A Day in America’s Happiest Seaside Town: Things to Do in Southport, NC

The town of Southport is charming and coastal with appealing experiences for all ages. Whether it be art, history, shopping, dining, watersports, or nature that interests you, something for everyone is found here. Looking to spend a day in Southport, North Carolina? Check off a few of our favorite bucket list items while you’re here:

Take a Stroll Around Downtown Southport

Full of historical architecture and small-town coastal charm, Downtown is filled with activity as people stop in boutiques, sit for a cup of coffee, or walk their dogs along the sidewalk. While meandering down Howe Street, peek inside local shops such as Magnolia’s or Southport Trading Company. Relax with a glass of wine in hand or pick up a bottle to take home from Uncorked by the Sea or Southport Wine Rack. There are several restaurants conveniently located, including Mr. P’s Bistro and Moore Street Oyster Bar. There’s lots to be discovered in Historic Downtown Southport, and its beauty has even caught the eye of the film industry with well-known productions including Dawson’s Creek and Secret Life of Bees.

Explore the Water by Ferry

The Southport/Fort Fisher Ferry remains a favorite attraction for locals and tourists alike. For just $7 per car, you can enjoy the scenic trip from Southport to Fort Fisher as you travel across the Cape Fear River. The undeveloped riverbanks are filled with local wildlife from cranes and pelicans to loggerhead turtles and river otters. The coastal breeze and salty air make for a relaxing and peaceful excursion taking about 35 minutes. This activity is one you must experience for yourself!

Dive into History

History buffs will be enthused as history comes alive in Southport. As one of the oldest communities in coastal North Carolina, each corner of the town reflects centuries of American History. Southport’s Historical Society has developed a self-guided Historical Walking Tour to immerse yourself in the rich history of the town. An easy stroll lasting one mile will take you to 24 stops including Fort Johnston, Old Smithville Burial Grounds, and the Garrison House. Several museums are open to visit in Southport as well including. The North Carolina Maritime Museum highlights maritime history, shipwrecks and fisheries, and the Fort Johnston-Southport Museum that explores the history of the town.

Experience Nature

Whether by land or water, Southport offers opportunity to immerse yourself in its coastal nature. Take to the water by kayak or stand-up paddleboard and explore! Southport sits at the mouth of the Cape Fear River as it meets the Atlantic Ocean, providing a unique location. Various wildlife can be spotted as well as coastal foliage. The sunshine and the coastal breeze offer a relaxing experience. Kayaks and paddleboards can be rented from local businesses such as The Kayak Adventure Company.

For those to prefer to admire the water from the land, we recommend a stroll down the Southport Riverwalk. Beginning at City Pier, the trail travels along Bay Street to the West. Wrapping around the Old Yacht Basin, the trail continues around a peninsula where you’ll find a boardwalk. Although the trail is only .7 miles, you’ll discover scenic views of coastal marshes and beaches. The trail is also featured on the NC Birding Trail, and wooden markers guide you along the way.  

Dine on the Water

Enjoy seafood? You’re in luck as you’ll find some of the freshest in Southport! The Southport waterfront offers a variety of waterfront dining options. Grab a glass of wine or a beachy cocktail and sit out on the deck to enjoy the sweeping water views. Restaurants feature their daily fresh catch and other coastal concoctions such as shrimp and grits or Calabash style fried seafood. If seafood is not your style, you’ll find a large offering of land fare as well, including ribeye’s and pasta dishes. Some of the local favorites for delicious cuisine and great views are Oliver’s on the Cape Fear, Fishy Fishy and Provision Company.

Sunset at Riverfront Park

Wrap up your day by experiencing true coastal beauty as the sun sets over the water. The City Pier and the Southport Waterfront Park are prime locations to see the sweeping orange sky melt down into the deep blue waters.  The City Pier is free to use year-round and offers stunning views. Waterfront Park sits adjacent with benches, swings, and a gazebo perfect for relaxing and taking in the experience. As the sky is painted beautiful pinks and oranges, relax, and unwind to finish your day.

Southport is a unique town filled with activity and charm. These are just a couple of the many activities this town offers. Come and visit for yourself! You’re sure to fall in town with the coastal beauty and Southern hospitality of this seaside destination.