New Hanover Tours and Cruises
Bordering the Intracoastal Waterway and home to a number of charming towns like Wilmington, Wrightsville Beach and Carolina Beach, the New Hanover County area is an ideal locale for exploring the Cape Fear River while indulging in a number of specialty cruises.
While this area has no shortage of luxury tours for couples, corporate events or even weddings, the interesting mix of city upscale living and laidback beach attitude allows this coastal area to have a wide variety of tours catering to every vacationer's taste, and most with a little bit of local history and folklore mixed into the tour. In fact, visitors can even find a huge array of tours from a single well-known company, Henrietta III.
An example of this area's extravagant water tour and cruise variety is Wilmington's Henrietta III. Managed by Cape Fear Riverboats, Inc., 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, who lived on a plantation in what is now Fayetteville, North Carolina, built Henrietta in 1817-1818. Seawell named the boat after his daughter, and the massive steamboat was launched April 30, 1818 under the command of Captain Charles Taws.
Her first run from Fayetteville to Wilmington was in July 1818, and after the initial success, she continued to run the Cape Fear River between Wilmington and Fayetteville for 40 years. When she was retired from service, she had run at least 1.5 million miles on the river and had earned no less than $1.5 million 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's Wilmington debut. Henrietta II operated as a sightseeing and dinner cruise boat until she was sold on March 23, 2000. Henrietta II is still alive and well and is presently in Baltimore, Maryland, functioning as a dinner riverboat under the name of the Black-Eyed Susan. Henrietta III, under the command of Captain J.N. Maffitt, has taken over the duties of entertaining visitors up and down the Cape Fear River and is doing a fine job of carrying on a long and fun tradition.
While the Henrietta III stays loyal to the Cape Fear waters that the former Henriettas traveled, this cruise boat offers a huge array of entertainment options for folks who are looking for an interesting night out. On Friday and Saturday nights from April through December, visitors can sign up for the popular Dinner Dance Cruise. Held from 7:30 to 10:00 p.m., passengers are treated to a huge Southern buffet of tossed salad, baked French rolls, seasoned homestyle baked chicken, sliced roast beef in homemade brown sauce, vegetables, side dishes and desserts, followed by a romantic evening of dancing on the deck.
For a little spooky fun, try the Murder Mystery Dinner Cruise. During the 2-hour cruise on Tuesdays from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., passengers mingle with unusual characters and watch for clues as they enjoy the ship's sumptuous buffet. This cruise feeds on audience participation, and the crime-solver wins a prize at the end of the night.
On Wednesday nights from 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m., Henrietta visitors can combine Southern history and Southern cooking with the Sunset Cruise, a nostalgic and relaxing adventure along the calm waters of the scenic Cape Fear River. This tour features a narration by the Captain on local points of interest and amusing anecdotes. Passengers will be treated to the Shrimp-a-loo Buffet, featuring peel & eat shrimp, seasoned homestyle baked chicken, oven roasted seasoned red potatoes, corn on the cob, creamy coleslaw, Mexican cornbread and dessert.
Finally, for a more lighthearted affair, try the Redneck Wedding Comedy Cruise, where guests can come and watch Bubba and Sallie Jean get hitched and share the BBQ Wedding Buffet. Bring along your appetite because there will be plenty of pork barbecue, baked chicken, cole slaw, corn on the cob, baked beans, cornbread, and of course, wedding cake.
For an easy introduction to the Cape Fear area, take advantage of the cruise's lunch and sightseeing tours during the day. Henrietta III offers 45 to 90 minute sightseeing tours of the Cape Fear area, narrated by the captain and crew. You can even book a water taxi to the famous USS North Carolina Battleship, or book a 4-hour relaxing cruise up the wooded Black Tar River.
Have your own private party in mind? Henrietta III is also open for private party rentals, ranging from small corporate retreats to large wedding receptions. Guests can rent a single deck or the entire boat for a quick day trip or an entire evening. The boat is also available for rehearsal dinners, engagement parties, birthday parties, anniversary parties, retirement parties, family reunions, school reunions, and more.
Cruises and tours are seasonal and vary on a regular basis. Often, there are also holiday tours available, ranging from Valentine's Day Sweetheart Cruises to patriotic 4th of July Celebrations. For more information, stop by the Cape Fear Riverboat's headquarters in downtown Wilmington.
The New Hanover area offers plenty of opportunities to go offshore charter fishing in the Gulf Stream through local fishing boat companies, like Class Action Charters. In addition, the miles of Intracoastal Waterway present another unique and fun experience for visiting and local anglers: inshore fishing.
Inshore fishing charters can take place in the Intracoastal Waterway, salt marshes and tidal creeks behind Carolina Beach, Wrightsville Beach and Topsail Beach, as well as in the Cape Fear River. Once you board the boat, the variety of locales allows you to cast, troll or bottom fish for a variety of inshore fish, namely flounder, red and black drum, speckled and gray trout, bluefish, striped bass, croaker, Virginia mullet and spot.
The light fishing tackle makes landing these fish a thrill that anglers of every skill level can enjoy. Generally, the fishing trips are shorter than offshore fishing, which is usually a half or full day event, since the boats explore waters close to home. In addition, with less fuel cost and shorter trips, an inshore fishing trip can be less expensive than a day of fishing in the Gulf Stream.
Carolina Explorer Fishing Charter and Guide Service of Carolina Beach is one such company that offers both offshore and inshore fishing. On their expeditions, bait, ice and tackle are provided on the fishing charter. All guests have to bring is food and drinks for the ride. Inshore fishing trips are available for 1-4 people, for 4-7 hour trips, and can range in cost from $250 to $450 for the entire trip.