Southport is one of North Carolina’s most famous towns.
Nestled right within a stone’s throw of another North Carolina film stop, Wilmington; Southport remains a tourist hot spot, a locals haunt and a film and tv lovers paradise.
The charm of Southport is turly its seaside setting. With creekside views on every corner, charming streets and history abounds, it’s easy to see why location scouts have chosen Southport for so many film and tv settings over the years. A lot of the time, Southport passes for the New England-esque vibe of Massachusetts; which explains why this region was used for Dawson’s Creek (which was set in Cape Cod).
When visiting Southport, it’s easy to see that the film history here makes it a desired destination for many – which thankfully, the locals have embraced and recognise. But for non-film lovers, this town is well worth a visit too with all of it’s history, beautiful classic homes and relaxing walks in every direction. If you love water, you’ll love it here.
If you’re planning a trip here, there are certain productions you can retrace the steps of and re-live yourself, which makes any visit even more interesting; especially if you are a fan of Nicholas Sparks films and hit tv shows like the classic teen drama Dawson’s Creek.
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But when it comes to Southport, step one foot here and you will get such a sense of deja vu that you’ll swear you’ve been here before.
So what can you enjoy?
Safe Haven (2013)
Nicholas Sparks is huge in North Carolina. Since he calls New Bern, NC home; it makes sense that every story he has written has been set in North Carolina. But whilst not every one of Sparks ‘book turned movies’ actually gets filmed in North Carolina, many of them do. Safe Haven is ultimately what put Southport back on the map following it’s raging success – as it has been the biggest Hollywood production to film here in recent times.
Safe Haven follows the story of Katie (Julianne Hough), a mysterious woman who arrives to begin a new life in the seaside town. Here she befriends widower Alex (Josh Duhamel) and his two young children who run the local general store market. When romance begins to bloom, Katie’s past comes back to haunt her and her ‘safe haven’ becomes somewhat of a nightmare for all of them.
Luckily for fans, a visit to the waterfront part of town truly makes you feel like you’ve entered right into the film. It’s quite special to find towns to be just how they looked, many years after something was shot there. It really makes a production come alive, which is what I love most about seeing filming locations myself.
Safe Haven Filming Locations
Alex’s House is actually the historic Grey Burriss House, located at 410 W. Brunswick Street. The house has also made appearances in the Stephen King tv show, Under The Dome apparently as well, which filmed in Southport.
The house made a variety of appearances in the film, which is why fans come and visit this location. The town also make it easier for visitors to find the house, with Fishy Fishy Cafe even providing a directional sign to “Safe Haven” which is outside their entrance. (No doubt due to how many people must have asked them where it was!)Funnily enough, Fishy Fishy Cafe, has also been used in a well known ABC tv show, Revenge – as the pilot episode filmed down here (not in the Hamptons). The interior of this cafe was transformed and re-painted into what we know the Stowaway Tavern to look like in the show – which was later built as a set.
The Site Of The General Store ‘Ryan’s Port Market’
Directly across the street from Alex’s House, was the location of the Market that his family owned. The building is no longer there; it is just a patch of grass now, as this was built for the film. I was actually in Southport in late 2011 and saw this being constructed funnily enough. I didn’t know it was related to the film until I saw Safe Haven in the cinema and recognised it immediately. So it was really cool to know that I was actually seeing that structure being built for this very film.
Ivan’s Fish Shack
Ivan’s Fish Shack is actually the Old American Fish Co. Restaurant located at 150 Yacht Basin Drive. This is a real eatery that you can dine at. When I was there in 2017, it was a weekday lunchtime in May, so the town was only just coming back to life after the wintery months, so unfortunately this restaurant was only open during the evenings.
I found it really cool that they have kept the Ivan’s sign and put up a poster of Safe Haven at their entrance, to recognize that they were a main location in the film. This make fans feel comfortable in eating there. Some filming locations hate when they are associated with major films and the visitors that come from it, but it doesn’t seem to be the case here which is great.
Moore Street MarketMoore Street Market makes a cameo in Safe Haven when Katie and her new friend Jo are talking about Alex and whether he is interested in Katie. Katie goes inside to buy a coffee and Jo waits outside.
Additionally, the street the Market is on, Moore Street, was actually used for the July 4th scenes when the parade took place.
Moore Street Market is located at 130 Moore Street, Southport.
Bay Street, Southport
Numerous scenes were filmed along here, including the beach area when Katie first arrives into town, and notices Ivan’s (before she starts working there). Jo and Katie also walk along the road here in a scene.
Bay Street isn’t hard to find once you’re on it. It is a really lovely walk along the water too. You may also recognise this area as the location of the Radio Station in the tv series Under The Dome.
When Katie attempts to leave town on the ferry, Alex finds her and they re-connect at the Ferry Terminal. Although there is a Ferry at Southport, (which is how you can get there), this filming location actually took place at Fort Fisher Ferry Terminal instead, so i’ve included it here because you may take the ferry from Wilmington to Southport and see it yourself.
The address for Fort Fisher Ferry Terminal is 2422 Fort Fisher Blvd S, Kure Beach, North Carolina.
A Walk To Remember (2002)
Safe Haven isn’t the only Nicholas Sparks film to be shot in Southport and Wilmington. A Walk To Remember somewhat paved the way for the shooting of romance films in this region, before the popularity of The Notebook and Nicholas Sparks really took hold from 2003.
A Walk To Remember follows the story of outcast Jamie Sullivan (Mandy Moore), the daughter of the local Reverend who changes the life of high school stud Landon Carter (Shane West) after he is forced to join the school play. Interestingly, this story is actually based on the real-life story of Spark’s sister.
