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.
Soak up the Maritime History
Explore the rich history and coastal culture of this acclaimed vacation destination with a visit to the downtown destination that brings centuries of stories to vivid life – the North Carolina Maritime Museum at Southport. This unique museum that resembles a ship’s haul in the vast interior features dozens of exhibits that outline Southport’s roots, from the original native American tribes to its modern day commercial fishermen. Special displays of note include remnants of a 2,000 year old Native American canoe, surprising artifacts from the American Revolution, and relics from Southport’s role in the Civil War. With enticing ship models and a wealth of stories to discover, this museum is a perfect introduction to what life in Southport is all about, both past and present.
Visit a Historic Fort
The impressive and stately Fort Johnston and Southport Museum & Visitors Center is a unique attraction that combines detailed history and modern vacationer amenities, which makes it a fine stop for history buffs and area newcomers alike. First established in 1748 by the British to protect the vulnerable Brunswick area from potential Spanish and French attacks, the site would eventually house federal operations and services for more than 250 years. Today, visitors can embark on a guided tour of the fort’s vast interior, while learning about the roots of the longest operational fort in the history of the county. In addition, fort explorers can also swing by the visitors’ center to pick up info on all the surprising things to see and do in the Southport area. With a wealth of information that covers both Southport’s history and modern activities, the Fort Johnston and Southport Museum & Visitors Center has a little something for folks of all ages and interests.
Go Directly to Jail – the Old Brunswick County Jail
When a scattering of rain is in the future, reserve an hour or so to pay a visit to the modest-sized but fascinating Old Brunswick County Jail. The “Old Jail,” as it’s referred to, was first established in 1904, and was operational for more than 70 years before shuttering its doors and eventually becoming a popular downtown attraction. Visitors can step inside and tour the site, which includes just two cells with original graffiti, living quarters for the jailor, and a second floor roundabout to watch the action. Along the way, explorers can learn about the jail’s famous part-time residents, like actress Sissy Spacek who spent some time at the jail while filming scenes for the 1986 movie “Crimes of the Heart.” With unique history and an interesting façade, a quick trip to jail is a surprisingly fun way to while away an afternoon.
Take in a Show
There are several options for taking in a family-friendly show in the Southport area – which is an ideal way to spend a rainy summer afternoon or night. The historic Amuzu Theater in the downtown area is a popular venue for live music and events, and it hosts a far-reaching array of programs that can range from musical showcases to productions by local theater troupes. For a blockbuster experience, check out the Surf Cinema along Long Beach Road in Southport, where matinee movie prices are available at a discount. True theater lovers will also want to explore the options in Wilmington, which is located north of the Southport region, and which is the home of multiple theaters including the Thalian Hall Center for the Performing Arts - one of the oldest and longest running theater venues in the state. Suffice it to say, from family-friendly movies to impressive performances by local musicals and theater companies, any time is a good time to take in a show in the Cape Fear area.
Southport is well known in both local and regional circles as an exceptional place to go to stock up on southern and coastally inspired antiques, and because of a concentration of shops in the downtown area, visitors will have little trouble hopping from one destination to the next without getting their feet wet. Check out the Old Elegance Antiques store, the NC Plantation Antiques shop, and the Northrop Antiques Mall, which are all found in the heart of the downtown area along Moore or Howe Streets, and which are all stocked with unique treasures of all varieties. Expect to find vast collections of vintage furnishings, décor and artworks, glassware, porcelain, military memorabilia, and even toys and games at these shops that have a definitive flair for southern style. With so many options to choose from, (and “new” goods arriving regularly), a rainy day serves as a grand excuse to embark on a treasure hunt around town.
Explore the Art Scene
Southport is home to more than a dozen galleries and gift shops, which are fine destinations to discover a collection of local and regional talents. With a definitive coastal inspiration, these shops are stocked with a wealth of different works and mediums, which can include oil and acrylic paintings, watercolor paintings, sculpture, jewelry, metal works, photographs, and much, much more. Check out local Southport mainstays like Franklin Square Gallery, Artshak Gallery and Sculpture, and the Ricky Evans Gallery for a taste of what the vibrant Cape Fear art scene is all about. With regular artist receptions, special exhibits, and other special events that may pair wine and cheese with a lazy perusing of the gallery’s offerings, an artful experience can easily be a decadent and enjoyable affair in downtown Southport.
