We asked writer Jamie Garrett, who lives in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, with his wife and 2 daughters, about his favorite spot for a vacation, and his answer without hesitation was the NC coast and especially, Southport. Below, he describes the hot spots and treasures that make this First Bank hometown unique.
Every summer my family and I visit the town of Southport, an easy day trip from our spot on Oak Island.
Southport, a popular location for filmmakers, is a picturesque town of around 3,000 residents, situated on the northwest bank of the Cape Fear River, only 2 miles from the Atlantic Ocean. And in 2015, it was voted America’s Happiest Seaside Town of 2015 by Coastal Living Magazine.
The history of Southport is as colorful as some of its coastal homes. In the early 1700s, the area was a haven for pirates, including the infamous Black Beard. In response, Fort Johnston was established in 1745 by the NC General Assembly to protect passing ships against the marauders.
Then founded as Smithville in 1792, the town grew up around the fort area. In 1887, the name was changed to Southport. The Fort Johnston Garrison House is now home to the Southport Visitor Center and city museum.
Downtown (or “Old Southport” as the locals call it) with its many historical houses and buildings, souvenir shops, antique stores, and unique restaurants was made for meandering and exploring.
Below are a few of my family’s favorite places in Southport.
There are some great shops in Southport, but our favorite is The Christmas House, a ‘must-visit’ place.
Wander through the many rooms in this house and you’ll find it has something for everyone—my kids love the saltwater taffy and the toys, my wife loves the ornaments and jewelry, and I love the fudge. Open year round, it’s always Christmas here.
Super friendly staff, fresh delicious locally caught seafood, and a laid back atmosphere make The Yacht Basin Provision Company one of my family’s favorite restaurants, not just in Southport, but anywhere.
Only a few blocks from downtown, this casual, open air restaurant overlooks the Old Yacht Basin and the Intracoastal Waterway. This restaurant is a popular spot for locals and tourists, so expect to wait in for a table (which is half the fun).
When you arrive, you give them your name and one personal item to mark your table. Then you relax with drinks until your name is called. When your table is ready, you order from the menu (a chalkboard near the drinks), find your table and your food arrives within minutes.
And when you’re done, go to the register and tell them your name and the drinks you had. Be careful if you go at high tide; you might get a little wet when the waves spill over into the surrounding streets.
A short walk from both downtown and the Provision Company is Southport’s 9-acre Waterfront Park. Enjoy the breeze while sitting on one of the benches or swings, stroll along the Riverwalk Trail, or walk out onto the City Pier.
From the park, you can see the Bald Head Island Lighthouse and the Oak Island Lighthouse. If you stay long enough, you might catch a glimpse of a dolphin pod or a massive container ship making way up the Cape Fear River to the Port of Wilmington or downriver to the Atlantic.
Southport is a true North Carolina gem and an ideal place to spend a morning, afternoon, or a couple of days. No matter how long you stay, Southport is a great place to be.
To learn more about Southport, you can visit: