Southport, The Happiest Seaside Town in America

Before I write about Southport, we had to get to Southport, which means heading through Snows Cut and into the Cape Fear River, a 12-mile trip, only 2 hours from one anchorage to the next. We timed our passage in the Cape Fear River for slack tide for a smoother ride.

Different views on each side of Snows Cut

Different views on each side of Snows Cut – sand and trees.

Up ahead is Snows Cut Bridge, a 65 foot clearance, usually. With he recent rains, the marker showed 63 feet. This is no big deal,b ut farther south there were sailboats that could not pass below 65 ft bridges because of the high water - only 57 feet in one case.

Up ahead is Snows Cut Bridge, a 65 foot clearance, usually. With he recent rains, the marker showed only 63 feet. This is no big deal, but farther south there were sailboats that could not pass below a 65 ft bridges because of the high water – only 57 feet of clearance under that one

Whoa! Look at those greens and reds. Sometimes you have to watch very carefully when the ICW merges into a new waterway or passes an inlet.

Whoa! Look at those greens and reds. Sometimes you have to watch very carefully when the ICW merges into a new waterway or passes an inlet.

Cape Fear is a very busy waterway, leading up to Wilmington, North Carolina and out to the ocean just past Southport and Bald Head Island. Tankers, barges and ferries are all coming and going.

As we merged into the Cape Fear River, we could just see the top of a tanker over this little island.

As we merged into the Cape Fear River, we could just see the top of a tanker over this little island. We kept an eye on it.

Naturally, without hesitation, we made sure that we were slow enough (not really a problem) so that the tanker would be well past us as we converged into the same water.

Naturally, without hesitation, we made sure that we were slow enough (not really a problem) so that the tanker would be well past us as we converged into the same water.

Not long after that, here comes another tanker towards us. Check out that bow wake - really pushing a lot of water!

Not long after that, another tanker comes along, heading towards us.  Check out that bow wake – really pushing a lot of water!

The ferries seemed like nothing after the two tankers. Easy to maneuver around.

The ferries seemed like nothing after the two tankers. Easy to maneuver around.

We enjoyed our visit to Southport  in 2013 and were eager to stop and spend a day or two here once again.

Welcome to Southport!

Welcome to Southport!

Entering Southport's harbor, wharf on the starboard side, marsh on the port side.

Entering Southport’s harbor, wharf on the starboard side, marsh on the port side.

Southport has a little harbor, and I do mean little. There is room for 2-3 boats to anchor, at most. We were fortunate that we arrived and anchored just before 2 other boats turned into the harbor. The harbor is lined with docks for fishing boats, has a few small docks for private boats, fishing boats, and several wharfside restaurants. Most people don’t anchor here in the harbor and prefer to go on to the marinas.  We like the convenience of the harbor anchorage and the price.

Kindred Spirit in the harbor anchorage. The photo is deceiving because there isn't as much room as it looks. Sometimes I could almost hear the diner's conversations

Kindred Spirit in the harbor anchorage.  Sometimes I could almost hear the conversations at the dining tables.

On our other side, we could see the ICW over the marshes.

On our other side, we could see the ICW over the marshes.

A white ibis in the marshes.

A white ibis in the marshes near us.

We could see the Halloween blow-up lawn decorations from our boat. I think they were there the last time.

We could see the Halloween blow-up lawn decorations from our boat – same ones as 2013, minus one pumpkin. And the only ones in Southport that we saw.

You just have to wonder what possessed anyone to name their boat, Booger or Trashfest. So at odds with the rest of the scenery.

You just have to wonder what possessed anyone to name their boat, Booger or Trashfest. There has to be a reason, right? It is so at odds with the rest of the scenery.

On our stroll around the town we were again enchanted with the place. Everything is well-cared for and well-maintained. The people are outrageously friendly without being annoying. Southport is home to festivals, artists, history, architecture, natural beauty, and culture; and its residents are understandably proud of their little gem.

"Happiest Seaside Town in America"

Southport was awarded the title of “2015 Happiest Seaside Town”, by Coastal Living Magazine, as the part of their “best coastal places to call home—for a weekend or a lifetime.”

Since this was our second visit, we needed to do something different. After a 30-minute walk, we stopped in the Southport Tea House for a spot of afternoon tea and treats.

Southport Tea Hose, a charming little cottage of serenity.

