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.
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.
Southport is one of the oldest communities in coastal North Carolina, and as such, the town has ties to virtually every major American event. From its initial discovery centuries ago by European explorers, to its role in the American Revolution and Civil War, Southport’s deep roots are as fascinating as the coastal town landscape itself. On a Southport vacation, be sure and reserve a little time to uncover these many stories that helped shape the town, as well as the country. With history dotted along every waterfront corner, Southport’s rich past is always present for visitors.
Located on the southern tip of the Cape Fear coastline, and jetting out into the ocean like a jewel of green land in a sea of blue, Bald Head Island is a beach vacation destination that is truly unique for its geography, history, and distinctive character. Isolated from the rest of the world, but wonderfully accommodating with plenty of vacation homes and attractions, this tiny island is a paradise for nature fans, mariners, and beach lovers of all varieties.
The lower Cape Fear region has played a role in American history since the region was first discovered by Spanish explorers and English colonists. At the same time, the local coastal habitats have been heralded (and preserved) as some of the most pristine coastal regions in the country. As a result of these roots as well as present-day ecosystems, a number of museums have been established to celebrate this legacy and cultural heritage.
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.
Enjoy miles of pristine beaches, salt marshes, and scenic views in every direction with a visit to Fort Fisher State Recreation Area. Located just south of Kure Beach, and renowned for its 6 miles of undeveloped shoreline, this sunny beach destination is one of the most popular state parks in North Carolina, and offers miles of fun around every corner.
Southport's downtown is a genuinely unique destination that combines all the charms of a laid-back coastal village with historic southern architecture and style. The end result is a collection of restaurants, museums, shops and services with a flair all their own, and a slow-as-molasses pace that invites visitors to pull up a rocking chair, take in a water view, and simply relax.
Southport can easily serve as a launching point for a myriad of shelling adventures. From this small community on the Cape Fear River, visitors can board a ferry to Bald Head Island, Fort Fisher, or even take a cruise to smaller and lesser-known island destinations like Zeke’s Island Reserve. As a result, visitors will find that a myriad of shelling beaches are just a short boat ride (or drive) away, leading to miles of shoreline to explore, and long sun-filled days of combing and enjoying the local beaches.
Southport is a town that is renowned for beauty. With charming downtown streets that are lined with cottages and enticing boutiques, a range of paddling and walking trails, and miles of water in every direction, it’s no wonder that a favorite pastime in these parts is to find a shaded porch or sunny deck and admire the view. Though virtually any stroll around town can result in some stunning perspectives, (and equally stunning photo ops), there are a few key destinations visitors will want to include on their sightseeing list to enjoy the best vistas the region has to offer. Comprising of waterfront walkways, cool birdwatching destinations, and secretive parks, Southport truly has something for view lovers of all tastes.
Cap off a leisurely day of exploring Southport with a scenic walk along the waterfront, courtesy of the Southport Pier and Riverwalk. Located on the edge of Howe and Bay Streets, and therefore easy to reach for veritably any Downtown Explorer, this scenic walk is a great place for fishing, birdwatching, or just settling into a wooden bench and admiring the miles of open water views.
Established in the 1700s, and boasting a landscape of unique coastal ecosystems, Southport is a prime destination to learn about the history, environment, and culture of the scenic Brunswick region. From unique museums and monuments, to outdoor destinations where learning comes naturally, there’s lots to discover in this unique corner of coastal North Carolina. Pay a visit to the following destinations, and see how education and fun can seamlessly go hand in hand. With so much to uncover, every educational trek in Southport is truly a joy, and an unforgettable part of any Southport vacation.
The Museum of Coastal Carolina is the only North Carolina Natural History Museum that’s located on a barrier island, and is a fun destination for visitors of all ages to dive deep into the unique and beautiful coastal region. Located in the heart of Ocean Isle Beach, just a couple blocks away from the oceanfront and the Ocean Isle Beach Pier, this rainy day destination will impress patrons with its wealth of natural, interactive, and eye-catching treasures.
