Visitors are often surprised at the number and variety of weekly vacation rentals throughout the area.. Vacation rentals are, in fact, an increasingly popular accommodation available to vacationers, and visitors will find that the sheer number of rentals available allows them to find an ideal retreat to fit their crew, from quiet condo complexes to brightly colored oceanfront sand castles.
But despite being an instrumental component to the island's very existence, and a protector against erosion and storms, Bald Head Woods serves a more visible role as a fun, outdoor destination for visitors to enjoy off the beach. A popular spot with bird watchers, hikers and nature fans alike, this rustic destination allows vacationers to easily step off the beaten path, and dive into Bald Head Island's natural landscape.
The New Hanover County Arboretum, located on the outskirts of Downtown Wilmington on Oleander Drive, is a peaceful retreat for nature lovers everywhere. With seven acres of greenery, and gorgeous foliage that changes with the season, every visit offers a new way to experience the native and beloved plant life of Wilmington in a perfectly tranquil setting.
Take a break from the beach and enjoy the winding canals and creeks that border the Elizabeth and Cape Fear Rivers with a visit to the May Moore Park. This small destination, located on the northeastern side of Oak Island, is within walking distance of a number of vacation rentals, and provides plenty of peace and quiet for beach lovers who want to try a different natural excursion off the salty Atlantic shoreline.
Clean and uncluttered beaches and a remarkable local history combine to make the Fort Fisher State Historic Site one of coastal North Carolina's most treasured barrier island attractions. This incredible locale, just miles away from Carolina Beach, is home to gorgeous stretches of shoreline, thickets of nature trails and live oaks, and the original site of Fort Fisher itself, a relic of the 1800s and an instrumental turning point during the Civil War.
Surrounded by creeks, rivers, and coastal terrain, Southport is understandably a dream destination for kayakers of all varieties. From this central and slightly inland launching point, visitors can cruise past towering trees and deep maritime forests, or enjoy picturesque open water views of the sunny downtown region. The possibility of routes is seemingly endless, and newcomers will be treated to a myriad of tours, lessons and rentals to give them a head start in exploring the open water.
Southport is a stunning town where every waterfront turn or historic street corner can serve as its own charming attraction. Filled with picturesque outdoor landscapes, a collection of historic sites, and a myriad of unique shopping and dining opportunities, a vacation in this coastal community can be as relaxed or as engaging as a visitor wishes. With that being said, there are a few “must see” attractions and destination that longtime and new visitors alike should be sure to include on an upcoming vacation itinerary. Make the most out of your upcoming Southport getaway by ensuring these Top 10 Attractions are on your list.
Situated on the edge of the Cape Fear Coastline in between the bustling towns of Wrightsville Beach and Carolina Beach, the Masonboro Island Estuarine Reserve is a unique slice of undeveloped and natural barrier island shoreline that’s an important habitat for countless coastal species. Hard to reach but wonderfully isolated, visitors who make a trip to this literal deserted island will be rewarded with great shelling, beautiful landscapes, and miles of beaches to go around.
Once you have your coastal recreational fishing license in hand, it’s time to start thinking about gear. Anglers will find tons of options when it comes to equipment for casting into the surf, from custom designed rods and reels at local tackle shops, to name brand varieties that are designed for multiple areas along the coastline. Here are just a few of the most popular gear options for surf fishermen. Keep in mind that there are endless options available, and your local bait and tackle store staff will be happy to point you in the right direction if you have any questions about what you’ll need for successful surf fishing in any given area along the North Carolina coastline.
Southport is a charming coastal town where shopping, dining, history, and just enjoying a waterfront breeze are all celebrated on a daily basis. And while it’s tempting to just find a shaded front porch, settle in, and admire the view – a popular local pastime – there’s miles of fun to be discovered in this lower Cape Fear vacation destination. So make the most out of your upcoming Southport getaway by participating in one, two, or all ten of these favorite area things to do. From exploring the inland creeks on a wild adventure, to enjoying some of the best antique shopping along the coastline, Southport is brimming with activities that can cater to visitors of all ages, tastes, and vacationing styles.
Visitors to historic Southport who want to make a beach escape, or Carolina Beach travelers who need an easy yet scenic route to head south will find the Southport / Fort Fisher ferry a convenient yet completely unique way to explore the southern North Carolina coastline. Though just a short 35 minute ride from the mainland to Pleasure Island, (the home of Fort Fisher State Park, Carolina Beach and Kure Beach), this ferry trip nonetheless gives its passengers exceptional views of the Cape Fear River, and an incredible story to take back home.
As the name would suggest, Hang Ten Grill is a casual beach joint with a definitive surfer vibe that serves as the perfect hang-out after a long morning or afternoon of riding the waves in Carolina Beach. Located along Carolina Beach’s “main drag,” Lake Park Blvd, and just a couple pf blocks away from the beach, this cool eatery is a great spot to refuel after an active day on the seashore.
Michael’s Seafood Restaurant is an all-encompassing stop for both easy-going seafood meals and catering for casual parties or big events. Located in a central shopping and business section of inland Carolina Beach, this fresh eatery has been wowing patrons of all varieties – from event planners to vacationing families – with a big selection of coastal eats.
Seafood lovers who don’t mind getting their hands dirty will want to take a stroll to the Shuckin’ Shack. Located in the heart of Downtown Wilmington along a busy section of Market Street, this casual and cool seafood joint is the perfect spot to dive into a world of fresh and messy seaworthy cuisine.
