Southport is a quaint coastal town in North Carolina right down the road from Oak Island that offers picturesque maritime landscapes, numerous historical sites to explore, incredible restaurants, and countless local events and shopping options! Needless to say, it’s definitely worth taking a day (or a few) to explore what’s been dubbed as “America’s Happiest Seaside Town” by Coastal Living Magazine” during your visit to OKI.
You may even be surprised that you already recognize some of the sights! This town has been the backdrop to an assortment of popular movies and television shows like “Safe Haven,” “A Walk to Remember,” “Under the Dome,” and “Revenge.”
Keep reading to learn some of the best things to do in Southport, NC:
- Discover Downtown
- See the Views & Witness the Wildlife
- Get Out on the Water
- Explore History
- Wine and Dine
- Places to Stay
Southport’s charming and historic downtown is centered around Howe Street, where you will find it all — inviting restaurants, distinctive boutique stores, and historic buildings. This area is a great place to take a morning or afternoon stroll while discovering all the fun and unique things to do in Southport, NC. There are even numerous professionally guided walking, biking, and water tours that take place here. For those who love diving into the local culture, you’ll be excited to find a myriad of antique stores, art galleries featuring local artists, and gift shops awaiting.
See the Views & Witness the Wildlife
Speaking of downtown, you’ll find the Cape Fear River at the very end of Howe Street — where Southport’s Waterfront Park, historic Riverwalk, and the Southport Pier are located. You’ll instantly understand why this area is extremely popular with locals and visitors alike! The 9-acre waterfront park is the perfect place to cozy up on a bench and take in the riverscape. Simply sit back and relax as boats float by and the various species of birds soar above. You may even see dolphins playing in the water right in front of you.
When you’re ready to get back up and go on an adventure, the Riverwalk and Southport Pier are only a few steps away. The Riverwalk is nestled on the river’s edge and is the perfect destination for a leisurely walk, jog, or bike ride. And, with multiple fishing platforms, the pier will be a welcomed addition to your Southport visit for the anglers in your family or group.
Next on the list and not to be missed, the Southport Marsh Walk is one of the area’s scenic highlights! It’s located right down the road on Brunswick Street, near the Southport Marina. Stroll down the boardwalk to see views of local landmarks (like Fishy Fishy Cafe) and the marsh before you end at the overlook platform! If you haven’t already guessed, you’ll have many chances to witness nature firsthand — including coastal birds like white ibis, pelicans, egrets, and great blue herons.
Get Out on the Water
A bit farther down the road is where you will find the newly improved Southport Marina! No matter if you choose to rent a boat or charter a deep-sea fishing vessel for the day, you’ll be able to launch from here. They have a diverse selection of options to choose from — like Boston Whaler boat rentals, tug boat charters, and a variety of opportunities for sailing. Granted, you might find a guided boat tour the best option if you aren’t familiar with the area.
Another way to get out on the water is to go on a ferry ride! Cruise along the Cape Fear River to embark on an adventure to either Bald Head Island or Fort Fisher. Learn about the Southport-Fort Fisher Ferry and the Bald Head Island Ferry here.
Explore the History of the North Carolina Coast
For the history buffs in your family, you’ll find North Carolina has a storied past that’s intriguing to discover about for all ages! While there are multiple historic sites in Southport, we would say the most popular places to visit are:
- North Carolina Maritime Museum: located in the heart of downtown
- Brunswick County Jail: built-in 1904 and located across from the Old Smithville Burying Ground
- Fort Johnston Museum & Visitors Center: explore the fort that was originally built in 1748
Wine & Dine at Southports Restaurants
If you’re looking for dining opportunities near Oak Island without venturing all the way to Wilmington, this is the perfect destination! There are over 20 restaurants in Southport, and multiple eateries have stunning water views. The seafood also doesn’t get any fresher — from the well-known Fishy Fishy Cafe and the Provision Company to Oliver’s on the Cape Fear; you’ll find everything you’re looking for here. Check out this page for a complete list of restaurants in Southport.
Places to Stay near Southport, NC
When you stay on Oak Island, you’ll be about 10 to 15 minutes from downtown Southport while being able to enjoy everything the island has to offer! Sound like the perfect getaway? You can start by browsing our exclusive collection of vacation homes on Oak Island, and please don’t hesitate to reach out with any questions you may have.