If you’re looking for a unique vacation that’s exhilarating, magical, and filled with beauty, history, and southern charm, come visit our hidden treasure – Southport, North Carolina. Where the river meets the sea.

Once in town, it won’t take long to see why we’re called historic Southport. Visiting the Fort Johnston-Southport Museum & Visitors’ Center, NC Maritime Museum, Old Brunswick County Jail, and the Old Smithville Burying Ground are all great ways to get a sense of how far back our community dates. Many consider our town to be a living museum – a place where history is both preserved and enjoyed.

Our community’s combination of natural beauty and historic charm has caught the attention of Hollywood. Many popular movies and TV shows have been filmed in Southport including Crimes of the Heart, Nicholas Sparks’ Safe Haven, Steven King’s Under the Dome, and most recently, Amazon Prime’s series The Summer I Turned Pretty.

After a day of strolling our tree-lined streets, shopping in our boutiques, and visiting the many sites that make Southport so special, be sure to stop and spend some time at one of our many local restaurants. From fine dining to fun dining, your choices include fresh-caught seafood, steak, salads, hamburgers, ice cream, pastries, and more.

Finally, when the day is done and it is time to rest, you’ll appreciate our wide range of accommodations from national hotel brands to quaint and cozy bed-and-breakfast inns.

Planning a Trip?

Scroll over each navigation block to learn more

A festival for ALL seasons…

Scroll over each navigation block to learn more
  • Spring Festival

    Welcome spring in style at the Southport Spring Festival, a tradition for more than 27 years!

  • Naturefest

    With our local environment as the main focus, this event celebrates all things nature!

  • NC Fourth of July Festival

    The history of Southport’s Fourth of July Festival celebration was first recorded in a newspaper in 1795. In 1972 we were incorporated as the N.C. 4th of July Festival!

  • Winterfest

    Southport Winterfest is the umbrella under which most of the City’s holiday events fall, will include everything from the “Annual Cookie Contest” to the “Southport Christmas Flotilla”, and much, much more!

Fort Johnston was the first fort constructed in the state of North Carolina and was named for Provincial Governor Gabriel Johnston. The Fort was built in 1749 by the British to defend the area from the French and Spanish. The abundant natural resources such as tar, pitch, turpentine, and tobacco put a target on this area. Ironically, when the Spaniards did attack in 1748, the Fort’s construction wasn’t finished, and finding no one home, the Spaniards went upriver and looted Brunswick Town instead.

There were conflicts to come and Fort Johnston would play at least a small role in almost all of them. In 1754, men from Fort Johnston were sent to help fight in the French and Indian Wars. In 1759, they fought against the Cherokee. When the Revolution broke out in 1775, a large group of patriots stormed the Fort and burned most of the structures in defiance of the British. George Washington and his congress supported rebuilding Fort Johnston and in 1795 enough work had been done to allow Southport’s citizens to use it as a meeting place for their first documented Fourth of July celebration.

In 1810, the Fort saw extensive renovations, including the construction of the present-day Garrison House. During the Civil War, Confederates occupied the Fort which was the hub for recruitment and training. The Fort also provided some protection to blockade runners. (Confederate cargo ships that smuggled goods past Union ships which blocked waterways.) During this time, the Fort was occasionally called Fort Branch, and Fort Pender, but Fort Johnston would be the only name that stuck.

When the Civil War ended, so did the life of the Fort as a seacoast defense. Since June of 1881, the Fort’s buildings have been variously used by the US Signal Corps, the Weather Bureau (National Weather Service), the US Army Corps of Engineers, and the US Surveying Corps. In the 1950s officers from an air rescue unit of the US Air Force stayed here. The Fort was transferred to Sunny Point Military Ocean Terminal in 1955.

The federal government transferred the property to the City of Southport in 2006. The Garrison House of the Fort is the only surviving structure and is now home to the Fort Johnston-Southport Museum and Visitors’ Center, and the Southport Historical Society.

Fort Johnston is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Southport Historical Society

The Southport Historical Society was organized in 1976 to preserve and interpret the unique history of Southport.

Click here to learn more

More about Fort Johnston

The Community Relations Department hosts the Visitor’s Center in Fort Johnston.

Click here to learn more

We’re a part of Civil War Trails!

Civil War Trails® connects visitors and shares stories across six states since 1994.

Click here to learn more

Delve into nearby destinations:

Scroll over each navigation block to learn more
  • Old Brunswick County Jail 

    Located at the corner of Nash and Rhett Streets across from the Old Smithville Burying Ground has been restored and run by the Southport Historical Society since 1984.

  • North Carolina Maritime Museum at Southport

    The North Carolina Maritime Museum at Southport started as the Southport Maritime Museum and became a state agency in 1999. After moving to Moore Street in 2010, it has become a popular attraction in Southport, offering a glimpse into the rich maritime history and culture of the Cape Fear region.

  • Brunswick Town / Fort Anderson

    Historic Brunswick, a major pre-Revolutionary port on Cape Fear River, was razed by the British in 1776. Later, Fort Anderson was built on the site during the Civil War. Visitors can now explore colonial foundations and Confederate earthworks on the tour trail.

Self-Guided Tours

The City of Southport has partnered with the Southport Historical Society to use the free mobile app called PocketSights to provide visitors and residents with directions for self-guided tours of Southport and the Cape Fear Region.  Five tours are currently available.

The first four tours are “Free Roam Tours”, meaning you can either walk and/or drive from location to location in any order you choose.  You will want to drive if you plan to take The Cape Fear River Circle Tour, as the “circle” covers nearly fifty miles and could take sixteen hours to walk!

The free mobile app by PocketSights will guide you from one point of interest to the next using GPS.

Download the here to take the following self-guided tours on your GPS-enabled mobile device.

Brought to you by the Department of Community Relations

Contact Us by clicking here if you need additional assistance