Weekend in Southport, North Carolina
Sprawling oak trees and three bodies of water make this humble, Southern town feel like home—even to the Hollywood stars who often film here.
By Jennifer Brunnemer Slaton
From the swings in Waterfront Park, visitors take in barrier islands, Oak Island Lighthouse, Old Baldy Lighthouse (as if one lighthouse isn't lovely enough!), and boats of all kinds.
You'll also find Bull Frog Corner, a haven for kids, full of toys and barrels loaded to the brim with old-school candies like Bit-O-Honey, Mary Janes, and licorice twists. Just up the road, Cat On a Whisk offers lovely table linens and fine cookware.
Southport is famous for its annual NC 4th of July festival, when the town swells to 50,000 people. The U.S. Open King Mackerel Tournament is held in October, when some 500 boats compete to see who can catch the biggest whopper.
Locals enjoy everything from golf, boating, and fishing to perusing the thousands of artifacts in the downtown Maritime Museum and the monthly local artists' exhibits at beautiful Franklin Square Art Gallery.
An easy drive away, the family-friendly beach on Oak Island is a beautiful 10-mile stretch of sand with plenty of public access. Bald Head Island is accessible by ferry from Southport every hour.
The town enjoys harbor breezes, but gets hot in July with temperatures in the low 90s. January is the coldest month, with temperatures in the 30s.
Just a short walk to the shoreline, the elegant Robert Ruark Inn, built in 1890, offers bedrooms with original fireplaces and luxurious baths in the former home of writer Robert Ruark's grandfather.
Rates start at $130; robertruarkinn.com.
Lois Jane's Riverview Inn on the waterfront has cozy, pretty rooms and a lovely balcony view.
Rates starts at $120; loisjanes.com.
At Fishy Fishy Café near the Southport Marina, couples dining on the restaurant's pier tend to sit side by side looking out over the water, enjoying the live music and a menu of favorites like shrimp-and-grits.
Mr. P's Bistro serves up fresh daily specials such as grouper Oscar, pan-roasted with red-pepper hollandaise.
At The Pharmacy Restaurant (located in an old drugstore), white tablecloths and lace curtains greet locals who eagerly await nights when the excellent portobello mushroom soup is served.