Boating in Southport, North Carolina
Visit the graceful town of Southport
They say Southport is the Nantucket of North Carolina, and for good reason. Located on the Cape Fear River, the graceful town of Southport blends New England village atmosphere with the climate of the tropics. Swaying palms grow beside stately oaks in front of fine plantation-style homes and charming cottages. For all its slow southern charm, Southport is a spirited port of departure, since it is the last harbor north of Charleston, South Carolina, that can be reached by a secure, deepwater channel. If you've cruised to this part of North Carolina in search of a refreshing stopover, you're in the right place.
Peaceful Bald Head Island (only golf carts for transportation) similarly offers a quiet escape. That is, unless you consider the whack of club against ball to be cacophonous-it may be the only sound you hear besides the surfcaster's whoosh, the crash of the waves, and the calls of the birds.
Things to See and Do
Gain a working knowledge of the area's maritime past with a tour of the North Carolina Maritime Museum at Southport (910-457-0003). Open Tuesday through Saturday, exhibits on piracy, steamboats, aids to navigation, and storms bring it all to life for you. Take a ride on the Southport-Fort Fisher Ferry (910-457-6942) to visit this historically significant site; a land-sea battle here marked the beginning of the end for the Confederacy. On the other end of the half-hour crossing you'll find the Fort Fisher Historic Site and Civil War Museum (910-458-5538), as well as the North Carolina Aquarium (800-842-FISH) featuring a shark tank, plants, and touch pool. If you're looking for more ideas, stop at the Southport Visitors Center (910-457-7927), next to the library and pick up a self-guided walking tour map along historic sites in town. It'll take you past Victorian homes that were owned by river pilots and maybe a pirate or two. They can also help you arrange tee times and transportation to one of the nearly 100 golf courses that lie within a half-hour drive of town. Golf is one of the main activities on Bald Head Island, along with lying on the beach, admiring the real estate, and walking through nature's splendor. Take the Bald Head Island Ferry (910-457-5003) to the island, where you can tour the island's lighthouse or enjoy one of the Bald Head Island Historic Tours (910-457-5003). When it's time to think of souvenirs, spend an afternoon strolling the shops in town.
Restaurants and Provisions
At P.J.'s Restaurant & Market (910-454-0550) you can pick up supplies after you enjoy a tasty breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Round the bend of Yacht Basin Street and you'll come to some more waterfront choices: Fishy Fishy Cafe (910-457-1881) and the Provision Company (910-457-0654). (There is a free dock behind the restaurant, located next to two tall white condos.) Procure a pick-me-up in the form of caffeine or ice cream at Flava's Coffee Shop (910-457-5150). Ship's Chandler (910-457-6595), beside Waterfront Park, serves up lunch and dinner in the form of seafood, aged beef, and the like, with a fine view of the ICW. The place for family dining is Sandfiddler (910-457-6588), known for their Sunday all-you-can-eat lunch. Both eateries offer take-out. We also recommend Mr. P's Waterway Seafood Restaurant & Oyster Bar (910-457-0801), Thai Peppers (910-457-0095), and The Trolley Stop (910-457-7017). River Run Shopping Center has chain eateries and a grocery store. If you've landed on Bald Head Island, chow down at the River Pilot Cafe or Eb & Flo's (both 910-457-7390). For a more elegant sit-down, Bald Head Island Club (910-457-7310) is the answer.
Use ChartKit Region 6, pages 21 and 22; Maptech Waterproof Chart 92, and Maptech electronic and NOAA paper charts 11534 (1:40,000) and 11537 (1:40,000).
Navigation and Anchorages
Southport sits at the junction of the ICW and the Cape Fear River, approximately two-and-a-half miles from the mouth of the Cape Fear River and 13 miles from Snows Cut.
The well-marked channel to Southport begins at SM 309. Leave the Cape Fear River by heading north of Fl G 2.5s 15ft 3M "1" toward the town. The City of Southport Docks and Southport Marina are on the ICW's northern shore amid the private slips and commercial docks. To the west of town, you can anchor in Dutchman Creek, but shoaling has reduced the depths. Obtain local knowledge before entering here. At SM 315, St. James Plantation Marina (910-253-0463) offers slips, amenities and plenty to convince you to stay longer than planned.
Cape Fear Inlet and Bald Head Island
To approach the Cape Fear River from the Atlantic Ocean pick up sea buoy RW "CF" Mo(A) WHIS about 5.3 miles southwest of Bald Head. Follow the series of well-marked ranges, especially near the inlet's mouth-Jay Bird Shoals mirror the channel to the northeast. If you're heading for Bald Head Island, follow the Bald Head Island Range through the bend in the main channel at G "13" Q G toward Fl G 2.5s "1" on the island's northern jetty. First-timers should make this passage in day light only. Keep an eye out for ferry traffic.
CAUTION: River currents in the vicinity of the Bald Head Island Marina entrance can exceed 3 knots, especially on an ebb tide. Under-powered vessels are advised to enter only at slack water.
Continuing upriver, when you reach R "18" Fl R 4s, northwest of Battery Island, Southport sits due north. Pick up the ICW at Fl G 2.5s 15ft 3M "1" to approach the marine facilities.
CAUTION:When approaching Southport from the mouth of the Cape Fear River, boaters often confuse the ICW and river junction markers. Keep north of Fl G 2.5s 15ft 3M "1" before swinging west into the ICW.
From the west on the ICW
From the west, the approach to Southport is straightforward. At SM 308.2 you'll, reach a 65-foot-high fixed bridge. Southport and its transient facilities are two-and-a-half statute miles east.
Shoreside and Emergency Services
Oak Island 910-278-1133 or VHF 16
Police, Fire, Ambulance:
Oak Island Cab 910-754-2515
Sea Tow 800-4SEATOW or VHF 16
TowBoatU.S 800-391-4869 or VHF 16