Several marinas in the area cater to the dock and dry lift boat enthusiasts and their services spill over to non-boaters. Fosters, located just behind the Southport Marina, offers a user-friendly ships' store, grocery, deli, kayak and bike rental, and a wash and fold service for the laundry-bound traveler. Steve Foster and Robin Schuster opened the store in 1999. ''We've got it all for coastal cruisers,'' he exclaimed when I walked over to talk with him and to drop off my laundry! Coastal cruisers come by car, boat or by plane to this quaint town. There is a small airport for private planes to land. Nearby Wilmington offers a larger airport (ILM) servicing the southeastern NC region.
Southport has always attracted sailors, the earliest visiting the area in 1524 and 1526 were French and Spanish explorers. The first European vessel constructed in the New World was built on these banks of the lower Cape Fear River. The town still reaches out to ocean going vessels and Intracoastal Waterway (ICW) cruisers. The River Pilot's Tower stands on Bay Street looking over the mouth or the river, providing pilot services to ocean going ships traveling the Cape Fear. The town offers one free transient spot at the end of the dock in the town harbor.
Now I see an influx of older folks looking for relaxation and retirement opportunities as well as young people who wish to escape the stress and traffic of large city living. Children of Southport no longer move away on graduation but stay to work in the community and start their own businesses. At one time the fishing industry and summer restaurants provided the only work for the young. St. James Plantation is a new development for the area. Providing a gated community, golf courses, and pleasant community atmosphere. Several options for housing are available in this area from the sprawling new waterfront homes, to original cottages, columned manors, town houses and condominiums. Local schools are a manageable size and teachers' remember your name when you meet on the street.
The Indigo Plantation Marina beside the high-rise bridge harbors the Bald Head Island Ferry, another day's journey if you have the inclination. South Harbor Village is also open. When you get tired of looking and shopping go down to the waterfront and rock in a swing across from the Whittlers' Bench. Listen to locals talk about fishing and politics and watch the boats and gulls. Browsing for a future home, summer cottage or overnight stay will take determination to narrow your scope because there are so many options.