For nearly 40 years, the same corner has been home to a staple in the Calabash community, Callahan’s. Locals and tourists alike are loyal to Callahan’s because of our vast selection of home décor, holiday décor, gifts, and apparel sprawling over 35,000 square feet. Because we are family owned and operated, Callahan’s is not only home to nearly every collectible imaginable but also to our employees, many of whom have been a part of the Callahan’s magic for over a decade and hold our business near and dear to their hearts. We strive to become a part of your family traditions and look forward to bringing you and your loved ones into our enchanting shop for many years to come.
Southport has been hailed by North Carolina locals and visitors alike as one of the most authentic and unique coastal communities along the shoreline, and it doesn't take long for newcomers to figure out why. The small, 2.2 square mile village is a stunning combination of historic residences, lush coastal landscaping, and miles of water in every direction, making it a both a quintessentially southern and maritime community with a distinct culture all its own.
The romantic setting for dozens of TV shows and movies, and featuring a long maritime heritage that is on full display along virtually every downtown street, this surprising weekend or weeklong vacation destination is filled with genuine coastal charm.
Southport's distinctive culture can easily be linked to its equally unique location. Perched on the very edge of the southern North Carolina mainland, the town of Southport sticks out into the waters of the Cape Fear River, and is bordered by small islands and large barrier island vacation destinations in virtually every direction. Southport is also just miles away from where the Cape Fear River joins with the Atlantic Ocean, making it a vital stop for commercial fishermen, small shipping vessels, and maritime travelers along the bordering Intracoastal Waterway. This waterfront locale was essentially responsible for Southport's initial discovery, as well as its later growth as a populated North Carolina port town.
The first visitors to Southport arrived around 1524. Spanish explorers first discovered this area close to the Atlantic Ocean's navigational route after a ship had been wrecked, and spent time in the region building a replacement boat along Southport's shores. (In fact, this 1526 boat was the first European vessel to be built in the New World.) This first and somewhat accidental visit proved prophetic, as by the mid-1700s, the town was thriving as both a port of entry along the Cape Fear River, as well as a populated fort, Fort Johnston, that protected the region from privateers and pirates. The town was officially incorporated as the town of "Smithville" in 1792, named after a Continental General who later became a North Carolina Governor, and was later changed to "Southport" in 1887 as an effort to promote the town as a major shipping port.
Though the town has always had a relatively small population, with just 2,300 current year-round residents, it thrived as both a fishing village and a port where weary travelers along the ocean waters and the Cape Fear River could dock for a while, and enjoy a rest on land. That reputation still stands, and Southport features nearly a dozen marinas along the waterfront open to the maritime traffic of the Intracoastal Waterway. As a community that's devoted to the water, visitors here will also find ample boardwalks to explore the waterfront, restaurants and lounges with incredible views overlooking the river, and even a Waterfront Park and town pier for a front-row vista of the ships passing by.
The town has a number of historical attractions that pays homage to its long legacy as well, including dozens of historic homes along the Downtown area, like the Northrop House and the Peacock House, ancient live oaks that are centuries old and can be spotted throughout town, and the renowned North Carolina Maritime Museum. The museum is an especially popular attraction, and outlines the region's history from the original Native American settlers to coastal North Carolina's crucial role in the Civil War, both World Wars, and the modern day fishing industry.
Day trippers will definitely want to spend the majority of their time either along the waterfront or strolling through the Downtown area, which is home to countless restaurants, boutiques, coastal art galleries, and renowned antique stores that display rare, and uniquely southern pieces. The dining scene in Southport is especially revered, as patrons will find nearly 70 restaurants in the region that range from national fast food chains to unique waterfront grills and cafes.
Newcomers are advised to stop by the Visitors' Center upon arriving for an in-depth look at the restaurants and attractions in the area, as well as a brief primer on the community, from the first Spanish Explorers to Fort Johnston to local historical graveyards.
As for accommodations, visitors will find a handful of chain motels and hotels around the outskirts of town, a nice selection of Bed and Breakfasts throughout the historic Downtown region, and a variety of charming and inviting vacation rental homes, with rich landscaping and shaded porches ideal for just sitting back and letting the day slip away.
This relaxed pace of life, unique southern history and coastal culture is evident in virtually every part of town, and has made Southport the "go to" location for a number of movie and television studios. In fact, the town has served as the backdrop for a number of movies through the years, including I Know What You Did Last Summer, Crimes of the Heart, Summer Catch, Domestic Disturbance, Mary and Martha, Nights in Rodanthe, A Walk to Remember and Safe Haven. It is also the setting of several acclaimed novels, including "Safe Haven" by Nicholas Sparks, and the filming locale for the television series Revenge and Under the Dome. Clearly, it's not hard to fall in love with the Southport scene, and even movie-makers and producers are not immune to the community's charms.
The town of Southport also has a number of incredible seasonal events, including multiple fishing tournaments, a weekly summer farmer's markets with vendors from the coastal region, and annual gardening and holiday festivals that attracts visitors from all across the state. In fact, Southport's annual 4th of July Celebration attracts 40,000 - 50,000 people every year for its incredible maritime themed parade, and incredible fireworks display over the Cape Fear River.
While Southport is clearly a worthy vacation destination in its own right, the town is also remarkably close to two of the southern Carolina coastline's favorite barrier island beaches, Bald Head Island and Fort Fisher. Both islands are located just a 20-35 minute ferry ride away across the Cape Fear River, with two ferry terminals that are easy to access for Southport visitors and residents, making it a simple endeavor to enjoy a day trip or overnight adventure to the offshore beaches.
Southport may be almost off the map, but the town is a must-see North Carolina destination for maritime travelers, history fans, and anyone who needs a break from the fast-paced outside world. With ample front porches and dockside seating to slow down and enjoy the view, longtime Southport visitors attest that there's no better place in the world to relax and catch your breath.