With so many incredible things to do in Southport, there is no wondering why this coastal community is a favorite vacation destination! One of the best hidden-gems in North Carolina, Southport has been honored with the distinction of being one of the “Best Coastal Small Towns,” by USA Today, and one of “America’s Happiest Seaside Towns,” by Coastal Living. With its picturesque Spanish moss lined streets, historic homes and waterfront views, it is easy to see why the area has received these, and so many more, prestigious accolades. A visit to this historic maritime town will take you back in time to when pirates and privateers roamed the Cape Fear, through the Revolutionary and Civil Wars and much more. Vacationers of all interests will get an interactive history lesson not soon to be forgotten!
To help you plan your next vacation to Southport we have gathered suggestions on the best things to do in one of North Carolina’s best coastal towns:
Embark on a Historical Adventure:
When in Southport, there are a wide range of historical activities fit for every interest and age level. A good place to start is with a visit to the Fort Johnston-Southport Museum and Visitors' Center. Here you will find maps and brochures (also found online) to help you along a self-guided walking tour through historical Southport. Established in 1754, Fort Johnston was the first commissioned fort to be built in North Carolina. Then continue your history tour through Southport and see homes and churches dating back to the 1800s, important landmarks like the Old Brunswick Jail, City Hall, Old Smithville Burial Grounds, River Pilots Tower and much more!
Anyone interested in the maritime history of the area will enjoy a trip to the North Carolina Maritime Museum at Southport. Here, visitors can discover the natural and cultural history of the Lower Cape Fear region through hands-on and interpretive exhibits. Learn about the first indigenous mariners and commercial fisheries to the Civil War and World War II to sailing and steam vessels. With new exhibits popping up regularly, there is always something new to learn at the North Carolina Maritime Museum at Southport. The museum is free and open year round from Tuesday through Saturday.
Calling All Movie Buffs:
Known for its picturesque beauty, the town of Southport has been captured in tons of films and television shows! At the Fort Johnston-Southport Museum and Visitors' Center, you can find memorabilia from many of the movies and TV shows that have filmed in the area, including props from Nicholas Spark’s Safe Haven. After visiting the museum, continue to embrace your inner movie buff with a golf cart tour by Southport Tours or Southport Fun Tours to see filming locations from some of the 40+ productions filmed in Southport, including A Walk to Remember, Dawson’s Creek, The Secret Life of Bees, Under the Dome, I Know What You Did Last Summer and much more.
Places to Eat and Drink:
Southport’s Yacht Basin, where the Intracoastal Waterway, Cape Fear River and Atlantic Ocean meet, is the ideal setting to enjoy delicious dinning with a breathtaking view! Home to some incredible waterfront dining options like the Fishy Fishy Café, a vibrant spot serving specialties like Bacon-Wrapped Stuffed Shrimp and Cajun Crab Cakes, the Provision Company, a tasty seafood shack serving fresh seafood, sandwiches, salads and more, and The Frying Pan, a casual eatery serving up the best of the coast and the south as well as spectacular views.
If you’re looking for a place to wear your finest flip flops, check out Ports of Call or Oliver’s on the Cape Fear for an unforgettable date night or nice night out with family or friends. Ports of Call features globally inspired dishes prepared with fresh, seasonal ingredients. Oliver’s not only serves up delectable fine dining but the large interior windows and outdoor porch invite dinners to take in all that the alluring waterfront has to offer. Check out this page for a full list of restaurants in Southport.
Before or after an exceptional meal, make sure to grab a glass of wine or a cold beer at the Silver Coast Winery Tasting Room. Located in the heart of downtown Southport, they offer tastings of their award-winning wines and regionally brewed craft beers. You can purchase both beer and wine by the bottle, as well as wander through their on-site art gallery and eclectic gift shop.
Things to do Close by:
If you are looking for somewhere to lay down your beach blanket, head out and explore the neighboring beaches of Oak Island and Caswell Beach. Take a day trip to Caswell Beach to see the Oak Island Lighthouse, the last lighthouse to be built in North Carolina. The lights are 169 feet above the water and can be seen for 25 nautical miles out! Visitors can take a tour of the lighthouse and climb the 131 ships ladder steps to the outside balcony that has stunning panoramic views of the ocean, Intracoastal Waterway and surrounding towns. Oak Island Lighthouse tours are free but be sure to make a reservation at least two weeks out from your visit.
While out and about you can also spend time on Oak Island! Oak Island is the quintessential, classic family vacation spot with more than 60 public beach access points, two ocean piers and plenty of rental equipment outfitters that can help gear you and your family up for any adventure. Whether you spend your time casting from the surf, combing the beach for souvenir shells or just kicking back and relaxing, you can't go wrong in Oak Island.
Another great option for getting outdoors in Oak Island is the Oak Island Nature Center, which offers a wide range of educational activities where both kids and adults can learn about the environment and the animals native to Oak Island.
Where to Stay:
If you haven't yet booked your place to stay, there is no need to worry! For history mixed with hospitality, you can’t go wrong with one of the five bed and breakfasts located in Southport. Or there are a host of adorable vacation rental homes available, as well as hotels and motels within Southport. Staying in Southport means being able to easily explore the antique stores, cafés, unique boutiques, and fabulous art galleries that surround your accommodations... Not to mention being able to enjoy beautiful waterfront views at any time of the day!
Whatever the reason, whatever the season, Southport is the perfect picturesque destination for a relaxing vacation. Check out www.ncbrunswick.com for more information on Southport and to plan your next trip to North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands.
Disclaimer: Due to COVID-19 restrictions, some places may not be open or are open at a reduced capacity at this time.