With the forecast for a lovely late summer weekend, we decided to embark on one of our favorite day trips along the Carolina shore: Southport & Kure Beach. This particular trip combines virtually every activity that anyone could have on their vacation (or non!) wishlist!
The first destination is Southport, NC. Sitting at the confluence of the Cape Fear River, the Intracoastal waterway and the Atlantic Ocean, Southport feels like home with the stately Victorian homes lining Bay St along the waterfront to the plethora of unique, locally owned boutiques, galleries and eclectic shops lining Howe St to the waterfront where you can watch the shrimpers unloading their catch or relax for a basket of those freshly steamed shrimp at one of the numerous eateries where you can hear the tide lapping underneath your feet.
From Southport comes the fun with the nations “Best 5 Dollar Cruise.” You have to love the NC Ferry system! Where else can you take a 45 minute boat ride across such a beautiful stretch of water with 2 lighthouse views, birds, wildlife, dolphins and so much more for just $5…and that includes your vehicle and ALL of your passengers!
Once you dock in Kure Beach, your choices become nearly boundless! There is great fishing just to the right of the ferry dock at Buchanan’s Battery. The NC Aquarium at Ft Fisher is a mile north and if you have a 4 wheel drive vehicle, you can access the beach from there (yes, there is a fee). Just up the road is the beach itself and Ft Fisher, one of the most significant Civil War battlefields, is just across the street. Drive a couple miles up the beach road and you’ll come to the famous Kure Beach pier and a spectacular stretch of beach all the way up to Carolina Beach.
Our day across the river began up at the Kure Beach Fishing Pier. It’s a great pier for fishing or just sightseeing. There is no charge to walk the pier if you are not fishing. Here are some photos from the pier.
We rarely have time to enjoy any of the fine eateries in the area when we visit, but this visit we made a point to test the local flavor! We chose Jack Mackeral’s which is just a few yards off the pier. It’s a great setting with indoor dining, and 2 outside areas including a top deck with a nice view of the whole area. It was an excellent choice as well! Food was great; service was great; prices were reasonable with some nice blackboard specials (like Rolling Rocks for 2 bucks!!). The Cajun grouper wrap, pictured on the left, was served with fries (there were some other choices as well) for only $8.95 as I recall. Give them a shot nect time you’re in town!
From the pier we headed back south to Ft Fisher to visit the Civil War site that hastened the fall of the Confederacy. It is a moving experience to walk through the exhibits inside the visitor center and hear the accounts of the assaults on the fort and its ultimate fall. To walk outside around the earthen mounds where once stood thousands of young men battling eachother to the death sends shivers to the core of your soul.
Each January, Fort Fisher holds a reenactment of the battle, including the firing of many of the munitions. It is truly a sight to behold. Here are a few photos from our walk through the fort.
From Ft Fisher it was just a hop across the road to get over to one of the most dramatic stretches of shoreline on Kure Beach. It’s also a very dangerous stretch of beach to be even considering swimming. Almost like a lagoon, there are rocks everywhere along the shoreline and hidden under the surf. We were seeing the effects of Maria that day with the surf nearly wiping out any semblance of ‘beach.’ Frfom the photos below you’ll see some folks braving the pounding surf and the slippery, mossy rocks along the shore as they sifted for the ultimate priced shells! Luckily, just a couple humdred yards farther down the shore is a much more docile section of beach which is far more suited to swimming!
As the September sun started making it’s long Fall shadows, we decided it was time to head back to the ferry to make our way home but….any trip to the Cape Fear region is not complete without a stop at one of our favorites….the Dead End Salloon Fish Factory Grille! Located right on the ICW just east (north) of the Oak Island Bridge, the Dean End is a great choice for a relaxed, casual dinner or just a bite and a cocktail. If you’re local, you’ll be happy to know that they offer nightly specials in the off season which will save you some beaucoup cash!
After we left the Dead End, the sun was nearly setting and it cast some lovely colors and shadows across the harbor…such a calm & serene setting. As the sun got lower and the sky burst with oranges, yellows and golds, we took a detour to go over to Oak Island to catch the sunrise over the marsh and the ICW. A diversion well taken!…..It did not dissappoint!