the country. As Wilmington is a tourist town, however, food taxes and prices may be higher than are found elsewhere.

      Wilmington is a great place to live on the eastern shore of North Carolina. It has great living costs to allow you and your family to engage in all that the town has to offer. Be sure to visit the historical monuments, the studios and the museums, as well as the beach and the Cape Fear River to experience the beautiful nature centered in this city as well.

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      Wilmington Reviews

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      Best Place I’ve Ever Lived
      My family fell in love with Wilmington in our first visit. Don’t put too much stock into the negatives that you see. This place has everything. Easy access to multiple beaches. It’s made for outdoor life with tons of parks and sidewalks. The cross-city trail is awesome!

      I don’t know how long you have to live here before you hit every great restaurant, but we’ve been here 4 years and we’re not even close. Still so many we’ve yet to try. Riverwalk, historic downtown, film industry, The Battleship, and on and on. It’s like living on vacation.

      I tell my family and friends to be careful when they visit, because once you fall in love with Wilmington, nowhere else will do.
      4 0
      Why do people want to move here?
      I have been a current resident for over 20 years. The majority of people moving to the area are from up North and they think it is a great value for a beach town. Having been here a long time I can honestly say that the crime rate is very high for a town with a relatively small population. There is very little to do here. You can only see the battleship, the aquarium at Fort Fisher, and downtown so many times before being completely bored. Yes, we do have a lot of restaurants here. Some are very good. We also have several beaches to choose from. Wrightsville Beach raises the parking rate every single year so it is very expensive to park and hard to find a spot. The beaches here are dirty in my opinion. The water is always murky and there are frequent drownings from those who don't know how to swim out of a rip current. The cost of living is very high and the wages are very low. It does not matter if you have a degree. The wages are still low compared to other cities. I am also from a hot climate, but this area is extremely hot and humid every summer. It makes you not want to go outside. This place is definitely over rated and I am counting the days until I can move.
      9 -6
      Two Verrrrry Enthusiastic Paws Up!
      Wilmington is quite possibly the best kept secret on the East Coast- for pets and their people! Myself and my other half had decided to relocate from the north; we were looking for better weather, an artsy vibe, historic neighborhoods that were walking distance to downtown. Great eats, a reliable local airport and -most importantly- a yard for the dog we were planning to adopt. Both of us had lived in major cities (LA, DC, NYC) had travelled internationally and wanted to find our signature stateside city.Well, it took four excel spreadsheets... many months of research.... weeks on the road... and Wilmington was it! There are so many green spaces, the restaurants are mostly locally owned and the food is fantastic. Carolina Place (where we landed) is where Dawson’s Creek was filmed... remember those beautiful historic homes with the gorgeous front porches? And guess what... it’s super affordable. Houses are about half of what they would be in Raleigh and property taxes are low. In 20 minutes you can be in the sand on the beach. Go westward and you’ll find the mountains of Asheville.Our area is filled with transplants from all across the country. We are diverse, eclectic, young professionals and retirees- a welcome mix. As a couple in our 30’s and 40’s, we were looking for more theatre and less partying, more neighborhood porch parties and less of the worries that come with the bigger cities. A port city, the historic boardwalk offers a lovely setting to enjoy a glass of wine while watching the sunset. Best of all, the prices are absurdly affordable... some of the up and coming areas have fixer upper cottages for less than you’d pay for a high end car. We chose a bed and breakfast on the historic home tour with 3000 sf and it was priced under $400k. Although Wilmington hasn’t taught us to cook, the neighborhood diner is only a few blocks away. And as for the sellers who were retiring and had sold to us? They literally moved across the street. Come and check out Wilmington- you’ll be glad you did!
      6 -1
      Best Kept Secret on the East Coast
      We moved to Wilmington after an exhaustive search of the lower 48. My other half works remotely out of NYC, we have both travelled extensively internationally and nationally. Our goal was to find an affordable city with the USA with beautiful historic homes, amazing food, close to the water, walkable to downtown, good weather, low traffic, lots of sunshine and welcoming people. Added bonus if the downtown featured dog friendly restaurants, an outdoor cafe culture, had an artsy vibe and was easily accessible by air to major hubs. We discovered Wilmington quite by chance, and are still happily confused as to why it was well within our budget.The great thing about Wilmington is that it is a compilation of so many towns- each with their own identity. Carolina Beach, for example, is mostly walking distance to the ocean... lots of sand and surf, but thankfully not overcrowded by high rises. Local zoning ordinances limit the height of buildings, so while parking can be annoying, you’re not subject to the concrete soullessness that is now so much of coastal America. The beaches are seasonally dog friendly, and provided Fido is on a leash people don’t seem to complain. Carolina Heights, by contrast, is filled with historic mansions, lovely front porches and an antebellum flair- all only 20 minutes walking distance to downtown. Because Wilmington was never destroyed during the Civil War, it retains some of the most unique housing and architecture in the USA. The quintessential ‘Dawson’s Creek’ series was filmed here, as was ‘One Tree Hill’; our neighborhood (Carolina Heights) regularly hosts fans who want to walk the literal streets of their favorite shows. Just across the road, Carolina Place (less pricey than Carolina Heights) has so many fun and funky artist bungalows. Many are priced under $300k, and fixer uppers come along regularly under $200k. There are so many parks, finding a place to play or throw a frisbee is easy. The beautiful old trees that line our streets and are graced by hanging moss, make it easy to see why so many films were made locally.The hipster vibe is alive and well here, and some of the food is downright dangerous. Fork and Cork offers fantastic local cuisine and prices are incredibly reasonable. THIS IS NOT HELPFUL FOR YOUR WAISTLINE. The Castle Street area