SOUTHEASTERN, N.C. — So, you know you want to enjoy one — or both — holiday flotillas, but you have no idea where to park. With thousands of sightseers set to enjoy Wrightsville and Carolina Beach’s holiday flotillas after Thanksgiving, how do you make sure you grab a good parking spot?
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Here’s what to expect and how to catch a glimpse of the upcoming waterborne holiday parades.
Wrightsville Beach’s 35th annual Holiday Flotilla
In Wrightsville Beach’s most popular day of the year — likely beating out July Fourth — sightseers should plan to be on the island hours ahead of the North Carolina Holiday Flotilla to grab a decent spot.
Held this year on Saturday, Nov. 24, the Heide Trask Drawbridge will go up at 6 p.m. to make way for the decorated boat parade. “Parking is at a premium,” Linda Brown, the flotilla’s committee chair said. “You know, it’s terrible. There’s no other way to candy coat it.”
To guarantee you get a parking spot, Brown suggests heading to Wrightsville Beach Park public parking complex earlier in the day for the Festival in the Park, held from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., and sticking around. That way, Brown said, you won’t have to deal with sitting in traffic and risk missing the show.
Boats will make their way around Harbor Island and Motts Channel toward the bridge on Causeway Drive before finishing up on the south end of the island near the Coast Guard station. With a large portion of the run on private property, Brown said the best public viewing spots are the bridge — if you can snag a spot — or along the channel at a public access point.
Captain Jason Bishop at the Wrightsville Beach Police Department said if you want to park near Banks Channel, you’ll need to arrive several hours early. “Anything closer to Banks Channel, you’re going to have to get here first thing in the morning to ensure a parking space,” he said.
Though there’s no fee to park in the off-season, public spaces will fill up quickly, Bishop said. Fireworks will follow shortly after the last boater makes their way around the route. Boat registration is still available online until Friday evening and more information on the event-packed weekend can be found here.
Visitors will not be able to park on the pavement at the following locations:
- North Channel Drive
- Island Drive
- Shore Drive
- South Channel Drive
- Point Place
- Live Oak Drive
- Lindy Lane
- Jasmine Place east of Live Oak Drive
- Myrtle Court
Other events in Wrightsville Beach
- Thursday, November 22nd, 8:30 a.m. the annual Cape Fear Habitat for Humanity Turkey Trot begins. Over 2,000 participants of this event will run the Loop 5k course which begins and ends at Town Hall. The eastbound lane of West Salisbury Street, the southbound lane of North Lumina Avenue between Salisbury Street and Causeway Drive, and the outside westbound lane of Causeway Drive will be closed to facilitate this race. Vehicles may experience some minor traffic delays from 8:25 a.m. to approximately 9:30 a.m. Wrightsville Beach Police Officers will be directing traffic where necessary.
Friday, November 23rd, 5:30 p.m. Tree Lighting Ceremony at Town Hall, Performance Club’s Elf Patrol will sing a variety of Christmas tunes followed by the lighting of the Town Christmas Tree welcoming Santa’s arrival to Wrightsville Beach. While waiting for a visit with Santa, enjoy a cup of hot chocolate as you listen to a special holiday musical performance by the Wilmington Celebration Choir.
Saturday, November 24th, 10:00 am – 4:00 pm North Carolina Holiday Flotilla Festival in the Park at Wrightsville Beach Park. Shop numerous unique craft vendors, eat delicious festival food, and entertain the kids with a variety of fun activities including games, bounce houses, and a ride on the Arab Choo Choo Train.
Carolina Beach’s Christmas Flotilla
Held the following weekend on Saturday, Dec. 1, Carolina Beach hosts a flotilla of its own.
“There’s no real organized place to watch, it’s kind of open and up for grabs,” Cindy Washington, chairperson of the Island of Lights flotilla committee, said.
With the traditional gathering spot for the marina-bound boat show, Gibby’s Dock and Dine, closed for the season due to hurricane repairs, Washington said Sharkies Burgers and Brews rooftop deck will likely be packed.
Beginning at the Snow’s Cut public boat ramp, boats will funnel through the Carolina Beach Marina and make a u-turn back out toward the inlet. You can catch the show from the start there, or try to find a spot right along the marina. “Right near the marina is where I suggest people trying to watch,” Washington said.
Surface parking lots near the marina will be open and free to use, Washington said. With no street closures, she said you’re likely to find an open spot within a reasonable walking distance of the parade.
Applications to register are available online until Nov. 29. More information on Carolina Beach’s Christmas Flotilla and other Island of Lights celebrations can be found here.