Even leisurely walking around Brunswick Town can work up a girl’s appetite. Leaving the warm breezes behind I piled back in the car for the next stop on the day trip list: the seaside town of Southport.
A quick look at TripAdvisor for lunch spots and a short drive later I was sitting in a crimson diner booth at the Southport Smokehouse awaiting a plate of porky and beefy goodness. Not one to shy away from food or calories, I went big with the 3-meat plate loaded up with pulled pork, brisket and ribs. Indeed, it was barbecue scrumptiousness with every bite.
The sides were straight off any Southern mama’s table: slaw, beans, hushpuppies, potato salad, mac-n-cheese, and collards. While I love all these sides I had to try the buffalo chips. Made from thick-sliced, ridged, deep-fried seasoned potatoes, the taters did not disappoint!
In fact the entire meal did not disappoint. The meats were succulent and slightly smoky. Five sauces are available to tickle your taste buds. Crispy yet tender buffalo chips satisfied the need for deep-fried carbs. And to round it all off, I enthusiastically devoured a banana pudding as good as any Southern mama worth her weight in gold.
The good thing about eating in the mid-afternoon is that the meal with tide me over for the rest of the day. Hallelujah! ‘Cause I easily downed enough calories at that meal to not eat for a week.
Full and happy and in need of a siesta, I stuffed my stuffed self back in the car and drove to the Southport waterfront. There was no time for resting!
Once named Smithville, the town grew up adjacent to Fort Johnson in the late 1700s. The fort was constructed at the entrance of the Cape Fear River so that colonists could defend settlements and resources along the Cape Fear from raids by other countries such as the Spanish and the French.
Located directly across from Bald Head Island, where the retired lighthouse Old Baldy shines its light even today, Southport retains its small town charm.
Southport supported the fort and was a fishing town to start with, but later emerged as a shipping port city. Nowadays, large ships are seen gliding past the town on their way to Wilmington. The marina houses many private boats. The town is also home to the port for the NC Department of Transportation ferry between Southport and Fort Fisher and Southport and Bald Head Island. It’s the easiest and shortest way to get between Southport and Fort Fisher by car or as a passenger. The ferry is the only way to get to the island of Bald Head.
While you’re in town you can walk along the shore, eat in a local restaurant, shop, or visit Fort Johnson, the old Brunswick County Jail, or the North Carolina Maritime Museum. I love to walk the Southport pier and along the river walk on Bay Street. When the tide is low the sandy beach left behind by the river is a great place to look for shells or watch the ships float. The waterfront park is a quiet place to take in the river and the scenery from the comfort a swing in the park.
Oak Island, a barrier island primarily used for tourism, is only a few miles from Southport but it is miles away in appearance and feel. Oak Island has a laid-back beach feel.
The construction of Fort Caswell on the eastern end of Oak Island in 1836 allowed for strategic protection of the Cape Fear region and the important port city of Wilmington. Presently, the North Carolina Baptist Assembly owns the property as a retreat, so visiting the fort is rather hit or miss.
Although the island housed a military fortification, construction and development of the island began in earnest in the 1930s. Oddly enough, like many southern NC beaches, Oak Island is one of many south-facing beaches on the North Carolina coast.
Oak Island is home to the Oak Island Lighthouse, a tall columnar lighthouse ringed in paint from the bottom in black, grey and white.
There are places to eat and things to do on Oak Island, but I was mainly there to round out my day by watching the sunset.
And oh what a sunset it was….