Cruising North on the U.S. East Coast
Part 4: Charleston, SC, to Southport, NC (145 miles)
On Day 4 of our trip, we cruised again offshore from Charleston, SC, to Southport, NC. While this is a relatively short leg and we have the fuel range to go straight from Charleston to Beaufort, NC, we still love stopping in the town of Southport, NC. Southport is a charming small town on the southern North Carolina coast, where the Cape Fear River meets the Atlantic Ocean. Southport Marina is conveniently located on the Intracoastal Waterway (at mile 309, Marker 2A) and the Cape Fear River.
Hank Pomeranz, an experienced offshore and ICW cruising sailor and retired US Navy meteorologist, offers very informative free nightly seminars on cruising the ICW, which focus on the Southport, NC, to Savannah, GA, stretch, and weather briefings, for about a month in Spring and again the Fall. These briefings not only provide valuable information, but also an opportunity to chat to and exchange experiences with some fellow cruisers, most of whom will be on at least part of the same trip as you.
 For more information, check out the Facebook Group “ICW Cruising Guide by Bob423”: https://www.facebook.com/groups/ICWCruisingGuide/
Southport is listed in the National Register of Historic Places, and the picturesque downtown area is within walking distance of the marina. It boasts fun shops and plenty of restaurants, including on the waterfront, just across the salt marshes from the marina. Our favorite is the casual Fishy Fishy Café, where “dogs are welcome, people tolerated,” and which offers great sunset views to enjoy over a cocktail.
I love going for a stroll through the town and seeing the quaint cottages and houses with their inviting porches. The town was one of the filming locations for the TV series Dawson’s Creek, which launched the acting careers of Katie Holmes and Michelle Williams, amongst others. You can also take a ferry across to Bald Head Island (or it can be an alternative marina stop) to enjoy a tour of the island, the sandy beaches and to admire Old Baldy, North Carolina’s oldest standing lighthouse.
An alternative stop is Beaufort [pronounced “BOW-fert” or “BOH-fert.”], NC, not to be confused with Beaufort [pronounced “BEW-fert.”], SC. Established in 1709 and incorporated in 1723, Beaufort is the third-oldest town in North Carolina after Bath and Edenton. In 2012, Beaufort was ranked as “America’s Coolest Small Town” by readers of Budget Travel Magazine.
I enjoy taking a stroll along the Front Street Boardwalk and through the scenic town with its pretty houses. If you are lucky you might see some of the wild “banker ponies”, descendants from the domesticated Spanish horses and possibly brought to the Americas in the 16th century,  roaming the shores of the Outer Banks barrier islands, and see dolphins, of course.