Wilmington, NC

You Should Totally Visit This Gorgeous Place in Wilmington, NC

One Writer

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Airlie Gardens,Photo by the author

What is Airlie Gardens?

There’s a beautiful place in Wilmington, NC called Airlie Gardens. It only costs $9.00 for admission and you can spend the better part of a day strolling through the lush grounds, viewing beautiful flowers, spacious greens, and towering Live oak trees. There is much to see and for a nice outdoor day, consider Airlie Gardens on your visit to the coastal city of Wilmington.

The Airlie Gardens website calls it “A Century of Gardens by the Sea” and as lovely as that sounds, it’s true. Airlie Gardens was “founded” in 1884 when Pembroke and Sarah Jones purchased the property and transformed it into a beautiful garden.

In 1999 the New Hanover County Commissioners and local residents purchased and committed to restoring the property into lush gardens for the public to enjoy using a grant from the Clean Water Management Trust Fund. You can join the gardens today as a member to offer continued support for this historic property.

One historical tidbit that makes this an interesting trip is to see the artwork of Minnie Evans, once hired by the Corbett Family (property owners at the time) to manage the gate at Airlie.

Evans was an African American surrealist and visionary artist who worked with various media from the 1940s through the 1980s. Her artwork and historical information about her are available at the “bottle garden” area of the grounds (pictured below). The feature was named the Minnie Evans Sculpture Garden as a tribute to her work.

(Here is a bit more about the life and artwork of this memorable artist.)

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Slideshow of photos / Minnie Evans Sculpture GardenPhotos by the author

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Photo of Minnie Evans / bookPhoto by the author

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Minnie Evans Sculpture Garden / Sculpture art by Minnie EvansPhoto by the author

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Sculpture art by Minnie EvansPhoto by the author

If you’d like to know more about the history of the gardens, how ownership passed through the generations and how the property has changed over the years, you can go to this document: Airlie Gardens Historical Timeline, which offers a historical timeline.

Each year the gardens host school groups or other children’s organizations to the tune of over 4000+ children, according to the Airlie website. There are events held throughout the year as well like the Butterfly releases happening June 8-September 7th of 2021.

Where is Airlie Gardens?

Airlie Gardens is located at:

300 Airlie Rd, Wilmington, NC 28403

Contact: (910) 798-7700

Ticket pricing: (Pre-ordering of tickets on the website is a new policy)

General Admission – $9

New Hanover Resident, with ID – $5

Military (Active & Retired), with ID – $5

Children 4-12 – $3

Airlie Members – FREE (must be reserved in advance)

*Children 3 & under are FREE and do not require reserved tickets.

What’s it like at Airlie Gardens?

Airlie is a 67-acre beautiful botanical gardens area with a historical Episcopal church, a Butterfly Observatory, statues and columns, and a serene observation dock out over the water. It is a historic public garden with cultural and environmental programs for New Hanover County residents and visitors.

Walking the grounds is a relaxing time. Plan for the weather as you'll spend the majority of your time outdoors, aside from time spent inside the butterfly observatory recently added in 2020, and the small gift shop where you can purchase mementos, books, or pieces of art to commemorate your visit.

Here are some lovely pictures from my visit in June 2021:

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Airlie Gardens,Photo by the author

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Lebanon Chapel Episcopal Church on the premises,Photo by the author

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Lebanon Chapel Episcopal Church on the premises,Photo by the author

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Part of the Airlie Gardens scenery,Photo by the author

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Part of the Airlie Gardens scenery,Photo by the author

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Butterfly observation area,Photo by the author

What to Bring:

  • Sunscreen
  • Hat & sunglasses
  • Refillable water bottle
  • Comfortable shoes
  • Camera (see Photography Policy)

Not Permitted: Pets & Emotional Support Animals, Sporting Equipment, Drones, Balloons, Tables, Birthday Parties

Why you should visit Airlie Gardens

Airlie Gardens is a lovely trip. If you enjoy outdoor spaces and beautiful botanical landscaping, you should really enjoy a nice stroll through this historical property. Carve out a half-day slice of your next vacation to Wilmington and visit this historical area. Tip your hat to Minnie Evans’ artwork and take selfies by the water. It’s all there for you to enjoy by yourself, with a loved one, or with your whole family.

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Butterfly in the observatory,Photo by the author

Take care not to disturb the landscape, water sources, or structures so that others may enjoy it as well. Leave the pooch home for this trip (even support animals are not allowed).

Enjoy your visit! While you’re in the area, plan a trip over to Southport, as well. And take your dog for that indulgent stroll by the Cape Fear River!

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