Southport oozes charm, beauty

Published 12:00 am Thursday, November 1, 2018

Is there a prettier view anywhere than from Waterfront Park overlooking the Cape Fear River in the heart of Southport?

I could sit there for hours in one those chairs, benches or “front-porch” swings on the spacious green lawn leading down to the waterfront walkways, admiring what looks like a postcard. It’s simply stunning.

There’s a public pier for fishing or just getting a closer perch for the view that includes all the boats in the harbor, Oak Island, Bald Head Island and their respective lighthouses in the distance. Or you can take a stroll down Bay Street to check out the restaurant choices along the Old Yacht Basin, and then head over to a marsh walk leading to the edge of the Intracoastal Waterway to view a variety of birds and all that nature has to offer.

My wife and I were recently able to enjoy a week of vacation, staying in the Ocean Drive area of North Myrtle Beach, which included being able to hear an outdoor concert featuring the Embers — one of the ultimate beach bands.

It was a time of relaxation and eating lots of seafood at Calabash, but we really wanted to take a day to make the short trip up to Southport and have the opportunity to do more than just a quick stop to scarf down the best peel ’n eat shrimp ever at Provision Company. However, that still had to be part of our day there!

We had the time to stroll through the charming downtown area, check out the old Victorian homes and soak in the history, discovering more about this quaint little town by taking a golf cart ride with a tour guide who was oozing with local knowledge.

We were aware that Southport was a “picture-perfect” town for filming movies, including  “Crimes of the Heart,” “Nights in Rodanthe,” and “A Walk to Remember,” and television shows such as “Matlock” and “Dawson’s Creek.”

But “Safe Haven,” the romantic thriller released five years ago based on a Nicholas Sparks novel with the same name, was most prominent on display in the visitors center and a focal point for curious visitors like us.

After all, it has been said that the town itself played a lead role in the movie, and that was certainly evident in our personal and guided tours.

In fact, the beautiful space on the lawn overlooking the Cape Fear River not only houses the Fort Johnston-Southport Museum and Visitors Center on the back portion of the lot, but was the location of the Fourth of July market scene — right out there where we were sitting on our vacation. By the way, Southport is officially recognized as the N.C. Fourth of July Festival and holds a huge July 4th parade each year.

Around the corner, the Moore Street Market café was one of the store fronts from the downtown business district featured in the parade scene. Down on the next block on Howe Street, you can find Ports of Call restaurant, which was the scene of the romantic dinner — at Table #9 with Katie (Julianne Hough) and Alex (Josh Duhamel).

American Fish Company, which is on the waterfront, was named “Ivan’s Restaurant,”  where Katie served as a waitress.

Ryan’s Port Market, which was built just for the movie but dismantled after the filming, was across the street from Alex’s house on Brunswick Street along the Old Yacht Basin — the location of many important scenes in the movie.

The Southport-Fort Fisher Ferry was the spot for Katie and Alex’s ferry scene.

And the list goes on and on.

I actually saw “Safe Haven” years ago, but with a drastic change in perspective after our visit, I can’t wait to see it again. That’s kind of like Southport — a place we will include as a destination for future trips to the beach.

We learned that there’s much more to this town, but if nothing else, there’s always that view.