About Cape Fear Riverboats

Captain J.N. Maffitt Sightseeing Cruise Boat

Captain J.N. Maffitt

Jacob's Run

Cape Fear Riverboats is Wilmington NC’s longest continuously running river cruise line for the public to enjoy. We’ve been in business since 1987 and are celebrating our 31st year on the historic Cape Fear River. We offer narrated sightseeing cruises, historic narrated river tours, adventure excursions, and nature tours. Our riverboats offer a unique venue (private charter) for holiday parties, anniversaries, birthdays and family reunions. You’ll find our cruises are perfect for business groups and special functions for all occasions! Perfect for business & board meetings/cocktail cruises/mixer functions.

Our Story

Cape Fear Riverboats, Inc. was founded in 1987 by Captain Carl Marshburn, a boat captain, businessman, and a strong advocate for tourism and history. Over thirty years-ago, when there were only a handful of visitor attractions located in Downtown Wilmington, Capt. Carl envisioned the historic district as a major tourist attraction. He saw the need for getting people out on the water to really take in the sights, while hearing all about the area’s rich history with fascinating live narration.

“I love to entertain people and this seemed like something good for Wilmington,” he said. “I saw the need for family-friendly, fun riverboat cruises departing from downtown on our popular river that would not only be a great adventure for people of all ages, but also to accurately interpret the region’s nautical history, natural beauty and the unique river ecology”.

“Captain Carl Marshburn is truly a tourism leader”, states Kim Hufham, past president of North Carolina Travel Industry Association. “Since the early days of the Convention and Visitors Bureau, he has been a strong supporter and advocate of local and state tourism. It is due, in part, to Captain Carl’s efforts that Wilmington’s historic district has become such a popular and thriving tourist attraction”.

Cape Fear Riverboats offers a variety of narrated historic sightseeing, sunset, and nature cruises, plus, private charter voyages. “Welcome Aboard!” has long been the motto of Captain Carl Marshburn and the Cape Fear Riverboats crews as they continue to offer the finest in Southern hospitality, entertaining hundreds of thousands of passengers who have boarded their vessels. Cape Fear Riverboats operates two cruise boats that the public can enjoy. Cruises are available on Jacob’s Run, as well as The Captain J. N. Maffitt.

These popular cruise boats have daytime and evening sunset cruises on the Cape Fear, as well as, special tours of the nearby Black River, too. Individual tickets can be purchased for friends and families, plus, group charter opportunities also are available for parties up to 48.

Delicious food and drinks, (including beer, wine and cocktails) are available before and after boarding at Cape Fear Riverboats’ popular restaurant partner, “Anne Bonny’s Bar & Grill” for purchase. Plus, enjoy their new Lazy Jack’s Ice Cream Shack at the dock! Take these onboard with you to enjoy during your cruise, plus, you can even bring your OWN food and drink onboard if you like, which visiting family and locals both appreciate.

History, southern hospitality and a safe, enjoyable time on the water is what Cape Fear Riverboats is all about, but adding in tasty food and drinks is always a welcome addition, too!

Cape Fear River Boats


Our Previous Boats

From 2000 – 2015, we proudly sailed the HENRIETTA III on the Cape Fear River. HENRIETTA III is named for HENRIETTA, a trailblazer for steamboats on the Cape Fear River, which enjoyed a long and financially successful life. James Seawell at his plantation at what is now Fayetteville, North Carolina built her in 1817-1818. Seawell named the boat for his daughter HENRIETTA. HENRIETTA was launched April 30, 1818 under the command of Captain Charles Taws. Her first run from Fayetteville to Wilmington was in July 1818. She ran the river between Wilmington and Fayetteville for forty years. When she was retired from service, she had run at least one and one-half million miles on the Cape Fear River and had earned no less than 1.5 million dollars for her owners.

Under the ownership of Cape Fear Riverboats, Inc., construction of HENRIETTA II, North Carolina’s only true sternwheel riverboat, began in mid-September 1987 in Greenville, Mississippi. She debuted in Wilmington on April 2, 1988 – almost exactly 170 years after HENRIETTA debuted into Wilmington. HENRIETTA II operated as a sightseeing and dinner cruise boat until she was sold on March 23, 2000. She is presently in Baltimore, Maryland and is functioning as a dinner riverboat under the name of the BLACK-EYED SUSAN. Today, Cape Fear Riverboats currently operates the versatile CAPTAIN J. N. MAFFITT and JACOB’S RUN, and welcomes you aboard!

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