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Southport, NC


Southport Lifestyle

A quaint fishing village on the mouth of the Cape Fear River, Southport is place you come to visit and end up never wanting to leave. Beautiful Victorian-style homes grace the sidewalk-lined streets under huge sweeping oak trees, hundreds of years old. Cool ocean breezes keep temperatures mild year round. And Southport’s midway point between Wilmington and Myrtle Beach make it close to all of the action, yet with an ambiance that feels worlds away.

Self-guided walking tours provide a wealth of discovery. Stroll down Moore Street and visit the many colorful gift shops, art galleries and antique dealerships. Stop and rest at Waterfront Park where you may see huge cargo ships making their way up the Cape Fear River to the port city of Wilmington. Enjoy fresh seafood overlooking the Southport Yacht Basin and Marina where sailing vessels stop on their way along the Inter-coastal waterway.

The many historic sites like the old Southport Jail, St. Philips Episcopal Church and Smithfield cemetery are all easily accessible on foot. You can also learn about the colorful history of Southport and real life legends of the famous pirate Stede Bonnet at the Southport Maritime Museum. The Southport Visitor Center provides maps, brochures and self-guided walking tours.

Southport History

Originally incorporated in 1792 as Smithville, its progressive citizens changed its name to Southport in 1887 in hopes of attracting a port. The port went further upstream to the City of Wilmington but this entrepreneurial spirit is alive and well in the City today. The historic charm of this community will captivate you as you walk under a canopy of 200 year old live oak trees, or walk past majestic Victorian century homes which once belonged to river pilots or maybe even a pirate or two. Southport is one of few City’s with a true downtown. Banks, antique & collectible shops, restaurants, and professional offices line about a five block area in the downtown commercial district. Just outside this district is one of the finest medical care facilities in our region, J.A. Dosher Memorial Hospital. A visit to our area is not complete without a day or two of walking through these antique and specialty shops, stopping along the way for a leisurely lunch at an outside pub or restaurant along the waterfront or yacht basin, taking a pedicab historic tour of the City, watching transoceanic vessels pass by at Waterfront Park and visiting the NC Maritime Museum in Southport The City of Southport also offers sailors, anglers and boaters a safe haven through the Southport Marina, Old Yacht Basin and City Pier.

The first Spanish explorers to the region arrived in 1521, but it was further up the Cape Fear River that the first settlement, Brunswick Town was formed in the mid-1700s. Between 1745 and 1754 Fort Johnson was built as quarantine service for incoming seamen and to protect settlements further up the river. Located at the mouth of the Cape Fear, Fort Johnson attracted a small community of river pilots and fishermen and the area began to thrive.

In 1792, the NC General Assembly, at the request of Joshua Potts, commissioned a new township and what is now known as Southport was born. The new town was originally named Smithville, after Benjamin Smith who served under George Washington in the revolutionary war. Cool summer breezes soon made Smithville a popular summer resort, and its strategic location made Fort Johnston important in every United States war. In 1808, Smithville became the county seat of Brunswick County.

After the Civil War, entrepreneurial and visionary businessmen saw opportunity to create a major southern port city by combining the city’s river transportation with the new railroad system which was changing the face of the United States. As part of their strategy, Smithville was renamed Southport in 1887. Telegraph service and a coaling dock for steamships were added. Although Southport never became the major port city they dreamed of, railroads served the town from 1911 to World War II and it was on the river steamer routes until 1925.

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