About forty minutes from Wilmington, North Carolina (my alma mater), the quaint town of Southport beckons visitors to embrace the simple way of life and the freshest seafood the south has to offer. A quintessential one-stoplight town, Southport boasts an impressive reputation for down-home cooking, blockbuster movie successes, and the friendly hospitality of the South.
The journey to Southport begins even before you enter the small town. Though easily accessible by driving, most people choose to travel by the Fort Fisher-Southport ferry for an authentic experience. Cars are lined bumper to bumper awaiting the signal to drive onto the ferry. As soon as the ferry starts, people pour out of their cars to get a better look at the water and the hovering seagulls. I have traveled to Southport by ferry many times, and have always enjoyed standing at the very front of the boat, feeling the warm breeze on my cheeks. Seagulls smack and swarm the ferry, searching for forgotten snacks and half-eaten sandwiches. Once the ferry docks, cars follow through the narrow tree-lined road to the “center” of the town.
Upon entering the town, visitors immediately notice wooden white municipal buildings, picket fences, rows of antique shops, and the glimmer of the ocean breaking through the tiny alleyways. Red brick buildings shine in the summer sun and locals offer friendly hellos as they pass you on the street. Quaint, locally-owned shops keep their doors wide open displaying kitschy souvenirs, decorative beach memorabilia or authentic Southern goods.
In order to familiarize yourself with the history of this little town, its best to stop into town hall; you’ll be met with true Southern hospitality from the volunteer staff. The interior of this small, white building is plastered with old movie posters and paraphernalia. Among its culinary claim to fame, Southport prides itself on being the perfect destination for hit television shows and blockbuster movies. The site has been made popular by author Nicholas Sparks who has had such books as Safe Haven, A Walk to Remember and Nights in Rodanthe adapted into film. Noteworthy television and movie successes also include Dawson’s Creek, Under the Dome, I Know What You Did Last Summer, and Summer Catch. Tourists have flocked to Southport to sample a piece of the action whether it be eating at the Wildlife Restaurant and Grill (Safe Haven) or walking along City Pier (Dawson’s Creek). With such big name actors and box office hits, Southport has become a hotspot for tourism and movie junkies. Even with all the publicity, residents of Southport are rather humble when it comes to the bright lights of Hollywood flooding their small town. If you’re a movie buff, I would definitely suggest scoping out some memorable movie locales in Southport.
The gem of this small southern town is Yacht Basin Provision Company. Situated on the Cape Fear River, this down-home seafood restaurant features traditional southern cooking and an outdoor dining deck, making it the perfect place to enjoy a half-pound of steamed shrimp and a warm summer sunset. Provisions (affectionately known by its local clientele) make no qualms about being a fancy, upscale restaurant. The building’s weathered green façade shines brightly in the sun as you drive towards the low lying structure. Beneath the oversized sign, a white screen door sways in the breeze, enticing locals and visitors alike into the restaurant. Stepping through the door, the sweetness of frying oil fills your nostrils mixing with the tanginess of shredded coleslaw. Small containers of potato salad and cucumber salad line the preparation counter, giving hungry customers a glimpse of their potential food choices. The “one room” restaurant is simple a white counter packed with friendly fry cooks and even friendlier cashiers. The blackboard menu hangs next to the counter decorated with daily specials and local favorites.
Wisps of steam rise from the freshly cooked “peel and eat” shrimp are piled high on plastic plates. Crab cakes, lightly fried and stuffed with fresh crab meat, sit in red checkered paper baskets with creamy chunks of potatoes. Slicing the plastic fork into the crab cake, the light golden crust falls into the container, exposing pieces of crab and fresh vegetables. A plastic plate decorated with small mounds of potato salad and cucumber salad surround a perfectly grilled ten ounce portion of yellow fin tuna. The only thing missing from any one of these dishes is a crisp, cool Corona and lime. Equally as alluring as the food, the outdoor dining provides the best view for the sunset over the Cape Fear River.
Southern charm and tradition make Southport a perfect location for superstar sightings, delicious cuisine and relaxation.