North Carolina Has My Heart

Before we really begin the story, there are some things you need to know about me.  When I was 12 and in 7th grade, I suddenly fell in love with all things North Carolina.  That was also one of the years UNC went to the championship game for college basketball.  I’ve never been a huge sports fan, but I taped every single one of those games from the Sweet 16 that year, onto the championships; and if I dig deep enough at my parents house, I bet I could find them!  Now to find a VCR to play them on……. #generationxprobs.

Other than UNC basketball, at the time, I don’t really know what spurred on the love for NC.  A few years later, I started hearing all about Wilmington and how it was the movie production capital of the East, and also the prettiest coastal “big city” in NC (to me).  That pretty much made the love grow….because my love for movies/TV production was just as strong as my love of the beach/small town coastal feel.  As I moved into HS and started exploring college options, I knew I wanted to apply at UNC Wilmington.  At this time, you may have heard of a little show called Dawson’s Creek that was all the 90’s teenage rage, and you guessed it, it was being filmed in Wilmington.  Keep in mind, I had only ever driven through parts of North Carolina at this time, and was certain I was ready to move to Wilmington for school.  Something deep down…it just kept telling me I needed to pursue it.  I applied and was accepted (yay)!  The thought of being 12 hours from home didn’t scare me at the time, but the thought of out-of-state college tuition sure scared the crap out of my parents.  Ha!  It ended up being one of those conversations kinda like this:

Dad and mom: “We will support you wherever you want to go, but do you realize how expensive out-of-state tuition is?  We can help you, but you will have to apply for student loans to cover the rest.  Or, you can stay around Indy, go to IUPUI and we will pay for all of your college.”

I guess even at the age of 18 I was logical enough to take them up on their offer.  I had also been accepted to Franklin College and was pretty much dead set on going there to study Journalism since it was in state, after I had decided UNC Wilmington was off the table.  Franklin was a smaller college and very expensive (cue the above conversation from my parents…they got pretty good at this, having to repeat it to me a couple of times), so guess what, I ended up at IUPUI and I’m SO THANKFUL I never had one student loan to my name.

My love for Wilmington and the area around it continued to grow.  Fun fact: my senior year in interior design we had to design a home and I know you will be shocked, but my home was a coastal home a few miles from the beach near Wilmington, of course decorated with all things Pottery Barn.

Then in 2012/2013 Safe Haven was filmed and released.  I FELL-IN-LOVE with the small seaside town of Southport, NC, about 30 miles outside of Wilmington.  Like, as in “pack me up, let’s move tomorrow” love.  I had been telling Brock and my parents that we needed to take a family vacation to Wilmington, stay on the beach and explore Southport for nearly 2 years before it actually became a reality.

This past winter, we were trying to get a big family vacation scheduled for our usual spot in Madeira Beach, FL, but not everyone’s schedules could line up, so my mom and I decided to take the boys to North Carolina and go on the vacation I so badly wanted, basically since I was 12, ha!  I did my research and found the closest beach to Southport with the best reviews.  I also did a lot of fun research and found out several movies and TV shows I’ve seen a million times were filmed right in Southport!  I Know What You Did Last Summer was filmed in several spots and the TV show Revenge filmed there for several years as well.  A Walk to Remember and One Tree Hill were also filmed there.  I have to admit though, I don’t remember much from A Walk to Remember (except that there was crying…) and I never watched One Tree Hill, but the list of movies and TV shows filmed in Southport and the surrounding beaches goes on and on.  Did you know parts of Iron Man were filmed where we stayed on Caswell Beach?  Pretty cool!


We ended up staying on Caswell Beach at the Oak Island Beach Villas.  Caswell Beach is a beach in the town of Oak Island, about 7 or 8 miles outside of Southport and 30-35 miles outside of Wilmington.  We were in the perfect spot.  The beach was GORGEOUS and, to be completely honest, is there REALLY anything better or more peaceful than a sunset at the beach or morning coffee time on a porch or balcony overlooking the beach?  Does thinking this way make me old?  Haha, oh well!  Our condo was super cute and the view from our balcony was heaven to me.

Day 1

Now to the fun!

The first day was just like any other first day of vacation; settling in, getting some groceries and usually a quick dinner while you unwind and get comfortable.  I can tell you this much; the Food Lion on Oak Island is the place to be at 3pm on a Sunday.  We could barely even get our cart through the doors and into the fruit and veggie section.  So-many-people!  And let’s be honest, the Food Lion on Oak Island is NOT a giant superstore.  Think Publix (if you are from the South) or Kroger, only much smaller.  I love that people were driving their golf carts or riding bicycles (with baskets on them of course).  Ya just don’t see that everyday in good ol’ Plainfield.  We ended up getting take out from a place next to the grocery store, where kids played corn hole while waiting for food to come and the ONLY seating was outdoor seating.  Inside was literally a cashier and the kitchen.

The next morning we all slept in and had cinnamon rolls overlooking the beach on our balcony, followed by hitting the beach ourselves.  It was so nice to have no agenda other than to be present, in the moment, on the beach.  The boys ran straight for the water and we had fun collecting shells (our beach was full of them), playing in the ocean and watching Mason dig giant holes in the sand.  Later that evening for dinner, we ventured to Southport and my heart was in my throat.  That’s a thing, right?  I had addresses of movie locations prepared and ready, plus we wanted to check out the Fishy Fishy Cafe for dinner.  When we pulled onto Moore St. and I saw the Fishy Fishy Cafe and other Yacht Basin road restaurants I almost cried!  Seriously people, this is something I had DREAMED about doing and I was actually doing it.  It was like I was seeing a highlight reel of movies and TV right in front of my eyes and at the same time, it was the most beautiful, perfect, seaside sight.

