I lived in Wilmington, NC for 10 years (though 4 of those I lived in Raleigh for college) and can probably help you out, though my information will be somewhat dated. None of the parishes in Wilm. are what I would call “over the top” in either direction- traditional/orthodox vs progressive/liberal.
St. Joseph’s in Raleigh would be a 2 hr drive from most places in Wilmington, but I agree it is a beautiful parish, though not the most beautiful church building. Msgr. Williams, the pastor there, is truly a living saint. He did my and my husband’s marriage preparation.
St. Joseph the Worker is closer to Wilmington (about 30 minutes, though I can’t remember the name of the city it’s in), and the priest there- Fr. Tim Meares- is very, very traditional. He wears his cassock almost exclusively. If you meet him, ask about his conversion story. Miraculous! My family was very fond of him.
St. Mary’s downtown is where I went to Catholic middle school. The school was mediocre in both academics and religion when I attended, but a lot of changes have taken place since I went there 15 years ago or so. The church is beautiful, but I really can’t offer any advice about the parish since the only priest I knew there has since retired. Last I heard, things were becoming disconcertingly questionable, but I really don’t even know if that priest is still there. A family friend of ours became very good friends with the hispanic parochial vicar there, who seems sound.
Immaculate Conception down in Carolina Beach was/is a middle of the road type parish. It is served by the Oblates of St. Francis DeSales, not the diocese of Raleigh. Sadly, it was directly impacted by the scandals. The priest there is friendly enough, as are the parishoners. It is not, however, a shining beacon of traditional orthodoxy. Like I said, middle of the road.
St. Mark’s near Landfall (a very posh, gated neighborhood with golf courses where celebrities live) is another middle of the road parish. My mother attended daily Mass here, and of course most of the daily Mass goers are more or less orthodox. There are liturgical abuses, but we overlooked these enough to make it our home parish. It is where my husband and I were married. They have a very vibrant music program with both traditional-ish and more progressive choirs. The parochial vicar, Fr. Pat, is a really warm, traditional priest. Fr. Matt, the long-time pastor, is a bit more progressive but willing to field criticism.
St. Therese at Wrightsville Beach is a small parish actually located on Wrightsville beach. When I first moved there, it was extremely traditional, but after that priest retired and passed away, a somewhat more liberal priest was assigned there, and then ended up having to deal with some health concerns. I really couldn’t say what the climate is like now.
If you send me a PM, I can probably put you in touch with friends who are still in the area who can give you a more current assessment, even to make a few friends:). I can also tell you a lot about public schools. Go Vikes!