A Walk To Remember Filming Locations
In Southport, A Walk To Remember used two particular locations that fans of the film can see.
Jamie’s Dad’s ChurchTrinity United Methodist Church is the location of the Church Jamie’s dad belongs to, and where many scenes take place. It is not to be confused with the chapel the wedding happens at the end of the film, which is actually Orton Plantation. Orton has been closed to the public for many years, and is located between Southport and Wilmington. It’s a shame because I am dying to see this in the flesh.
Trinity United Methodist Church is located at 209 E. Nash St, Southport.
The Cemetery Jamie & Landon VisitThis is actually a really cool place to visit for any reason, with so much history on offer, as it dates back to the 1790s and is the oldest cemetery in the Brunswick county region. The town of Southport wasn’t officially created until 1887; it was originally incorporated as Smithville from 1805…which means this cemetery and some of the headstones found here, are older than the town of Southport itself! Just amazing!
A number of scenes were shot at the Old Smithville Burying Ground, as this is where Jamie goes to view the stars with her telescope. So if you head there at night and take a blanket…you can re-live the romance if being in a cemetery after dark doesn’t creep you out!
The Burying Ground is located at 401 E. Moore Street, Southport.
If you want to see the house Jamie lived in, that is in Wilmington and can be found here.
I Know What You Did Last Summer (1997)
I Know What You Did Last Summer was one of the first major films to use Southport as a location. Much of the Waterfront area is featured, but I didn’t have much time to see it whilst I was there. Plus things do change in 20 years, so not everything looks like it did back then anyway.
This horror film is one of the best to come out of the past few decades. It follows the story of four friends, Julie (Jennifer Love-Hewitt), Helen (Sarah Michelle Gellar), Barry (Ryan Phillipe) and Ray (Freddie Prinze Jr.) who accidentally hit and kill someone with their car one night and cover it up. Unfortunately for them, someone knows what they did and is out to make them pay a year later.
I Know What You Did Last Summer Filming Locations
There was one location I made sure to see for this film on my last visit, and it was Julie’s house which is located at 209 Short Street, Southport
Fishy Fishy Cafe was also used in this film too. It was the location for the Gym that Ryan Phillipe’s character visits. So a lot does change as you can see now its an eatery.
Dawson’s Creek (1998)
Dawson’s Creek follows the lives of Dawson (James Van Der Beek) and his friends, Joey (Katie Holmes), Pacey (Joshua Jackson), Jack (Kerr Smith) and Jen (Michelle Williams) in Capeside, Massachusetts; as they try to grow up without all the complications of teenage life interfering. It has always been one of my favourite tv shows. I am not sure what I loved most about it: the creeks, the teen angst, the love triangles, the big words…it was never boring.
This show brought me to Wilmington and Southport more than a few times since 2008. It was at the top of my list and still is. Southport is an amazing place, and the best locale for a tv show in my opinion. It’s why One Tree Hill also used this region as well a few years later – though they filmed in Wilmington.
Dawson’s Creek Filming Locations
In the opening credits, Pacey stands on the anchor. It was always remembered by fans which is why people head to Franklin Square Park to see it. The address for this park is 130 E. West Street, Southport.
Dawson’s Creek Opening Credits Swing
Another location from the opening credits was this swing that the gang sit on. Whilst not a major location, it is cool to recognise it when you’re there. The location of this swing is off Bay Street (where a park is), along the water. You can kind of work it out based on what you can see in the background.
Bay Street has not just been featured in this show, but others like Safe Haven most recently. When watching any production, this road is one of the most well known icons of the city, which clearly shows Southport as the location.
For Dawson’s Creek this road was used in a few scenes over the years, but this one from Season one was when Joey accepted a ride from Warren, a jock from school, which led to him telling everyone that they slept together.
West Brunswick St, Southport
West Brunswick Street was featured a lot in the show, but the most memorable scenes include when Billy, Jen’s ex boyfriend from NYC comes to town in Season 1 and riles Dawson up about winning her back; and in ‘The Longest Day’ epsiode when Joey admits to Jen that she likes Pacey more than a friend and isn’t sure how to tell Dawson.
Pacey’s Boat “True Love” Slip
This location will always be one of my favourites. Right where Yacht Basin Drive and West Brunswick intersect, is where Potter’s Seafood is found and the slip to Pacey’s boat, the True Love. Many scenes were filmed here, some of the most memorable in the show.
In the Season 3 episode ‘The Longest Day’ Pacey’s boat is christened with all of his friends in attendance. But, the happiness doesn’t last long when Dawson discovers that Joey and Pacey are in a secret relationship.
The other major scene on show here is when Pacey decides to leave Capeside at the end of Season 3 for the Summer and Joey runs down to here right before he leaves – to proclaim her love for him. It’s such a fan favourite scene, whether you were a Dawson & Joey or Pacey & Joey fan.
Like Safe Haven the Fort Fisher Ferry was featured in a scene during Season 1 when Dawson and Pacey cut school with Jen’s NYC ex-boyfriend Billy, leading to some hi-jinks with unruly passengers.
Being able to ride on the ferry was such a highlight. All I could think about was the scenes that were filmed the entire time we were on there. It was really cool.
Southport is one cool town. Whether you love it for its filming locations or just its seaside ambiance, it truly is a great day trip if you are staying in Wilmington, or a nice getaway if you have more time. But if you love any of these productions? You’re definitely in for a treat! Watch them come alive whilst you’re here.
If you are traveling to the USA and want more tips or advice – make sure you join my USA Travel Group to connect with other like-minded travelers (and locals) who can help!