There’s an ocean of adventures waiting for visitors at the Jungle Rapids Family Fun Park. Featuring a full range of entertainment options including a water park, mini golf course, go karts, arcade, and so much more, veritably every visitor under the sun can enjoy an active excursion or just a day of splashing around at this all-encompassing amusement center.
Visitors who are on the hunt for the postcard-perfect vacation rental in the heart of the Carolina Beach or Kure Beach area will find an enticing selection and plenty of friendly customer service when they rent through Victory Beach Vacations. Based in Carolina Beach in the coastal Cape Fear region, Victory Beach Vacations has more than 100 vacation rentals in all shapes and sizes to ensure that every vacationing family can find their dream home away from home on the beach. When you book your Cape Fear getaway with Victory Beach Vacations, the fun doesn’t end when you leave the beach, it continues with an array of privately-owned properties outfitted with all of the amenities needed for a fabulous beach vacation. Jenna Lanier, General Manager, explains that her family first opened the rental and property management business in 2002. At the forefront of Victory Beach operations is Lanier’s mother, Caroline Meeks. Meeks is both the Broker in Charge and co-owner with husband, Buck Meeks, who manages the Field Services team with Lanier’s husband, Scott. For nearly 20 years, the Victory Beach team has worked tirelessly to establish a network of top-of-the-line rental properties for Cape Fear visitors to enjoy. “As far as our properties go,” explains Lanier, “they are all updated, well-furnished and appointed. “We have always performed post-cleaning inspections and since the pandemic, have put freshly laundered duvets over all of the comforters between rentals.” Lanier emphasizes how important the guests experience is “we strive to give our guests a relaxing, stress free, memorable vacation.” This emphasis on customer service has led to Victory Beach Vacations having a 4.8 Google rating with over 300 reviews by happy owners and guests.In addition to Victory Beach’s superior sanitation practices, the company offers properties for every type of visitor. Choose from luxury oceanfront houses and condos to more reasonbly priced 2nd row properties with oceanviews. Many properties include pools and hot tubs as well, perfect for outdoor entertaining, and many are dog friendly. Lanier also notes that all properties are within walking or driving distance to Pleasure Island’s main attractions – Carolina Beach and Kure Beach. The former, as described by Lanier, is the more commercialized of the two destinations and features a boardwalk, outdoor dining options and a plethora of weekly activities including fireworks, live music, amusement park pop-ups, and movies under the stars. Kure Beach offers a more residential feel with its fishing pier, intimate restaurants and family favorite, North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher.More water fun awaits, too. “There is a harbor and a canal that feed into the intercoastal. We have several properties on the harbor so guests can bring their boat, kayak, [or jet ski] and travel between islands,” says Lanier. A stay with Victory Beach Vacations is an annual pilgrimage for most. “A large percentage of guests are previous guests. Some even reserve the same property for the next year as they’re checking out,” Lanier says. “It’s almost like it’s their personal vacation home.” Even before guests arrive at their vacation destination, the Victory Beach Vacations’ website greets them with a live beach cam and exquisite aerial footage of both Carolina and Kure Beaches. See for yourself by scanning the QR code and call Victory Beach Vacations at 910.458.0868 to book your Cape Fear getaway. Start making your memories today! —Grace Silipigni
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 sunny Wrightsville Beach Park, conveniently located in the heart of town, is a fantastic destination for an outdoor adventure that doesn't necessarily entail a trip to the beach. Adjacent to the Wrightsville Beach Parks & Recreation's main facilities, the Wrightsville Beach Arboretum, and plenty of wide open green spaces, this park is a perfect spot for enjoying a little free fun in the sun, without the risk of getting sand in the shoes.
The Riverwalk in Downtown Wilmington is a showstopper of a stroll that is a distinctive attraction all its own. Originally conceived in the 1980s as a way to generate more interest and tourism to the Cape Fear River waterfront regions of Wilmington's historic Downtown, today the Riverwalk encompasses a full mile of scenic boardwalk, hugging the borders of the riverfront, and providing visitors with endless views and easy access to some of the Downtown's most beloved attractions.
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.