When we finally made it onto Yacht Basin drive, I was THE HUNT for the Grey Burris house, used in Safe Haven as Alex’s house.  Thank goodness for Google Maps on my iPhone!  When we pulled up to the house I told my mom to stop the car and she looked at me like I was crazy.  I literally just stood there for a minute taking it all in and looking around…across the street, where they built the general store (then burnt it down) for the movie, down the street at the amazing view of the docks and marina and the restaurants that line Yacht Basin drive.  It sounds so corny I know, but I couldn’t stop taking it all in.  It wasn’t even just the excitement of seeing the house from the movie, it was just being there and actually seeing it through my own eyes and not looking at someone else’s pictures.  Everything I had thought about Southport was dead on, but better.

Here are some other sites along Yacht Basin drive (we’ll touch on movie locations later).

Day 2 (16)

Day 3 was spent on the beach!  We decided to do an early dinner at The Frying Pan in Southport after shopping at some of the adorable shops in town.  After dinner we talk a walk down Bay St. (and found another movie location) and then came back to Oak Island for some mini golf and ice cream!  This was our second attempt at mini golf.  We actually went the night before and were stuck behind 3 families of 7+ people.  I’ll let you do the math on how long we had to wait between holes.  We got to the 9th hole and Mason was screaming that he had to pee and my anxiety was a bit high since there was so much waiting.  So we ended up calling it short and trying again this night.  I’m happy to report there was only one ginormous family in front of us this time and overall it went a lot faster…also, there was no 4 year old screaming to everyone he had to pee, laughing the whole time.  We finished up day 3 by enjoying a sunset on our beach and watching the lighthouse on Oak Island.

Day 4 consisted of a day trip to Wilmington!  After all, it’s the city that started my love affair with this area way back when.  Wilmington is about 30-35 minutes from Caswell Beach/Oak Island/Southport and is probably the closest “big city” around.  The boys wanted to play on the beach all day, so my mom and I decided heading to the historic district of Wilmington near the River Walk was probably the best idea to see the sights I knew I wanted to see.

If you ever watched Dawson’s Creek or Revenge, you may notice some of these places look familiar.  The shops all along the River Walk were ADORABLE and the little hole in the wall restaurants were amazing.  I could have eaten my way through the city…for real.  Coffee shops, donut shops, gourmet pizza and tons of sea food joints….sign me up!  More beach time followed after our mid day trip to Wilmington.

We ended up going back to Southport for dinner to eat at Provision Co.  I can’t explain exactly how the seating/ordering/eating process works there because it’s like nothing I’ve experienced.  First off, they have an honor system for all drinks….including beer and wine.  Secondly, as soon as you walk up to the host/hostess, they immediately ask you for keys, sunglasses or anything that can “save” your table.  You can’t go inside….only they can.  Ha!  Then when your name is called, you are ushered into this tiny ordering area with coolers of drinks and you have about 30 seconds to decide what you want to eat, then you grab your drinks and are sent to your table, which was reserved by your item they took.  Then when your food is ready, wait staff comes out of the kitchen screaming your name, and you have to raise your hand to get your food.  All the seating is outside under a giant porch, right next to the inter coastal waterway.  The food was really good.  And, I gotta say, this place was probably more popular than the Fishy Fishy Cafe.   All I know is that I definitely felt like a giant tourist because I had no idea what I was doing.  Haha.  The yellow fin steak was worth it though!  After dinner, I sadly said “goodbye” to what is HANDS DOWN my favorite place ….ever.  We visited a few more movie sites and walked around one last time.  (sad face guys…sad face).

We spent our last night on the beach, watching the sunset, taking pictures and making the most of every second!

I mean, I can’t tell you how much I enjoyed this trip.  It’s literally every SINGLE thing I thought it would be and more.  My heart was so happy there.  I definitely plan on going back (and dragging Brock the next time).  The boys had so much fun and Brayden spent considerably more time in the ocean than I ever thought he would have.  He’s always liked the ocean and has been several times, but this trip….he didn’t want to leave the beach.  And Mason, well, per usual, he enjoyed entertaining everyone around him at all times of the day or night.  It was good.  It was REALLLLL good.

Here’s some movie fun for you:

Sites from Safe Haven (images courtesy of Relativity Media):

Alex’s House:

The lunch/coffee restaurant where Katie meets Jo, Moore St Market:

Ivan’s Fish Shack (where Katie works), The Old American Fish CO:

Sites from I Know What You Did Last Summer (images courtesy of Sony Pictures):

Southport Muscle (Barry’s gym), Fishy Fishy Cafe:

Julie’s house:

Southport Community Theatre (where Helen wins Croaker Queen), Amuzu Theater:

Dawson’s Creek Sites:

Pacey’s Restaurant the S.S. Ice House, Elijah’s in Wilmington

Pretty much every outdoor scene that didn’t take place at their homes, The River Walk (notice the bridge…go back and watch any episode and you’ll see it)

Day 4 (2)

Lots more films and TV shows have been filmed in Southport and Wilmington, but I only had 5 days to search and let’s be honest, the beach was also calling my name.

I hope you enjoyed!! 🙂 🙂  If you love the beach and movie production as equally as I do, then you’re gonna want to visit this amazing area in the near future as well.


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