The museum in Southport, North Carolina is just one of the three which make-up the state’s Maritime Museum system. Its sister sites are located in Hatteras and Beaufort. The Beaufort museum currently has a great exhibit on Balckbeard’s ship, the Queen Anne’s Revenge. I have yet to visit the other two, so today’s spotlight will be on Southport alone.
The first thing you notice when driving up to the museum is that the town of Southport is astonishingly beautiful. It has an immaculately preserved downtown filled with small shops, stunning homes and azing views by the riverfront. From the waterfront, you can see both the Oak Island and Bald Head Island lighthouses. With scenery like this, it’s no wonder the town has become a hot spot for the film industry. Shows which have filmed in Southport include; Fire Starter, Weekend at Bernie’s, I Know What you Did Last Summer, Dawson’s Creek and Safe Haven. An interesting note, as a kid, I was an extra on Dawson’s Creek when it shot in Southport, thanks to my uncle Craig (who also appears in The Mystery of High Point’s WWI Monument) who worked on the show for some years.
The next thing you will notice is that the entrance to the Maritime Museum is somewhat difficult to find. At least it was for me. If you parked on the riverfront, then you’re looking at the back of the museum and the Fort Anderson Museum. Just walk down the side to the front and look for the sign. Once you’re inside, you’ll notice that this is a very small museum. Despite its size, they pack quite a bit of interesting exhibits in the building.
The museum has exhibits on, Pirates, the founding of Brunswick, the arrival of Europeans, Native Americans, the Civil War, local shipbuilding, and hurricanes. That is an impressive amount considering the size of the building.
I don’t normally take the docent tours in museums; in fact, I believe this was the first I’ve ever done. Unfortunately, I don’t remember the guide’s name. He was dressed in period clothing, but, luckily, he spared us the character act. Perhaps it’s because I’m the annoying type of person who likes to read every single thing in museums, but I did not honestly enjoy the tour. He skipped many things altogether, and it felt rushed. He tried to get the crowd involved by asking lots of questions, which no one knew or wanted to answer in front of a group of strangers. I understand their hesitation; I’m not a big public speaker myself. Anyway, it felt awkward and left me disappointed. He does get an A for his effort though.
On the backside of the Maritime Museum is the Fort Anderson Museum. This was a pleasant surprise to me since I wasn’t even aware of its existence. The building itself was beautiful, but as a museum, it didn’t have much to offer. There were small rooms, which noted the films that had shot there, and another with famous people who’d worked in the building. Outside, a stone monument explained that it was the location in which Royal Governor Josiah Martin sought refuge after leaving New Bern. Overall, it was a nice little extra to the real attraction of the Maritime Museum.
I would highly suggest this museum, and the town of Southport, to anyone. It’s a fascinating part of North Carolina’s heritage set in a stunning location. I’d recommend setting aside an entire day to enjoy the museum and then walk around the town. Afterwards, it’s just a short drive to the Oak Island Lighthouse. This would make a great day-trip for any lover of history.
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