has an ever expanding array of breakfast cafes, coffee shops and higher end restaurants. A port town, the Boardwalk also hosts a number of higher end establishments where you can enjoy your drink while watching the sun set in summer. Much of the riverfront area is undergoing extensive redevelopment, with luxury condos and house boat slips being offered.If you’re looking for more modern accommodation, outlying developments with easy proximity to city amenities are abundant... whether you are looking for gold courses, tennis courts, walking trails, chances are that there is a community that suits your needs. Although the traffic does increase in the summer months, it’s nothing remotely comparable to DC /NY /Raleigh and the hour long commutes that so many of us leave the big cities over. Property taxes are reasonable, too.One of the biggest draws to Wilmington are the people. The community spirit is incredible. My other half and I (Samira K Davis) bought our home here several months before Hurricane Florence. I had written a review of Wilmington on another site and was so overwhelmed with questions and responses that I decided to get my real estate license. My first day with Coldwell Banker Seacoast Advantage was just days before Florence made landfall. The owner of the company helped me to get buildings donated that served as distribution centers and an animal rescue shelter. The distribution center gave more than $150,000 of product to the community and served over 2,000 families. Having lived in other cities, that type of dedication to the local community was something that I had not seen before. It means a lot, to know that there are still places like this.If you are thinking of moving to Wilmington, or any other city, my best advice is to rent an AirBnB in the area that you are considering purchasing. This will allow you to experience the neighborhood first hand, so you can make an informed decision. Always walk as much of a neighborhood as you can, before putting in an offer- driving will never give you the same sense. Also, because of Florence, there are now areas that have flooded with no prior flood history- make sure you ask the owner (in writing!) whether the home that you are interested did flood, and if so to what extent. Many lenders will require flood insurance to be purchased in a flood hazard zone, and while the maps are being updated, you don’t want to risk getting caught with added mandatory flood insurance premiums down the road. If the home you are purchasing did take on water and has since been remodeled, make sure that the inspector you hire uses a moisture meter to check for damage that may not be visible to the naked eye. Good luck with your search!
      6 -1
      Not for Single women
      Beachtown - lots of single women looking for good men. Dating sites filled with men with swinging Mentality. Very few cultured men-lots of posers!! Southerners still cautious and Clicky! Very few excellent restaurants. Divorce common because of beachrown mentality. Great beaches but boring in winter. Swim late June to late September. Disappointing and weird that everyone moving there searching for Shangri La. Boredom and very little activities, culture. Everyone is a realtor btw. Don't buy...best to rent...you won't stay - everyone leaves!
      2 -1
      It was okay living there but I do not miss it now
      We lived in Wilmington for two years. It was alright. There are a lot of people that have retired there from New York and New Jersey. It does not feel like the south compare to others place I have visited. I feel for the locals because the home prices are rising as more and more people move into the area from the Northeast.What I liked most is that they did have health food stores (Whole Foods and Trader Joes.) I liked going to Flaming Amy's, the Oceanic restaurant and the fish market. I liked Kure Beach. I also liked they have UBER service. I liked that they had their own TV station and local newspaper.What I did not like is cost to park your car to go to the beach at Wrightsville and Carolina Beach. I dislike that the only homes with natural gas are part of the city that no one would live much less walk there at night. Poor home construction and heat pumps made it difficult to keep your home warm in the winter and cool in the summer. The electric bill were very high. I did not like the city water system. It did not like right at times and tasted strange.One of the worst public airports to fly in. ILM is just awful. I have had three flights canceled and rescheduling your flight is terrible. You are better off going to Raleigh. One visit downtown was enough for me. When you have seen the Battleship and Riverwalk once, you do not really have a desire to see it again. I did not find any really great restaurants and the prices were high what you get. I do not drink so the bars scene did not really interest me. Downtown is more for visitors. The summer are very hot and humid. Going to the beach is okay but the water was very warm and I worried about people fishing for sharks off the piers that may affect why there are so many shark sighting the summers I was there.Drugs are big problem like the rest of the U.S.A. It appears that the suppliers are also coming down from the northeast. I have been gone for 6 months and I really do not miss it. It was not bad but it was not really special either. I hope you have a better experience than I did.
      3 -1
      My Time In Wilmington, NC
      I lived in Wilmington North Carolina for 4 years and enjoyed every moment of it. Just a short drive over Cape Fear gets you to the beach towns of Carolina and Kure Beach, so Wilmington itself is definitely a beach community. The city of Wilmington itself still has a southern hospitality type of feel and avoids feeling like a tourist town. The small town feel gives you a tight knit community with lots of parks, pools, and other recreation for the residents.

      For those who are visiting, there is still plenty to do and see. Monkey Junction is where a small, charming zoo is. There is also an old USS battleship that you can board and tour. Make sure to feed the resident alligator who loves popcorn from the visitors. Ski rental, Jet skis, and bikes also allow you to have fun on the beaches. You can even boat out to the islands around the beach and enjoy a bbbq, dig for clams, and my favorite, find sand dollars.

      Wilmington is more of a family beach city than a party town, so the night life is not that of a tourist beach town. Most nights people congregate at the pier or arcade, or may take a stroll on the beach. You can also find most chain restaurants there with a smattering of local mom and pop restaurants with the freshest sea food. Giving Wilmington a visit is definitely worth time for a lovely family vacation or even to carve out living space.
      2 -1
      Source: The Wilmington, NC data and statistics displayed above are derived from the 2016 United States Census Bureau American Community Survey (ACS).