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April 22, 2020
Fort Johnston with tree
In Spring of 1748, construction began on Johnston’s Fort, later called Fort Johnston, named for Governor Gabriel Johnston, who appointed the committee that had studied locations and recommended a fort be built at the mouth of the Cape Fear River. The Fort was built in response to pirates, privateers, and numerous Spanish attacks on British settlements on the Carolina coast.  Naturally, a town developed around the Fort. The town of Smithville was founded in 1792. It was named after Benjamin Smith, a Colonel in the Continental Army during the Revolutionary War and later Governor of North Carolina. In 1887, Smithville was renamed Southport in an effort to attract a major shipping port. The port went upriver to the City of Wilmington but the town kept the Southport name. Southport flourished as a fishing village.

Sunset at Yacht BasinSouthport’s protected harbor has long been noted for its salubrious breezes and hospitality. In 2015,  Coastal Living Magazine named Southport the Happiest Seaside Town in America.   Located at the mouth of the Cape Fear River, the Intracoastal Waterway and the Atlantic Ocean, the view from Southport Waterfront is extraordinary. Take a walk beneath the huge sprawling oak trees that line the avenues leading to striking historic homes and it won’t take you long to figure out why Southport remains a highly desirable place to live.  But don’t let the laidback, sleepy façade fool you. Southport is a bustling city with a thriving commercial district of boutiques, cafés, restaurants, professional offices, varied service providers, physician offices, marina, motels, bed and breakfast inns, churches, art galleries, museums, meeting facilities, and Dosher Memorial Hospital.

Southport’s green space is plentiful as many parks and recreational areas are located throughout the City. A popular park for a variety of community events is Franklin Square Park. Originally called “The Grove”, Franklin Square Park hosts the N.C. 4th of July Festival Arts and Crafts, Southport Spring Festival, and musical or theatrical performances by community groups.

Keziah Park is located Downtown on East Moore Street. Its focal point is the Indian Trail Tree, estimated to be over 800 years old,which majestically oversees the park where visitors and residents enjoy a quiet area to relax.

Southport Waterfront ParkWaterfront Park is the best place to watch large transoceanic ships pass on their way up the Cape Fear River to the NC State Ports, creating remarkable photographic opportunities. Fort Johnston Garrison Lawn is used by the community for numerous public gatherings, including the Waterfront Market and the N.C. 4th of July Festival naturalization Ceremony. Inside Fort Johnston - Southport Museum and Visitor’s Center, 203 E. Bay Street, look through exhibits, original documents, historical artifacts, and memorabilia from the latest movies filmed in Southport including Safe Haven, a film adaptation of a Nicholas Sparks novel. While there pick up a Southport Historical Society Self-Guided Walking Tour or take a guided tour on a golf cart, tram or ghost walk.  Just around the corner visit the N.C. Maritime Museum at Southport, 204 E. Moore Street. The North Carolina Maritime Museum at Southport tells the story of the Cape Fear region's people and their relationship to the water... a tale of tides, wind and ocean.

RiverwalkA great way to end the day is to take a stroll on the Riverwalk, a sidewalk winding around the riverfront through the Old Yacht Basin to the Southport Marina, with many opportunities along the way to sit a spell on a bench, swing or enjoy a restaurant to take in the sights, sounds and breathtaking sunsets.

The City’s commercial area is divided into three districts – Downtown, Water Tower, and Up Town. Driving into the City, Up Town begins at Wal-Mart and follows Howe Street to just before the City’s water tower. That is where the Water Tower District and the sidewalk begin. The sidewalk will take you Downtown and to the Waterfront. Don’t miss any of these areas when shopping or dining in Southport.

Southport Waterfront ParkFolklore suggests that anyone who drinks from the water pump located in Franklin Square Park is destined to return. We hope you will drink in our heritage and hospitality and return, if not just for a visit, for a lifetime.  The 2013 year-round population of Southport was 3,137. Click to visit the City of Southport website.

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Southport Happiest Seaside Town

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