One of the best parts of downtown Wilmington, NC is the amazing history. We love to stroll the streets and back alleys thinking about bygone days, or visit the museums that chronicle Wilmington, NC life in earlier times.

That history continues on the Cape Fear River, where the city of Wilmington originated. Old ship chandler buildings, the Cotton Exchange (where paddle-wheel boats bought and sold King Cotton at the turn of the last century), and historic cobblestone streets make Wilmington an interesting place with a storied past.

Join us for a narrated sightseeing tour on the Cape Fear River. Here are a few of the historic sights you’ll see when you take a cruise on the river with Cape Fear Riverboats:

The Battleship North Carolina


Across the Cape Fear River from downtown Wilmington rests the Battleship North Carolina, one of the greatest sea weapons in U.S. history. Commissioned in 1941, the U.S.S. North Carolina earned 15 battle stars in the Pacific during World War II, steaming more than 300,000 miles. It carried out nine shore bombardments, sank an enemy troopship, destroyed at least 24 enemy aircraft, and assisted in shooting down many more.

The ship was decommissioned in 1947 and languished in New Jersey until a statewide campaign rescued the ship from the scrappers’ torches. A Battleship Commission encouraged children to donate their milk money to save the ship, and 700,000 North Carolina school children helped the cause. The ship was towed to its current berth in 1961.

The State Port


The Wilmington harbor helped make the city the largest in the state in the 1800s, bringing in pine tar, rice and tobacco. Later came rail service, and rail traffic and shipping flourished during the 1900s.  During World War II, Wilmington was the site of major shipbuilding efforts. Terminals to handle oceangoing vessels were completed at Wilmington and Morehead City in 1952.

The port is served by a 42-foot navigation channel dredged in the Cape Fear River. The Port of Wilmington is strategically located on the U.S. East Coast. Owned and operated by the North Carolina State Ports Authority, the Port of Wilmington offers terminal facilities serving container, bulk, and breakbulk operations.

The Federal Courthouse


The Alton Lennon Federal Building and Courthouse, also known as the Customs House, is a historic federal building and courthouse facing Water Street—easily the most prominent historic building on the waterfront. It was designed and built between 1916 and 1919 in an imposing three-story, Classical Revival style of light sandstone.

The building was named for U.S. Congressman and Senator Alton Lennon (1906-1986) in 1976. The courthouse may be best known as the outside of the courthouse on Andy Griffith’s Matlock TV series.

Cape Fear Riverboats invites you to take a pleasant cruise with us on the Cape Fear River. We’ll point out these and many other historic points of interest while you enjoy a fresh breeze on the Captain J.N. Maffitt, the John Knox, or soon, on our newest boat. Call Cape Fear Riverboats at (910) 343-1611 to learn more.


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