The Wrightsville Beach Mailbox; a love story

"Leave a note."

Those simple words written on the outside of a mailbox launched an 11-year love story at Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina.

In 2003, Bernie and Sidney Nykanen decided to place a mailbox and a bench at their favorite spot on the north end of the beach. They supplied pens and small notebooks inside the mailbox along with instructions to 'leave a note.'

For the next 11 years, the Nykanens faithfully maintained the mailbox as a labor of love. In that time the mailbox served as a repository for love notes, marriage proposals, notes of joy, notes of sadness, notes to lost loves - in all the meditations left by strangers filled over 200 journals.


The notebooks became such an important part of the beach that when the Nykanens decided it was time to pass the torch and stop maintaining the box, the volumes of notes and the notorious mailbox were sent to the Wrightsville Beach Museum of History.

Madeline Flagler, from the Wrightsville Beach Museum of History enjoys speaking with visitors who come to see the notebooks. Many share their memories with her. One guest told how she'd written a note each summer she visited Wrightsville Beach as a child. There are also stories of UNC Wilmington students leaving notes as part of a college tradition. And naturally, there are stories of the many love letters left over the years.

As Flagler says, "the mailbox on the beach became a piece of current history and symbolic of the spirit of Wrightsville Beach."

Though the Nykanens no longer maintain their mailbox on the beach, beach goers can still leave a note. Today, there are two mailboxes on the north end of Wrightsville Beach maintained by student ambassadors from UNC Wilmington preserving the tradition and the love story of this cherished time capsule overlooking the Atlantic.

And yes, they still encourage everyone to "leave a note."

Wrightsville Beach Museum of History
303 W. Salisbury Street
Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina

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  • May 31, 2015

    I went looking for this mailbox when I was there last week and did not find it. I looked around the Shell Hotel area which is also at the end of the road where the marsh is. Was I looking in the wrong place ? I was hoping to leave a message. ..

    • May 31, 2015

      I haven’t been to Wrightsville Beach in several months, but the mailbox should have been near Mason Inlet. I hope it hasn’t been moved. You may want to stop in or email the Wrightsville Beach Museum of History, they’ll definitely know and they have all those wonderful journals on display too.
      Thanks for visiting the site 🙂
      Happy Travels,
      Anna Marie
      p.s. I just double checked on online and Four Square still shows it just up the road from the Shell Island Resort – 198 Beach Road.

    • Kristi King
      May 24, 2016

      Yes. It’s where the beach ends. Walk north to the very end turn left, look behind the dune.

  • Rachel M.
    April 26, 2017

    We are visiting now and are staying at Shell Island Resort. I wondered what the mailboxes were for so I went and inspected them for myself! There are journals and written entries from many people!! Very, very cool!! When you walk out of the pool area at the resort the mailboxes are right off to your left! So cool! I think I might leave a note myself before we leave!

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