Tucked away just below Wilmington and the mouth of the Cape Fear River and just 45 minutes or so above the South Carolina state line you'll find Southport. Centuries of boating men and women have left their mark on this village. If you aren't in a hurry, come by and explore it. Stede Bonnet, the Gentleman Pirate, was repairing his vessel in a nearby creek when he was captured. I venture to say if you stop here for a day, you too will be captured by the charm and visitors' welcome attitude.

It's a town close enough to Wilmington to reach the conveniences of a big city and college campuses, yet just out of reach of the interstate traffic. The road from Wilmington passes a southern attraction, Orton Plantation, which is open to the public in the spring and summer months. The two-lane slowly meanders towards the coast, live oaks hang across the highway. Just before you get to town there are the conveniences of the super stores so you aren't ''in the woods'' entirely. Southport touts a 2,600 year round population that spurts up with the temperatures.

The Southport Visitor Center is easily found on a walk about town. The Center provides a nice selection of brochures outlining local attractions, businesses, restaurants, medical services, art galleries and the local Southport Trail, an hour walk though town and live oak trees, around corners, through graveyards - three centuries of history. Several movies have been filmed here. ''Crimes of the Heart'', starring Diane Keaton, Jessica Lang and Sissy Spacek was filmed at the Northrop House. An Oprah Winfrey movie, ''The Wedding,'' and ''Summer Catch'' are a few more names to look for in the video store if you want to catch a bit of the view before coming.



Be sure to visit the Southport Online Tours section. Take the Historic Homes Walking Tour.

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