Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Taking the Ferry from Southport to Fort Fisher, A Daytrip

One excellent way to spend some of your vacation time while staying in Sunset Beach, is to take a day to explore further Northward up the coastline to visit the lovely town of Southport - and from there, take the Ferry over to Fort Fisher, where you can enjoy some important civil war sites, as well as visit our wonderful North Carolina aquarium.
Here is how we did it:
Entrance to Southport Museum
We set off from Sunset Beach Bliss at about 9 a.m., and arrived in Southport after an easy highway drive of about 45 minutes.  Southport is a lovely little port town, with well-kept historic homes and shady lanes that make you yearn to hop on a bicycle and explore.  There is an excellent visitor center, with a playground and clean air-conditioned restrooms, plus several rooms just bursting with interesting local history inside the main building (which opens at 10 a.m.).  The front door opens to an wide expanse of open lawn, dotted with beautiful old live oaks and  a fantastic view of the water, a convenient distance from the public pier and another park area.  We lingered until it was time to catch our 10:45 a.m. Ferry ride (as you can see on the Ferry Schedule, which is available online, number of departures each day varies by season).   

One of the Southport Ferries

Looking back towards our Southport
departure point
We drove our car onto the Ferry, and enjoyed a 35-minute boat ride over to Fort Fisher, which cost us a mere $5 (less if you're just bringing yourselves, or bicycles). Of course, we marked ourselves as tourists right away, leaving our car to explore the deck and check out the views with the coin-operated telescope.  If you want to get out of the sun and wind, the ferries have nice indoor seating areas, with tables (and sometimes a snack bar is open, but best to check before you board).
Once we landed at Fort Fisher, before heading to the aquarium, we stopped at the State Recreation Area on Loggerhead Rd. (about a mile from the Ferry port) to have our picnic lunch.  The Recreation area comes complete with indoor bathrooms, outdoor showers, and public access to the beach - as well as 4WD access to the beach with appropriate permit.  And you can pass the time learning a bit more about the area at small museum there as well! 
Baby Sea Turtle
Hold the Peanut Butter!

The NC Aquarium at Fort Fisher is less than half a mile further down the road from the recreation area (And deserves its own blog post, so check back here later!).  We kept ourselves entertained there for a couple of hours before heading back to catch our return Ferry to the mainland.  We didn't rush ourselves, but stopped on our way to the Ferry port in order to check out Battery Buchanan, another Fort Fisher State Historic Site.

The Ferry got us and our car back to Southport at about 2.20 p.m., but we could have stayed longer.  We will definitely be making this excursion up the coastline again!