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.
It's hard to confuse the Old Baldy Lighthouse with the other Carolina lighthouses that guard the Eastern Seaboard. The unique structure has undergone some interesting natural and manmade changes during its nearly 200 year lifespan, but many visitors believe that the unique structure, the aging exterior, and the long history only adds to the overall charm. A must-see local attraction for day trippers and weeklong vacationers alike, the Old Baldy Lighthouse is easily one of the most interesting and admired sites throughout all of Bald Head Island.
Nothing beats an ice-cold beverage while relaxing on the beach. Nothing is worse than reaching for an icy drink and finding your cans swimming. Coolers are essential for family days on the sand. A good modern cooler will keep food and drinks fresh for days. In addition to beverages, fishermen rely coolers to keep bait fresh, and hopefully the catch of the day. Walk onto any beach or pier in North or South Carolina and you’ll see a plethora of cooler models and sizes. Cooler technology has advanced rapidly in modern years. Top-end hard-sided coolers can keep ice frozen for a week. Soft coolers are easier for one person to carry onto a beach, but can still keep food cool for days. Cooler materials and price points vary wildly, so we put together this guide with our recommendations for your coastal vacation.
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.
From picturesque beaches that straddle the state border, to sunny destinations found just inland of the Cape Fear River, the Southport region is dotted with an array of campgrounds that will entice visitors of all outdoorsy tastes. The options are nicely varied, and can range from RV resorts where all amenities are accounted for, to rustic and primitive destinations that straddle the water’s edge. With a variety of unique features, picturesque settings, and locations that are close to all the attractions the Brunswick and Cape Fear regions have to offer, campers will find ample ways to relax in the sunny Southport area.
For families travelling to the beach, or fishermen carrying tackle/coolers, a beach cart can be the best purchase of your vacation. These carts feature extra-wide wheels to move across soft sand, even when loaded. Carts are often built for specific scenarios, so think about the gear you’d be putting on your cart before making a decision.
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.
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.
Enjoy a freshwater environment just a block or so away from the beach with a visit to Carolina Beach Lake Park. This public park is centered on the 11-acre freshwater lake, which was noted in the Guinness Book of World Records as being the closest freshwater lake to a major body of saltwater. This unusual feat has produced a sunny and surprising environment that’s perfect for off-the-beach relaxation and entertainment.
Zeke's Island Estuarine Reserve is found just south of the Fort Fisher State Recreation Area, and is one of the three original 1985 National Estuarine Research Reserve components dedicated by NOAA and the Division of Coastal Management. Encompassing a wide range of habitats, the lagoon-like reserve is one of the most important feeding regions of the North Carolina shoreline for a wide range of birds, and is a popular destination for nature lovers, mariners, kayakers, and birdwatchers alike.
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.
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.
You can find everything under the sun for a fantastic vacation along the Carolina coastline with a visit to Carolina Beach’s own Pleasure Island Rentals. Located in the heart of the action and easy to reach for visitors all along the shoreline, this expansive company is well known for its huge inventory, fantastic customer service, and countless fun experiences in Carolina Beach.
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.
Cape Fear Jewelers is located in scenic downtown Southport, NC. Southport is located at the mouth of the Cape Fear River and has a rich maritime history. Cape Fear Jewelers offers original nautical designs and a variety of respected jewelry designers in gold, platinum, and sterling silver. The lore of the sea is well represented at Cape Fear Jewelers.
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.
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.