Camps That Rock

29 Mar 2014

We have lots of camp options, from sports and science to academics and religion, to make your home very quiet this summer

Summer Camp Guide

Summer’s almost here, which means afternoons on the beach, weekend barbecues and the end of the school year is upon us. Fortunately, for folks around Wilmington, there are plenty of activities and camps for school-aged kids that will keep them occupied, engaged and enjoying themselves all summer long.

 To make finding the perfect summer camp – whether it’s a day, a week or a month long – easier, we’ve compiled a list of some of the best in the area; we even included a few you may not have heard of. Take a look, circle your favorites and pack the kids’ bags, it’s camp time.


 Summer Camps Wilmington NC

» Marine Quest

UNCW’s Marine Quest slate of summer programs is guaranteed to keep the kids busy. Whether you’re looking for a half-day program, one that’s a day long, or even an overnight camp, they’ve got you covered. Kids 5-8 can take advantage of half-day programs like the Sea Squirts where kids “discover some of the shelly, fishy, crusty, squishy and scummy critters” that inhabit our waters. Older kids can participate in activities ranging from Surf-n Science to O.C.E.A.N.S. (Ocean Career Exploration and Nautical Science), a program that shows you what it takes to have an ocean-based career. There are even advanced camps where teens can receive their SCUBA certification.

 » Young Writers Workshop

This camp for aspiring writers was founded in 2001 by UNCW’s Creative Writing Department MFA Program, and quickly grew from a three-day sleepover camp to a five-day extravaganza where student writers from around the country come together for writing workshops, classes taught by MFA candidates, professional writers and distinguished faculty members. YWW director and graduate student Nicola Derobertis-Theye says, “Every year the kids develop a really great sense of community, starting from the very first night in the residence halls, sharing their writing with each other and talking about books. Often they think that they’re the only one like themselves in their high school, but they know they have this other community now.” The 2014 Young Writers Workshop runs from June 17-21.

 » Engineering and Robotics Camps

If your kids are interested in robots, Legos, flying machines or just about anything else related to design, engineering or building, UNCW’s Engineering and Robotics Camps will delight them. With half-day camps focused on gadget making, flight, a session where you try to knock down block buildings with a wrecking ball, and a Lego-centric camp, young kids will have their choice of fun, educational activities. Older kids will enjoy inventing their own machines, building spring-powered rockets, and even VEX competition robotics. Their female-only camp encourages young women to explore science and engineering in a way that engages them. 910-962-2118,

 » Ashton Farm Summer Day Camp

Kids 5-12 can head out to a farm in the country (not really the country, just Burgaw) for a full day of farm life and outdoor fun. From horseback riding to hikes, archery and tennis to swimming and canoeing and more, the days are packed with activities. Friday means its time for a rodeo, Miss Sally Martin’s way of saying a day of events: chicken catching, bubble gum blowing, races, art contests and just about everything under the sun. 910-259-2412,

 » No Sleeves Magic Camp

Learn sleight of hand, card tricks and other magic performance skills at No Sleeves Magic Camp. Kids (and grown ups too, there are camps and classes available for those of us beyond our teenage years), will benefit from the tutelage of a talented practicing magician who’s glad to show them the ropes and have them performing tricks in no time. Don’t worry though, sawing your assistant in half isn’t covered at beginner camps. 910-200-5300,

 » Cheer Infinity Cheerleading Camp

For kids with a penchant for cheerleading, Cheer Infinity has the answer. Private and semi-private lessons are available from a skilled bunch of tumblers, gymnasts and cheer enthusiasts. From basic techniques like stretching and proper warm-ups to more advanced choreography and tumbling, developing cheerleaders will take away a lot from a camp session at Cheer Infinity. 910-792-6088,

 » Island Montessori

For kids 1-7, Island Montessori School offers nine weeks of themed activities that will have your kids making merry with their friends, but also learning about themselves, their environment (and the crawling, slithering creatures in it) and the place they live. From June to August, these camps, for toddlers 1-2 and primary grade students 3-6 (7 year-old siblings welcome), offer playtime and positive learning experiences that your kids will rave about for days. Who knows, you may even learn a thing or two after they’ve been away at camp all day. 910-795-4860,

 » Juniors Tennis at Holly Tree Racquet and Swim Club

Joann Bristol has been playing tennis for more than 16 years, and her clinics, classes and camps are popular for young players. In 2013, her 8 and under team were state runners up, if that tells you anything about the caliber of tennis she teaches. Camps, classes and clinics run from beginners to experienced players looking to improve tournament results or go on to play high school tennis; so all levels of tennis experience are welcome. 910-620-1332,

