The northeast was being hammered by the first blizzard of the season so like a migratory bird seeking a warmer climate I ventured south to Southport and Bald Head Island for a little weekend getaway. The draw was a couple of lighthouses, an historic little waterfront town, and the promise of great Sunday weather.
No set plans, just a camera and a sense of curiosity.
I wanted to challenge my brain and sense of direction so I kept the GPS off and turned on my map-reading skills. Now, as I’ve mentioned before, I tend to read maps upside down. To me, it’s not upside down at all, it’s just how I roll; however, to those more experienced navigators, my map-reading skills can drive them crazy!
I still get flashbacks to my childhood. The first time my dad entrusted me to get us to our destination he was aghast when he looked over to see what I was doing with the map. Now, me being me, filled with the confidence of a child whose parents let her explore the world with her own sense of wonderment and curiosity, I went on to give a very convincing explanation for my mapping methods.
And yes…we did get to our destination!
And so it was on this trip. With just a little 24 mile stretch of road that lacked highway signs, where I experienced 24 minutes of slight anxiety, I emerged on the right path to Southport. Even without the digital expertise of Mr. Garmin.
It had just started to rain and the sun was setting as I pulled into the hotel. Friendly staff, clean and comfortable rooms, and enough room in the Comfort Suites to wind down with some stretching.
After checking in, I took a ride down the road to Taylor’s where I enjoyed one of the specials of the day, Angus Jamaican Jerk Burger with Sweet Potato Fries, the eclectic décor, and a shot of comfortable kindness from the server.
The restaurant tables and chairs are purple, and the key-lime green walls are adorned with all the things they love including a little sign that read “Bless the Chef.” There were lots of photographs of local celebrities and celebrity chefs all wishing them success as they built their restaurant.
The burger was good, the jerk sauce flavorful, and the bun had the texture of a soft pretzel. The flavors blended really well. The only challenge was the bottom part of the bun quickly got soaked by the burger juice and sauce. For an easy fix, I simply flipped the burger upside down and ate it bottom’s up.
Sort of like my map-reading skills!
Saturday morning was cloudy and cold. The thermometer read 32 degrees so running was definitely out. Rain, cold and pavement meant ice. No thanks!
Instead I ventured down to the little hotel gym. Not much there…but enough. Twenty minutes of cardio, twenty minutes of a leg workout, and ten minutes of stretching. Perfect.
Then a quick cup of yogurt, banana, water and coffee and I was ready for the morning.
I headed down to Southport to see what I could see.
Southport may be best known to Nicholas Sparks’ fans as the idyllic town where Safe Haven was filmed. In fact, all throughout the town, including Moore Street Market where I stopped for an early lunch and mocha made with almond milk, there are signs and pictures showcasing the day when Hollywood came to town.
I had a great sandwich at the Market. A half order of Garrison – a combination of rye bread, egg, and roasted red bell peppers.
Moore street market sits on the corner of the street in what looks like an old house. It’s a cozy space and the people are friendly. Locals and visitors hang out easily together because, as I discovered many now-locals were once visitors. New York accents were everywhere!
And they were all saying how happy they were to be missing another North East snow storm.
In the small dining area, nothing matched yet everything went together perfectly. It was as if they were an antique store that decided to sell coffee, beer, wine and food.
Afterwards I headed to the visitors center to see what I could find out about the nearby lighthouses. The volunteer in the office was very sweet and there was plenty of information.
In fact, I found out there is another literary legend with ties to Hollywood that graced Southport long before the Spark’s characters fell in love.
Robert Chester Ruark (1915-1965) one of the best known journalists in the middleof the 20th century was born and raised in nearby Wilmington, NC but considered Southport home. This was, after all, where the “Old Man” of his story The Old Man and the Boy lived and where Ruark found inspiration for an active life that led to his journalism career. He has been referred to as a “”larger-than-life” character: journalist, author, world traveler and big game hunter…”
I suppose Hemmingway doesn’t have the market on macho!
From there, I just poked around town in the little shops and picked up a few goodies – like salt water taffy from The Christmas Store. After a while, as the sun passed the noon hour and the clouds cleared just a little bit, I took an easy drive over to Oak Island to check out the lighthouse.
It was funny to see that tall silo-shaped structure in the middle of a residential neighborhood. Still, the beach area was cool and I had the opportunity to catch a few sunset shots under the pier before heading indoors to Island Way Restaurant. With beautiful views of the water and pier from the wall of windows, I enjoyed a glass of wine, a cup of Lobster Bisque, and a plate of Coconut Shrimp.
Sunday morning was as expected – clear and a little warmer as the day started at a “balmy” 40 degrees! I jumped out of bed at 6am (ok, I sort of rolled out of bed…and then back in…and then out again) to get some sunrise shots in town. I wasn’t the only one at the little park ready to greet the day. Several cars pulled up, probably on their way to work, and sat in the car as the sun rose.
Me…I got out and crawled under the dock!
One thing I can say is that the Mountain Hardware jacket my husband gave me for Christmas was all that it claimed to be. Lightweight (it feels like tissue paper and feathers), and surprisingly durable it kept me warm and toasty as I shot my outdoor pictures. The only things cold were my fingers (Note to self, “get new gloves!…maybe something with a nose wipe on finger…don’t ask”)
I headed to the ferry at Deep Point where for just $23 I took the 20 minute ride to Bald Head Island. There are no cars allowed on the island so getting around was left up to your feet, bikes, and golf carts.
While most people tucked inside the ferry for the short ride across, I climbed the stairs up top to sit in the sun and watch dolphin play in the water. Once on the island, I rented a golf cart at the shop conveniently located where the ferry drops you off. This would allow me to cover more ground since I was scouting out the place for a future photo tour.
It was almost surreal. Traveling through the maritime forest made me feel as if something magical was about to happen. It was nice to not have the noise of engines or any signs or sounds of city or suburban life. Memories are made here.
The island itself is pretty unique. It’s made up of beaches, salt marshes and the maritime forest. As I rode through the marshes all I could think was “Alligators live here….”
But, as it’s winter and cold, my chances of meeting up with one were pretty slim.
I was able to capture some great shots on the island. I especially enjoyed walking East Beach. It’s a wide stretch of sand that sits on the edge of the world.
When You Go:
Comfort Suites Southport
4963 Southport Supply Road
Southport, NC 28461
Taylor Cuisine Café and Catering
731 N. Howe Street
Southport, NC 28461
Moore Street Market & Deli
130 East Moore Street
Southport, NC 28461
Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/moorestreetmarket/
Southport Visitors Center
203 East Bay Street
Southport, NC 28461
The Christmas House
104 W. Moore Street
Southport, NC 28461
Island Way Restaurant
1407 E. Beach Drive
Oak Island, NC 28495
Bald Head Island Ferry
*Dispatches on the hour, except noon and from the island on the half hour
Parking, loading, and waiting area very easy, clean, new
Located near downtown, roads are clearly marked
Bald Head Island Conservancy
700 Federal Road
Bald Head Island, NC 28461
*they provide tours, classes, and education programs