Southport Tea Hose, a charming little cottage of serenity.

“Step back in time. Leave the hustle and bustle of this world behind.  Upon entering our doors, feel the warmth of the welcome you receive as you are guided to your seat.     Don’t give schedules another thought as you drink in the unhurried atmosphere.”  This quote from their website is no exaggeration and is absolutely true. To our fellow cruisers, on your way south and on your way north, if you stop in Southport, you must take the time to visit the Southport Tea House. You will not regret it!

We are not tea connoisseurs, but could tell the difference between these custom loose leaf brewed teas and the bags we use at home and while cruising. Al tried the raspberry tea with his chocolate tart, and I decided to try Southern sweet tea (for the first time) with a lemon cranberry scone. Patrick, the chef, assured me that his Southern sweet tea would not be too sweet. He was absolutely right. I won’t try it anywhere else now because it would never compare to this. Delicious!! We thoroughly enjoyed every bite and every sip, as well as the company and the ambience.

Our tea time treats. Patrick, the chef and Sherry French, the owner.

Our tea time treats.
Patrick, the chef and Sherry French, the owner. Wonderful people – Thank you for making our visit feel so special.

Back on the boat, it’s a nice treat to take the time to cook a warm and relaxing breakfast on those mornings when we aren’t up with the dawn for a long traveling day.

Coffee with sour dough French toast topped with strawberries.

Coffee with sour dough French toast topped with strawberries. The coffee was made in the percolator to save the batteries, which were getting low.

Al was determined to get our solar panels to face the right direction so that they would would soak up more sunshine.

Al was determined to get our solar panels to face the right direction so that they would would soak up more sunshine and add to our batteries.  Out goes a second anchor off the stern to hold the boat facing south.

For our second day of “let’s do something different than the last time,” we played true tourists and took a 45-minute ride on Southport Fun Tours, around the town in an oversized golf cart. Our guide, “Rev”, entertained us with jokes (he rings the bell for the bad ones), as well as tales about Southport’s history and points of interest. I can’t remember half of what he told us!

The cemetery, always a point of interest.

The cemetery, always a point of interest.

The old jail. Rev pointed out the repaired brick to the lower right of the top left window. A prisoner escaped by digging through there. Really????

The old jail. Rev pointed out the repaired brick to the lower right of the top left window. A prisoner escaped by digging through there. Really????

This is just one of the many waterfront homes that overlook the ICW and out to Cape Fear. What a location.

This is just one of the many waterfront homes that overlook the ICW and out to Cape Fear. What a location.

I love this little stained glass window in the peak of this home.

I love this little stained glass window in the peak of this home. It would look so good on our house………

“Southern live oak” trees are amazing tress with their twisting and turning branches. Just makes you want to go tree climbing again like a child. They are everywhere and most are quite old.  Many of them have the “resurrection fern” growing on them. The fern is not that noticeable during dry weather, because it turns brown and looks dead. But the rains cause a transformation – the shriveled, brown fronds open up and turn bright green again, hence the name “resurrection fern.”

The twists and turns of Southern Live Oaks. In Southport, even the homes change to accommodate the trees -- take a close look at the upper right photo.

The twists and turns of Southern Live Oaks. In Southport, even the homes are built or modified to accommodate the trees — take a close look at the upper right photo.

Rev pointed out the various houses and businesses that have played a role in tv shows and films. For a number of years, North Carolina had a tax exemption for filmmakers which attracted many production companies. The city of Southport has been the location for many TV series such as Revenge and Under the Dome, and Andy Griffith’s house in Matlock. Films which have been made in Southport include I Know What You Did Last Summer, Summer Catch, Domestic Disturbance, Crimes of the Heart, Mary and Martha, Nights in Rodanthe, A Walk to Remember and Safe Haven. BUT, he informed us, the legislature recently revoked that status and now tv and film makers have gone to Georgia. He commented that this has been a huge loss for North Carolina and a big gain for Georgia.

This house was in the 1986 movie, Crimes of The Heart , starring Jessica Lange, Sissy Spacek, Diane Keaton, and Sam Shepard.

This house was in the 1986 movie, Crimes of The Heart , starring Jessica Lange, Sissy Spacek, Diane Keaton, and Sam Shepard. It is now on my list of old movies to watch,especially with a cast like that.

This was the house in Matlock, the tv show starring Andy Griffith, after the Mayberry series.

