Written by Rebecca R. Newsome
October 2017

Ahoy from Southport! A friendly seaside city near the entrance of the Cape Fear River, approximately halfway between Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina, and Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, Southport offers small-town
charm, breathtaking views, a storied history, an abundance of unique shopping and dining, and inviting tree-lined streets. It has enchanted and delighted residents and visitors for more than 200 years, and its culture and traditions continue to thrive.

A walking tour of this historic area showcases wonderfully restored churches, homes, and landmarks such as City Hall, the quaint two-cell Old Brunswick Jail, the Old Smithville Burial Grounds and the River Pilots Tower, where parts of the TV series Under the Dome are shot. The Fort Johnston-Southport Museum & Visitors’ Center is an excellent resource for info on the vicinity and occupies a site built by the British in the mid-1700s to protect the area from French and Spanish assaults, and distinguished as the longest running active fort in the country. The fascinating North Carolina Maritime Museum also takes the long view on the
town, with exhibitions that include a section of a 2,000-year-old Native American canoe and an exploration of Southport’s role in the American Revolution.

Southport Pier & Riverwalk is a popular destination for both tourists and locals, with a wide walkway along the Cape Fear River and the yacht basin. Saltwater fishing spots dot the area, and it’s a great place to spot ibis, raptors, terns and other wildlife. The adjacent nine-acre Southport Waterfront Park features benches and swings with spectacular water and barrier-island views, a gazebo, a water fountain, lights for evening visits and seasonal vendors.

But perhaps the greatest attraction of Southport is its celebrated downtown. Dozens of eclectic restaurants, refectories, galleries and boutiques beckon, with the largest concentration of them along Howe Street. This picturesque setting has been the backdrop for numerous movies and TV productions, including A Walk to Remember, Crimes of the Heart, The Secret Life of Bees and Safe Haven. Walking, trolley, bike and water tours are available, all of which highlight why this district is one of the most enticing downtown landscapes in coastal North Carolina.

Where to Dock

  • Southport Marina (910-457-9900, southport-marina.com) Located on the ICW at Mile 309, this
    full-service marina has over 200 protected slips with deep-water access, a floating dock house and a
    transient fuel dock. Its new 220-unit dry-storage facility is hurricane rated to withstand 140 mph winds, with a travel lift capable of handling boats up to 55 tons.

Where to Dine

  • Fishy Fishy Café (106 Yacht Basin Drive) A casual dockside seafood stop for fresh, healthy, local foods; accessible by boat, with occasional live music.
  • Mr. P’s Bistro (309 N. Howe St.) Old-school, relaxed spot serving Low Country-style oysters, crab and more, plus prime rib and cocktails.
  • Oliver’s on the Cape Fear (101 W. Bay St.) An elegant restaurant serving upscale New American cuisine and wine in an 18th-century ship chandler.
  • Provision Company (130 Yacht Basin Drive) Fresh seafood in a casual environment on the waterfront; called simply Provisions by locals.
  • The Dead End Saloon (4907 Fish Factory Road, SE) Dock directly off the ICW and enjoy local seafood and live music.