 » Odysea Surf Camp

From weeklong camps that will have you riding your first wave in no time to kiteboarding lessons, Odysea Surf Camps are summer staples on the beach. Owner Kevin Murphy is just one of the highly skilled men and women who teaches lessons through Odysea, so rest assured that whoever leads your camp, you’re in good hands. In addition to traditional surf camps, Odysea runs the Odysea/Ocean Cure Surf School, a nonprofit organization that takes at-risk youth and youth medical issues surfing. 910-458-7100,

 » Halo Sports

Halo Sports, a faith-based organization tied to Impact Church in Wilmington, offers a host of camps and activities. Camps are designed for 4-6 year olds, first and second graders, third and fourth graders, and fifth and sixth graders. At each camp, kids are divided by tracks, which include art, magic, drama, video games, and other creative activities, as well as basketball, soccer, kickball, disc golf, ultimate Frisbee, and badminton, to name a few. Each day, kids select their track and then have three activities in their chosen track, giving them the ability to make their own camp as they go along. 910-202-4595,

 » OASIS NC (Outstanding Autism Support and Instructional Service)

OASIS NC was designed to help support children who fall into the broad range of the Autism spectrum. Age and ability appropriate activities in areas like art, dance, science, recreation and games, social skills, and community are common in OASIS’ camps, as are visits to locations like the Fort Fisher Aquarium. 910-769-4586,

 » Carolina Gymnastics Academy

Summer campers will stay busy at Carolina Gymnastic Academy. There, they will find their days filled with activities in the Outdoor recreation area, indoor gym and afterschool building. Activities include a gymnastics circuit, bouncy house, gymnastics free play and field trips to the Splash Pad, Legion pool and more. A squadron of trained gymnasts teach proper techniques and ensure that campers are safe during their time here. 910-796-1896,

 » Brett Blizzard Summer Camps

Summer camps at Brett Blizzard’s come in three varieties: boys only, girls only, and co-ed. Here, kids will learn the fundamentals and even some advanced techniques as they drill, compete and play on the basketball courts with other kids their age and skill level. Camp instructors are former college basketball standouts and pros, including one coach who played at the same high school as Michael Jordan and scored more points than the legend in his time there.

 » Wilmington Christian Academy

Wilmington Christian Academy's Summer Day Camp runs from June to August and is for 4 year-olds to rising 8th graders, and gives kids outlets in many areas including indoor and outdoor games, bowling, water activities, field trips as well as quiet time to read and rest. The facilities include several athletic fields, a nicely equipped gym, playgrounds, computer labs and a library, which makes this an ideal spot for other summer camps like sports skills camps and other enrichment programs. Summer sports camps include volleyball, tennis, soccer, basketball and golf camps, and a cardio/fitness camp. Enrichment camps include weeks dedicated to guitar, model building, Lego Star Wars adventures, choir, woodworking, American Girl doll camp, crafts and even cooking. 910-791-4248 ext. 122,

 » Town of Wrightsville Beach Summer Camps and Programs

The Town of Wrightsville Beach offers tons of summer programs for youth and adults. From lacrosse camp (teaching fundamentals, sportsmanship and advanced techniques) to Basketball camp to the Wilmington Hammerheads Soccer Camp, there are all sorts of sports camps available. In addition, a series of art and jewelry camps, the Cape Fear Cotillion Manners Camp, a performance-centered camp and even a kids’ cooking summer camp are open.

 » Cape Fear Academy

The summer camps offered by Cape Fear Academy are some of the most interesting around. Harry Potter camp? Check. Minecraft, American Girl doll, Dr. Seuss and Reptile camps? Check. How about a Superhero camp where kids will make capes, masks and other costumes while solving a mystery? Or the two-week Broadway camp that helps get young thespians ready for auditions? Other camps include themed camps for boys and girls, sports camps that teach fundamentals and sportsmanship, a DJ camp, and even a two –week Princeton Review SAT Prep camp. Camp sessions run through June and July, and are designed for kids from Pre-K to rising high school seniors. 910-791-0287,

 » City of Wilmington Recreation programs

The City of Wilmington has a surprising array of camps and activities throughout the summer. At the Greenfield Grind Skatepark, kids can learn not only the fundamentals of skateboarding but also the finer points of beginner and intermediate tricks. Halyburton Park has a variety of half-day activities for kids and grown-ups alike. There are swim teams and a range of other athletic activities to keep even the most active kid busy. 910-341-7800,

 » UNCW Sports Camps

If UNCW has a team that plays it, they have a camp that lets kids learn the sport on the courts and fields and in the pools where UNCW’s athletes train and compete. There are soccer camps for boys and girls; baseball, tennis and volleyball camps, as well as girl’s and boy’s basketball camps, softball camps and even a swimming program. Contact the appropriate coach using the phone number or email address listed.

 » Wilmington Family YMCA

The Wilmington Family YMCA is practically a one-stop-shop for your summer camp needs. Sports camps (think kickball, dodge ball, splash ball, basketball, soccer); cheerleading; surf camps; a camp focused on “real action heroes;” first responders; a movie making camp; a Star Wars themed camp; photography; art; crafts; animals; and more – and that’s just the day camps. There’s also a sleep away camp at Camp Kirkwood, where the activities include swimming, games like kickball (and capture the flag), camp fires and a bevy of other classic summer camp to-dos. 910-251-9622, ext. 255,

 » The Little Gym

When kids are at The Little Gym, they’re at their best – playing, giggling and having fun. In addition to their regular programs of gymnastics, dance, karate and early-childhood sports skills classes, The Little Gym hosts Parents Survival Nights (giving you a night out on the town while the little ones play to their hearts content) and has a top-notch summer camp program. At the summer camp, kids will get their fair share of physical activity in a fun, safe, supervised play area, as well as time for arts, crafts and other special events. The Little Gym focuses on more than just physical activity, and each week of camp offers a different interactive learning theme, keeping campers sharp mentally and physically. 910-799-3771,

 » Cape Fear Isshin-Ryu

Looking for a camp with a kick? Look no further than Cape Fear Isshin-Ryu’s summer camp. This karate-focused camp will work kids through drills and katas, but the rest of the day is filled with dodge ball, Nerf games, Frisbee tag, foam sword fights, field trips and other activities like swimming and movies. 910-392-3703,

 » Coastal Athletics

Coastal Athletics offers summer camps, as well as sports camps throughout the year to keep young athletes sharp. Camps here are focused primarily on baseball and softball, though other sports are offered throughout the year. All of the coaches at Coastal Athletics played college, semi-pro or pro ball, so the direction they give is first class. 910-452-5838,

 » WB Surf Camp

WB Surf Camp is one of the most recognizable in the area for surfing education. From kids camps, camps for teens and even vacation surf camps (for adults and older teens), their instructors help novices drop in on their first wave and help experienced surfers develop the skills and techniques they need to elevate their next session. 910-256-7873,

 » Brigade Boys & Girls Club

At the Brigade Boys & Girls Club, a number of camps designed to enrich the summer and afterschool time of Wilmington’s kids are available. From camps focused in the arts (think photography, creative writing, performance and visual arts) to sports camps (flag football, basketball, softball and the like) to a camp designed to teach habits kids need to become healthy adults to camps focused on building leadership skills and developing positive character traits, Brigade offers a lot to help keep kids active and growing in the right direction. 910-392-0747,

 » Sunshine Camp

Lower Cape Fear Hospice & LifeCareCenter hosts Sunshine Camp, a day camp for young people coping with the death of a loved one. Join us to talk, play, create, eat, laugh and make friends. They are encouraged to share memories, express feelings, release anger, and learn from their life experiences. Deadline for application is June 11. After an application is received, a meeting will be scheduled with the child and youth grief counselor. Campers must attend this brief meeting prior to camp. 910-796-7991,

Earthshine Discovery Center

Make your personal connection to nature


If you haven’t heard about Earthshine Discovery Center, you soon will.  The property offers a wonderful opportunity for families (as well as school classes, scouts and businesses) to connect and learn something about themselves as well as the remarkable natural world of the Blue Ridge Mountains.  Families of all ages will enjoy the perfect combination of recreation, outdoor activities and learning. 

On Pioneer Mornings, all ages will learn to press apple cider, make hand-dipped candles, spin wool and take a turn at blacksmithing.  Cherokee Morning offers opportunities to grind corn, make clay beads and throw tomahawks.  Critter Hunts open up more than 80 acres of mountain land to inquisitive eyes. 

The High Adventure activities offer quite the challenge for those ages 10 and up.  Try out the seven-stage zip line course, including a 400-foot tandem run – not for the faint of heart.  Equally non-wimpy is the high ropes course – an obstacle course that ends with the Leap of Faith. 

Families build team spirit (and precious memories) with a multi-challenge low-ropes course designed for all ages. How does the Puzzle Platform of Doom sound?  We thought so.  There's also the climbing wall, creek hikes, and in the midst of it all, killer views and up-close encounters with the creatures who live on the property year-round.  (Goats are actually very nice, once you get to know them.) 

Nature hikes, archery, treasure hunts, nighttime campfires (with s’mores, of course), and scavenger hunts round out the activities the whole family will enjoy.

Mealtimes offer hearty, tasty fare and the chefs know how to grill some perfect ribs, or fry a mountain trout to perfection.   

Sounds like it’s a lot of fun – and it is!  Just as important, there’s time to unwind and be with the family on an entirely different level from your everyday school and work routines. It’s the best of summer camps with the whole family.

Hint: Bring outdoor shoes, bathing suits and layers of clothes.  Earthshine is quite comfortable and the staff feels like visiting old friends. You will leave with great photos and long-lasting memories.  As one family said, “Why would we ever go anywhere else?” 1600 Golden Road, Lake Toxaway, NC. 828-862-4207,

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