Feast on Fresh Eats
A rainy day is a perfect opportunity to satisfy a coastal craving, and the Southport dining scene is nothing short of exceptional. The downtown area is stocked with dozens of eateries to choose from, which includes everything from sushi and curry, to down home barbecue, to elite New American cuisine. Check out the collection of cafes and coffee shops that are scattered along Howe Street, or head to the waterfront where a handful of restaurants feature stunning Cape Fear River views as well as indoor seating to avoid the inclement weather. With a range of local specialties and fresh seafood, sampling the dining scene is truly a part of exploring the Southport culture. After all, Southport is a town that’s known for its exceptional taste.
Enjoy a Market Day
When it comes to good eats and fresh ingredients in a charming atmosphere, it’s hard to beat Downtown Southport. The town is home to a number of unique shops that specialize in tasty delights, and which are a tempting spot for vacationers who want to load up on goodies to take home and enjoy. Check out the local coffee houses and bakeries, like Baked with Love and Burney’s Bakery, or pop into one of the area’s fish markets to grab a few fresh filets to enjoy on the grill when the sun comes out again. With charming general-store like interiors, and a wealth of options, sampling the local markets is a must activity for all downtown Southport shoppers.
Just because the clouds are overhead doesn’t mean that your youngest vacationers can’t find an opportunity to go out and stretch their legs. Take a day trip to the southernmost North Carolina coastal town of Shallotte, which is home to the aptly named “Planet Fun.” This extensive site is renowned as largest family entertainment center in Brunswick County, and it features a wealth of activities for visitors of all ages which includes 32 bowling lanes, a two-story laser tag arena, a 9-hole cosmic mini golf course, a soft playground, and so much more. With arcade games, snacks, and a million ways to have fun, kids can have a ball without ever stepping outside at this entertaining complex.
A rainy day is the perfect opportunity to explore the sites found just off of Southport’s coastline, and it starts with a trip aboard a local ferry. Climb aboard the Fort Fisher / Southport Ferry to access the southern edge of Pleasure Island, where one of the region’s most famed indoor attractions – the North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher – can be found. The aquarium features a myriad of exhibits that will delight marine life lovers of all ages, and when the sun returns, visitors can skip over to the adjacent beaches of the Fort Fisher State Recreation Site to enjoy a little time along the sand. In addition, a myriad of coastal beach towns – including Kure Beach and Carolina Beach – are easily accessible from this destination, which makes a ferry ride a prime opportunity to explore everything the Cape Fear coastline has to offer.
Take a Day Trip
Use a rainy day as an opportunity to explore the rich history, culture, and heritage of the Cape Fear region by exploring the many cities and towns where the local vibrant atmosphere is never dulled by a bit of rain. The town of Wilmington is an exceptional first stop, as this larger city features a wealth of museums and attractions that are ideal for indoor explorations. Special sites of note include the Cape Fear Museum, the Children’s Museum of Wilmington, the USS North Carolina Battleship, and the Cameron Art Museum, which are all found close to the heart of town, and which can all provide hours of fun. With a cool downtown area that’s crowded with amazing shops and restaurants, as well as ample movie theaters, bowling alleys, and even a trampoline park, Wilmington is a great destination for visitors who love to have dozens, (if not hundreds), of options for indoor fun.
Have a Sunny Happy Hour
Enjoy an afternoon off from being active, and toast a fantastic vacation at one of Southport’s many options for visitors who want to wet their whistle. The downtown area has a myriad of restaurants and shops that are ideal for Happy Hours, and which feature a collection of local brews or area wines that shine a spotlight on the regional flavors. Pop into Uncorked by the Sea on Howe Street for a wine tasting and an artful afternoon looking at a collection of regional works, or swing by one of the waterfront restaurants that offer regular cocktail or beer specials in addition to a fantastic view. From waterfront venues to easy-going destinations where the taps and the conversations flow, Happy Hour in Southport is always a delight.
A little rain may arrive during a Southport vacation, but it’s certainly no reason to put a hold on the fun. With a colorful collection of shops, galleries, restaurants, and attractions, there’s always something entertaining to be found in this charming coastal town.
Enjoy an exploration of area antique stores and museums, or spend a day uncovering the other neighboring towns that make the Cape Fear area a popular vacation destination. With so much to do, visitors will find that the rainy day fun in the Southport area lasts well after the clouds part, and the sun comes out again.