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Destinations To Die For: Southport, North Carolina

A Fortunate Find | May


Picturesque porches - a signature of the South.

I found the town of Southport, North Carolina, somewhat by accident. It was May 2005, and I was taking the company boat, a Luhrs 41 Convertible, up to New York from Florida. It was a long trip, and since no one editor could be out of the office for the entire run, we broke it up into legs. I'd drawn the second leg, from Charleston, South Carolina, to Beaufort, North Carolina.

I had five days to complete the 250-mile trip, so there was plenty of time for sightseeing along the way. I started poring over charts and cruising guides to map out my plan, choosing stops based on distance and amenities and trying to pick places I had never been before. I was set on Wilmington but then decided I didn't want to go all the way up the Cape Fear River just to turn around and come back down again. I settled on Southport simply because I didn't have to go out of my way and the cruising guide said it offered restaurants within walking distance and local taxi service. Little did I know the town was listed on the National Register of Historic Places and was voted number 19 on Rand McNally's list of best places to retire to.

But as soon as we hit the mouth of the Cape Fear River, I knew I'd lucked out. Perfectly weathered workboats were returning to their slips beside shiny, new battlewagons. Fishermen, both commerical and recreational, lined the docks, exhanging stories of the day's catch. Locals smiled and waved as we slowly cruised past the endless piers. I could feel the laid-back vibe everywhere I went.


Oak trees form a canopy over the many piers that overlook the Intracoastal.

Once I'd tied up, I immediately set out to explore. Walking below the canopy created by the sprawling oak trees was serene, almost surreal. Everywhere I looked there were beautiful historic homes, with rocking chairs or porch swings occupied by friendly faces. The brick buildings along the five-block-long commercial district housed collectible and antiques shops. I could have wandered around for hours, but the music and laughter coming from the waterfront got the better of my curiosity.

Following the crowd I arrived at the Provision Company, a restaurant that's home to the annual swing festival. My crew and I sat down at an empty table and, after being greeted by those around us, were immediately asked where we were from. Southport is a small town, so out-of-towners are recognized pretty quickly. I responded with hesitation that we were from New York, expecting a reception not unlike the one Americans receive in Europe these days. Instead the response came back, "Well, welcome to Southport. We're sure glad you're here." That made two of us.

Destinations To Die For

January: Plymouth Harbor, Dominica
February: The Spanish Virgin Islands
March: Mazatlan, Mexico
April: Man-O-War Cay, Bahamas
May: Southport, North Carolina
June: Greenport, New York
July: New York, New York
August: Penobscot Bay, Maine
September: Block Island, Rhode Island
October: Panama City, Florida
November: Key West, Florida
December: Staniel Cay, Bahamas

This article originally appeared in the December 2007 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.