Cape Fear Riverboats, Inc. was founded in 1987 by Captain Carl Marshburn, boat captain, businessman, and strong advocate for tourism and history. Long before Wilmington was named one of TripAdvisor’s ‘Top Destinations on the Rise,’ Capt. Carl envisioned the downtown Wilmington historic district as a major tourist attraction. He knew people would enjoy water views of Wilmington coupled with rich narration highlighting the area’s history, legends, and charm.
“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”.
Throughout our history, we have offered a variety of narrated historic sightseeing, sunset, and nature cruises, plus, private charter voyages. For many years, we operated the Henrietta III, a large riverboat offering formal dinners, hosting weddings, and other special events. Recently, Capt. Carl and his son Daren decided to downsize a bit and now operate two smaller vessels offering tours of up to 50 people at a time.
Our current tour boats, Jacob’s Run and the Captain J.N. Maffitt, run both daytime and evening cruises on the Cape Fear. Exclusive nature tours of the pristine Black River with narration by local ecologist Andy Wood are a real treat and offered twice per month (April-October). 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 Anne Bonny’s Bar & Grill for purchase. You are welcome to bring food and beverages aboard with you to enjoy during your cruise. You can even bring your OWN food and drink (beer and wine included) aboard if you like!
History, southern hospitality, beautiful views, and a safe, enjoyable time on the water is what has made and continues to make Cape Fear Riverboats the best tour in downtown Wilmington!
Our Previous Boats
From 2000 – 2015, we proudly sailed the HENRIETTA III on the Cape Fear River. HENRIETTA III is named for the original 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, 2015. She is presently in upstate New York and functions as a dinner riverboat. Today, Cape Fear Riverboats currently operates the versatile CAPTAIN J. N. MAFFITT and JACOB’S RUN, and welcomes you aboard!