The lower Cape Fear region was explored in the 1521 and again in 1526 by the Spanish. They chose to move on, due to poor soil and lack of adequate fresh water supplies.

Vintage photo of historic Southport, NC

The first settlement in the area, Brunswick Town, was located further up the Cape Fear River. Fort Johnston was built at the mouth of the river between 1745 and 1754 to protect the upriver settlements and provide quarantine service for incoming seamen. A small community of river pilots, traders, and fishermen sprang up around the fort.

Vintage photo of historic Southport, NC

In 1792, Joshua Potts requested that the NC General Assembly commission the town. The town was originally named Smithville, after Benjamin Smith, who had served under General George Washington in the Revolutionary War. He later became Governor of North Carolina.

Vintage photo of historic Southport, NC

Smithville grew as a fishing village and military town --because of its strategic location, Fort Johnston was active in every United States war effort. It also became a popular summer resort, due to the steady sea breezes.

Vintage photo of historic Southport, NC

In 1795, the town began observing Independence Day. It now host the Official North Carolina 4th of July celebration. Smithville became the county seat of Brunswick County in 1808. (The county seat was moved to Bolivia in 1975.)

Vintage photo of historic Southport, NC

After the Civil War, businessmen tried to create a major southern port here by combining river transportation and railroads. The name Southport was chosen in 1887 as part of that promotional effort. Though the town never became a major port city, it did gain telegraph service and a coaling dock for steamships.

Vintage photo of historic Southport, NC

Southport was on the river steamer routes until 1925. Railroads did serve the town from 1911 until World War II. In 1966 the NC Department of Transportation located the landing for the Fort Fisher ferry nearby.

Vintage photo of historic Southport, NC

Vintage photo of historic Southport, NC

Vintage photo of historic Southport, NC

Vintage photo of historic Southport, NC

Vintage photo of historic Southport, NC

Vintage photo of historic Southport, NC

Vintage photo of historic Southport, NC

Vintage photo of historic Southport, NC

Vintage photo of historic Southport, NC

Vintage photo of historic Southport, NC

Vintage photo of historic Southport, NC

Vintage photo of historic Southport, NC

 

Oak Island

Oak Island

Visitors will find an easy-to-get-to beach paradise at Oak Island, an expansive but peaceful retreat that's located an easy drive away from Wilmington, Southport, and other inland North Carolina communities. Both the main town and the island itself share the name of "Oak Island," and while the town extends slightly inland, encompassing the Cape Fear Regional Jetport, the rest of the community is cut off from the world by the long Elizabeth River, and a network of salty creeks and canals. This watery gap may not be particularly wide, but visitors will feel the change as soon as they cross over the bridge. Once ashore, Oak Island is a picturesque landscape of charming vacation rental homes, cool seafood restaurants and shops, and miles of ocean shoreline.

Bald Head Island Ferry

Bald Head Island Ferry

Southport is known as the launching point for a number of barrier island adventures and vacations, including the ferry trip to neighboring Bald Head Island. A completely unique experience, the Bald Head Island ferry is one of the only privately run ferries that transport visitors to a North Carolina barrier island is such high volume, and with such an assortment of amenities. From baggage services to incredible passenger lounges, the Bald Head Island ferry allows travelers to arrive to their island destination in style.

Southport Waterfront Park

Southport Waterfront Park

While Downtown Southport has an ample supply of wide front porches to take a load off and enjoy a breeze, many longtime visitors attest there's no better place to relax than the Southport waterfront Park.

Zeke's Island Estuarine Reserve

Zeke's Island Estuarine Reserve

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.