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.
The downtown is at its busiest and most populated by the water, as the town of Southport is unique in that its community center is located adjacent to the mouth of the Cape Fear River, right before it meets up with the Atlantic Ocean. As a result, this area of town has been a popular port o' call for centuries, and visitors can spot this historical maritime influence around every corner. Worn and weather-battered harbors stand side by side with modern marinas and waterfront restaurants or businesses, and boats of all varieties line the docks that encircle the downtown area. A popular destination along the Intracoastal Waterway, the town has more than its fair share of both dockage and local marinas for maritime travelers to drop anchor and just relax with a stroll onshore. The area is also a popular home base for commercial fishermen, and it's not unusual to see shrimping and fishing boats mixed in with the dozens of sailboats and decadent yachts.
Many city strollers attest that the waterfront region is easily the most scenic aspect of Southport, and folks walking through will find a long boardwalk that hugs the harbor front, in addition to a Waterfront Park with plenty of benches, picnic tables, and swings. The park also borders the town's pier, an ideal locale for incredible downtown photos, or just some great fishing along the Cape Fear River banks.
Just a couple streets inland, visitors will find a thriving community of historic homes, small museums and a host of shops and boutiques. Antiquing is very popular in this region, and downtown visitors will find a variety of antique and consignment stores that are filled with nautical and uniquely Southern treasures.
The slowed-down southern style is evident around every city block, and just about every business has a wide front porch with plenty of shade and rocking chairs or benches so folks passing through can enjoy a rest, and a breath of fresh air. Spring and summer are especially alluring times to visit this downtown, as the historic homes are lined with nautical, gracious landscaping with towering palm trees next to rose bushes, hydrangeas, and grand Southern Magnolias. But amidst the flora and fauna, Southport is arguably best known for its large concentration of ancient live oaks, which have been standing along the downtown streets for hundreds of years.
Downtown Southport visitors certainly won't go hungry while exploring the town, as a number of the old turn of the 20th century buildings have been converted to bistros, delis, cafes, and even fine dining restaurants. Patrons can enjoy a quick bite or a cold beer under a shaded tree-lined porch at a number of small sandwich shops and pubs, or enjoy a long elegant meal at one of the converted downtown eateries, like "The Pharmacy" which is located in a former drug store. There are also a number of establishments located right along the water for a great meal that is almost surpassed by the incredible waterfront view, and virtually every restaurant features a range of fresh seafood choices, plucked from the Cape Fear River or Ocean Atlantic waters just hours before dinnertime.
As for accommodations, visitors via the Intracoastal Waterway can always pull up to a local marina and dock for a few nights, however travelers by land will want to explore the incredible selection of local Bed and Breakfasts. There are a half dozen historic B&Bs in the downtown area, each with its own unique charms and amenities, with gorgeous landscaping and a central location that's close to the action. Visitors can also opt to spend a week or more at a downtown vacation rental home. These cute coastal cottages or statuesquely grand homes are inviting and relaxing getaways, with easy walking distance to the region's waterfront attractions, restaurants, and shopping.
A tour of Downtown Southport is a must for anyone with an appreciation for southern culture, coastal living, and an all-around relaxed and laid back atmosphere. With a wide selection of restaurants, antique stores, and countless spots around town to pull up a bench and admire a view, Downtown Southport encourages visitors to simply slow down and enjoy the scene. Whether a visitor is taking a quick break on land after a hard day of cruising the Intracoastal Waterway, or simply enjoying a mainland day trip from the beaches of neighboring Bald Head Island or Fort Fisher, the charms of Downtown Southport are sure to impress any visitor with scenic water vistas, historic buildings, and a relaxed southern style all its own.