Family Travel

Southport North Carolina – Being a Tourist Where You Live

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I love where I live.  It’s a lot of fun in the sun around these parts especially in the summer when the tourists roll in. Ice cream shops, beach stores and mini golf line our streets.  You see, I live in a coastal community that thrives off of its tourism and in the summer, it can get crazy. But there are quieter days too, like right now, when you can go to the beach on a chilly afternoon and not see a single soul.  Those are my days, days that you can breath a little bit more in the solitude.  Yesterday was a beautiful day.  The sun was shining and the breeze was gentle.  Days like that, especially in February aren’t meant to be spent inside.  So instead of opening books and doing spelling worksheets, Addie and I loaded up and headed to the historical area of Southport, North Carolina.

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Southport, is a classic southern coastal town and if you ever get the chance to visit, do it.  The charm is unexplainable.  In fact, it’s such a charming area lots of movies and television shows have been filmed there.  Some of my favorites have been A Walk to Remember, Dawson’s Creek and the fairly new Safe Haven. Here’s a picture of the gallery that displays some of the work that has been done here –

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Because of the way to coastline is shaped, it takes me a good 45 minutes to get to the downtown area of Southport.  On the way, Addie and I stopped to pick up some lunch to eat down by the water. There’s plenty of benches and rocking swings to sit on which makes it a perfect picnic spot.  From where we sat, we could see two lighthouses off in the distance, one on Bald Head Island and the other on Oak Island.

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After lunch, we ventured across the street where two small museums are located.  Both are free and are operated by some pretty knowledgeable volunteers.  We decided to visit the museum of Fort Johnston first.  Did you know that Fort Johnston is the oldest fort in the United States of America? I didn’t either and it’s practically in my backyard.  Such a fun fact.  The fort itself is pretty much the original except for the windows that kept getting blown out during battles.  The brick was brought over from France and England for over 20 years and the tile on the front porch from Spain.  They never knew when they’d be getting more brick so that’s why the layers of cement in between are thicker than you’d typically see.  And the beautiful floor inside… still the original and not a nail in it!  The floor was constructed by men who built boats and it was formed with hemp string and glue that they made. It was fun for Addie and I to take a minute and acknowledge that we were standing on the exact same floor that the first President of the United States, George Washington himself, stood on.  The museum itself is dedicated to showcasing Southport throughout the years.  There is a comprehensive timeline that outlines major events in our history here.  It was really fun to read through and see what was happening when and look at some of the pictures.  Also inside, there was more information about famous people who had originally been from Southport, like the well known author Robert Ruark.  It was also fun to see actual parts of the town preserved.  Fullwood Grocery Store was a favroite of Southport and the front of the store is inside the museum today.  The store itself was tiny and the information goes on to explain the owner often visited houses in the morning to get orders, went back to the store to fill them himself and then delivered in the late afternoon.  The store was so small he only carried 1 brand of an item and sometimes he only had 1 of it!

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After soaking up some knowledge in Fort Johnston, we went next door to the Maritime Museum.  When you first arrive, be sure to pick up a scavenger hunt for the kids.  If you complete it (it’s not hard) your kids can pick a prize from the prize box.  I think that’s always a fun way for kids to stay engaged in museums.  The first thing we were drawn to in the museum was the Quarantine Island replica.  The floating Quarantine area was built in 1868 to prevent the spread of cholera, yellow fever, smallpox, typhus fever and plague.  It was a half a mile from shore and every foreign boat had to stop there for 14 days sick or not. We talked about what that was like to be so close to your destination but not quite there and how hard that must have been for sailors.   After learning a lot about the Quarantine station, we moved on to smelling tar, turpentine and sap. Tar is pungent! Addie learned that North Carolina is called the tar heel state and why.  Then we learned about a local fisherman that was 7 foot 8 inches.  Wow, so tall compared to little Addie girl!  His nickname was Nehi because he stood tall and proud like a Nehi soda bottle.  In the museum, Addie also got to practice her knot tying skills which comes in handy since we have a boat.  While the museum is small, there is a lot for kids to touch and do, which I appreciate.  After finishing up the scavenger hunt, Addie headed over to the prize box and got herself a starfish that grows when you put it in water.

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No trip to Southport is complete without getting your picture taken in a cardboard cut out of pirates or visiting Bullfrogs corner for some of their candy in old fashioned barrels. We had a great day exploring a rich historical town in our county.  It’s fun being a tourist where you live! Do you have fun history where you live? I’d love to hear about it in the comments below!

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