At the mouth of the Cape Fear River is a village dating back to colonial times with several islands known for their fine beaches nearby.
The port itself is lined with seafood dining establishments including the famed Provision Company. The food is great and prices quite reasonable. Dockside seating is superb for sunsets, the shaded dining hall is a cool place to enjoy lunch on a hot summer’s afternoon. They also own the ice cream and souvenir shop across the street.
Next door I had a great blackened tuna sandwich at Fishy Fishy, also on the docks with a fine view of the river and Oak Island’s lighthouse. Across the way is the new, and way up high on stilts Frying Pan restaurant, which also had great reviews.
A drive along the waterfront areas is great for looking at the ancient colonial and civil war era mansions, cottages and even Craftsman style homes vying for the best views. A few streets back is a nice shopping area with lots of antique shops and tourist traps to keep one busy for a while. Mostly vacation homes, we hear the town empties out during the winter.
Nearby is Oak Island, a ten mile or more long strand lined with vacation homes, facing south. Some are really grand, and a mix of nice beach cottages – recently jacked up on stilts to survive the battering waves of hurricanes. The sand dunes in front of the homes are protected, and you can see where they are rebuilding dunes and planting miles of beach grasses to stave off the erosion. The beach is beautiful. Lots of clam shells, mussels and others crunchy bits are revealed depending on the tides. Leatherback turtles nest along the beach. Organized groups of turtle protectors guard the nests, sometimes moving the eggs to quieter areas and as they hatch, herd them into the sea. I just missed one brave turtle come out, sometimes they come out in batches over several nights…usually around the full moon.
Just across from Southport harbor is Bald Head Island, and to the east and noth of that is Carolina Beach, another fine long sandy beach.