This was the house in Matlock, the tv show starring Andy Griffith, after his Mayberry series.

And this one was Big Jim's house in "Under the Dome," a very silly and strange tv series that recently ended for good reason.

And this one was Big Jim’s house in “Under the Dome,” a very silly and strange tv series that recently ended for good reason.

Southport is most proud of its fame from Safe Haven, the movie based on the Nicholas Sparks novel. Southport is specifically named as the location and was really filmed here (and we now know that isn’t always the case.) It was released in 2013 and there are still posters and signs about it all over the town. Rev had lots to say about the movie, the actors, and the filming locations.

Top photo - Moore Street Market Bottom - Josh Duhamel's home. I actually photographed this house and included it in the blog from our 2013 visit. It's a darling little house right across from the docks.

Top photo – Moore Street Market
Bottom – Alex’s (played by Josh Duhamel) house. I actually photographed this house and included it in the blog from our 2013 visit. It’s a darling little house right across from the docks.

This little duck statue sits not the brick fence around Alex's house. Rev, our guide, said that the duck is featured in several scenes, but got no billing for it. Yes, the bell rang on that joke.

This little duck statue sits on the brick fence around “Alex’s” house. Rev, our guide, said that the duck is featured in several scenes, but got no billing for it. Yes, the bell rang on that joke.

Rev has this "Wanted"poster hanging on the visor of his golf cart. It's not real - it's the one from the Safe Haven movie for Julianne Hough's character, Katie/Erin.

Rev has this “Wanted”poster hanging on the visor of his golf cart. It’s not real – it’s the one from the Safe Haven movie for Julianne Hough’s character, Katie/Erin. He told us not to call 911.

Al and I hadn’t read the novel or seen the movie, but after this, we had to, right? So on a long, long download over the free wifi we could grab, we managed to rent it from iTunes. The movie’s short description – “A young woman with a mysterious past lands in Southport, North Carolina where her bond with a widower forces her to confront the dark secret that haunts her.” Hmmm, ok. The movie was not all that great. In fact, critics really panned it as “schmaltzy, predictable, and melodramatic, … with a  ludicrous plot twist…”  ~~Rotten Tomatoes. Harsh though that sounds, I have to agree. But, I enjoyed watching it anyway just because we were right there in Southport and could recognize the local sights. I do believe that it must have been a very cool experience to watch a film in production right in your own town, for the residents of Southport.

We spent a short time in the North Carolina Maritime Museum at Southport, a companion museum to the one we visited in Beaufort in 2013. It holds a nice collection of nautical artifacts from the Cape Fear River and sea. The best one was the periscope from the USS Dolphin, a research submarine used by the US Navy from 1968 through 2006.

The periscope outside on the museum's peak. Al tests it out and surveys the 360 degree sights around Southport.

The periscope outside on the museum’s peak.
Al tests it out and surveys the 360 degree sights around Southport, from inside.

Time for dinner decisions. In 2013 we ate at “Fishy Fishy” on the wharf, which was fun. Looking for something different, we heard good and unique things about the “Yacht Basin Provision Company”, also on the wharf. We “drove” to the restaurant by dinghy and “parked” at their dock. This would be a distinctly different experience than our tea at the Southport Tea House yesterday. 🙂  Fresh seafood, casual and friendly, right on the wharf. Definitely casual and laid back.

The exterior of the Yacht Basin Provision Company. Nice and rustic.

The exterior of the Yacht Basin Provision Company. Street side and wharfside views. Nice and rustic.

What’s unique? The drinks are on the “honor system”, including beer and wine. You take what you want from the refrigerated coolers and let them know when you pay the bill. We have never been anywhere else like that!

Inside the Provision Company - casual, fun, and very tasty.

Inside the Provision Company – casual, fun, and very tasty. We ate right on the porch, enjoying the view, the food, and chatting with other folks, patrons and servers.

We like Southport even more on this second visit and certainly recommend it as a stopover for our cruising friends. Take the time to visit for awhile. IF, and this is a huge IF, I were to ever live in the south, I think I would seriously consider Southport. But I do have one recommendation for Southport – You are a lovely and friendly town, but could you please repair your public dinghy docks?? They are quickly approaching a dangerous condition.

Another lovely sunset brings an end to our time in Southport.

Another lovely sunset over the ICW brings an end to our time in Southport.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *