Life today moves at a fast pace, sometimes too fast for us to enjoy the old fashioned pleasures of nature. At Airlie Gardens, those simple pleasures can again be yours. Take time to admire the azaleas, gaze at the camellias, and stand in the shade of our Airlie Oak, which dates back to 1545, or simply sit quietly watching a butterfly float by.
Our history dates back to 1886 and has since celebrated more than a century of gardens by the sea. Join us on a self-guided walking tour of these 67-acres of historical gardens; as you wander Airlie’s many paths you’ll gaze upon beautiful gardens, mighty live oaks, tall pines and lakes abundant with colorful wildlife. In 2014, we added a timeline and historical photos to our lobby. Please take a few minutes to walk back in time by pausing to read the timeline when you visit.
When it comes to great music plus a fabulous and relaxing atmosphere there’s only one perfect place in Wilmington, The Airlie Garden’s Concert Series. Relax under the broad branches of the Airlie Oak as the area’s premier musicians perform May through October. Pack a picnic, your favorite beverage, a comfy chair or blanket, then relax and let the syncopated rhythms take you away, now you’re set for the perfect evening with family and friends.
When October rolls around with a slight chill in the air this signal an annual tradition at Airlie Garden, our Low Country Oyster Roast. Food, drink, dancing and fun and oh yeah, steaming hot Oysters; this event is a Wilmington favorite for over 10 years.
Looking for another family friendly event? Airlie’s holiday light show, Enchanted Airlie, begins the Friday after Thanksgiving and runs select days until Christmas. A Wilmington tradition, Enchanted Airlie is a wonderful opportunity to bring the whole family together to share in the joy of the season. Enjoy beautiful holiday flowers and festive lights.
The Butterfly House at Airlie Gardens is home to eleven native species of butterflies. It allows Airlie to provide visitors with a hands-on, face to face experience with some of nature’s most delicate and ephemeral creatures. As visitors explore the butterfly house, they learn about the lifecycles of butterflies, and find out how they can help provide the environment butterflies need to thrive in our area. Because the house will contain only native butterflies, the information visitors’ gain can be applied in their backyard.
Airlie Gardens, the pride of Wilmington, N.C., is a destination spot for garden lovers throughout the world.
The property known as Airlie was part of the 640 acre land grant from King George II to the Ogden brothers in 1736. By the 1790’s, the land had been transferred to Joshua Grainger Wright who held much of the original acreage. First developed as a garden by Mrs. Sarah Jones, wife of Mr. Pembroke Jones (a Wright relative) and later owned by the Corbett family, Airlie’s landscape has been an important local landmark for over a century. Sarah and Pembroke Jones were wealthy industrialists noted for their lavish entertaining and the genesis of the popular saying, keeping up with the Joneses.â€ The Corbett family purchased the property in 1946. They were local business owners with strong ties to the community. The property was kept as a garden close to the way it had been developed originally. The Corbett’s would open it to the public several seasons throughout the year, the spring in particular, for the azaleas. It became a tradition, or as some would say, a pilgrimage, by the local community to visit the garden to view the 75,000 blooming azaleas in full glory.
The Gardens were devastated by recent hurricanes, ongoing vandalism, and decline so in 1998, the Corbett family was approached with an idea to develop the site into a subdivision with 47 single-family homes. The New Hanover County Commissioners decided to acquire the property in an effort to preserve the site for future generations. Working with a local land trust and the Corbett family, the County purchased Airlie in November of 1998.
Airlie Gardens proves the region with a historic public garden that the residents and visitors of New Hanover County can be proud of. New programs for educational and cultural enrichment, successful events, beautiful plantings and strong economic growth are all hallmarks of saving this great treasure.