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.
When it comes to activities for kids, Southport is a veritable playground. Stocked with unique public parks, a collection of shops, and ample places to explore, there’s no shortage of adventures waiting for visitors of all ages and interests. Make a vacation full of memories and experiences that will stick with all family members for years to come, and be sure and check out these destinations and activities that the younger set will adore. From fun local playgrounds to historic museums and sites, an entertaining time is found around every corner of charming Southport.
The Carolina Beach Boardwalk is the place to go for family-oriented or even late-night fun after a sunny day on the beach. Noted as one of the top 10 boardwalks in America by Food & Wine magazine, this classic oceanside boardwalk features a full host of shops, amusements, restaurants, and nightlife for visitors of all ages to explore.
One of the great aspects about a cultured and unique destination like Southport is that the occasional rainy day never puts a damper on the fun. The town is brimming with unique attractions, shops, and activities that are perfect to enjoy on a rainy afternoon, and which are just as enticing as the beautiful outdoor landscapes and sunny waterfront regions. So if a little inclement weather is on your upcoming vacation forecast, use it as an opportunity to discover these activities which are effortlessly easy to enjoy, rain or shine.
With a location on the edge of the Intracoastal Waterway, the Cape Fear River, the Elizabeth River, and even the Atlantic Ocean, Southport is a paradise for mariners. The town and the surrounding area is stocked with unique shops, restaurants, and attractions that are a shell’s throw away from the local docks, and which can accommodate the array of mariners who are cruising through or dropping anchor for the long haul. Regardless of whether a visitor wants to cruise the waters for days at a time, or just enjoy a ride while staying in the area on vacation, Southport delivers with ample options. Make the most out of a waterfront getaway, and discover all the ways why this region and boating seamlessly go hand in hand.
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.
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.
With a backbone in both commercial and recreational fishing, it should come as no surprise that fishing is big in Southport. This small community’s love of fishing is visible around every corner – from the specials boards of local restaurants, to the antiquated fishing gear that’s found in area museums like the NC Maritime Museum. And with this pedigree of fishing, visitors will also find that angling opportunities are everywhere in Southport – from the local creeks, to the Cape Fear River waters, to the Atlantic Ocean beaches found just a few miles away. So pack along the rods and reels, and get ready for a vacation where dropping a line and relaxing with a waterfront view is all part of the local culture.
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.
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.
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.
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.
One of Kure Beach’s newest pubic parks is already becoming one of its most popular, thanks to a prime location along the oceanfront, and a host of concerts, shows, and special events that have all been held within its borders. The Kure Beach Ocean Front Park & Pavilion is home to the town’s largest public green space, and is perched along the oceanfront, inviting visitors to stop by and admire the scene. Fun for big community-wide events and everyday visitors alike, this park is charming both the visitors and locals of Kure Beach.
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.
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.
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.
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.