Local Adventure

SETTING SAIL: The Sail Shop on Bald Head Island offers excursions with US Sailing-certified instructors down the Cape Fear River or into the Atlantic Ocean. Courtesy photo

SETTING SAIL: The Sail Shop on Bald Head Island offers excursions with US Sailing-certified instructors down the Cape Fear River or into the Atlantic Ocean. Courtesy photo

Settled in the 1700s, Southport and surrounding areas offer a rich and plentiful history, filled with wartime tales. Positioned beside the mouth of the Cape Fear River, where it empties into the wide open Atlantic Ocean, the location’s environmental habitat is just as enthralling, as pelicans and bottlenose dolphins waltz gracefully along the horizon.

There’s perhaps no better way to learn about the land and water, from Oak Island to Bald Head Island, than to refer to the area’s locals. Lots of residents offer up their expertise in the most basic form of tourism—by offering tours of the region—but their knowledge can be tapped by locals, too! From easy, breezy golf-cart rides to exploring the tides via stand-up paddleboard, the adventures await. All that’s left to do is book!

(910) 713-2072
Old South Tour Company’s lantern-led Ghost Walk Tour has been a fan favorite since 2004. Spines will be tingled during a 90-minute encounter with the restless spirit world that is Southport. Guide Katie Compton, a local historian, recounts chilling stories of specters and haunts as guests learn about the rich history of the Southport area. Hear legends, lore, and even the secret language of headstones.

The Ghost Walk, which was featured in Our State and Coastal Living magazines, meets at the famous Whittlers Bench on the Southport waterfront, where Howe Street intersects Bay Street. Compton can’t be missed; she’ll be the blond Southern belle in a traditional black mourning gown.

A ribbon-cutting ceremony will take place on May 17th at 3:30 p.m. in the Old Smithville Burying Ground along E. Moore St. to celebrate Old South Tour Company’s 10th season. Regular tours run Tuesday through Friday at 8 p.m. The tour will run on Monday, May 27th for Memorial Day.

Call to reserve a space; the price of admission is $7/children and $10/adults.

(910) 750-1951
In February 2013, Southport Tours introduced the area’s first electric-cart tour. Owner Rick Pukenas was inspired to start the independent tour after offering complimentary guided cart excursions as part of the amenities at his bed-and-breakfast, Robert Ruark Inn, which he runs with his wife, Linda. The complimentary tour, which had been running for a year before Pukenas set out to take Southport Tours public, proved a great hit among the inn’s guests.

Pukenas is a former school administrator, educator, and long-time history buff. His fervor for the historic began when he was a young boy, and he went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in history, following up his studies with two graduate degrees in education. His tour allows participants to learn more about Southport and its historic and coastal value.

Topics covered include the city’s historical sites and homes; movie locations from “Safe Haven,” “Crimes of the Heart,” and other films shot locally; an overview of shopping and dining areas; and museum/educational highlights. Southport Tours run seven days a week: Monday-Friday, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.; Saturday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.; and Sunday, 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. Tours last 45 minutes and begin on the hour at the Southport Visitor’s Center located on Davis Street between Moore and Bay streets. Tours are $10 per person. Other times are available by calling Pukenas or visiting Southport Tours’ website.

(910) 457-6844
96 Keelson Row, Bald Head Island
The Sail Shop offers an array of tours and excursions. Their kayak guides are CPR- and first-aid-certified. They are also all avid kayakers, even in their spare time, and are active naturalists with an extensive knowledge of the salt-marsh ecology and wildlife, as well as the history of Bald Head Island. The sailing instructors are US Sailing-certified.

• Guided Kayak Tour: A two-hour relaxed trip with great opportunities to see a vast array of wildlife while exploring Bald Head Creek and/or Fishing Creek. Guides will help guests navigate off the beaten track and will help to identify the wildlife encountered along the way. From bald eagles to fiddler crabs, this trip is sure to expand participants’ knowledge of local wildlife. $55/single kayak; $80/double kayak. Call for reservations.

Dates and times: 5/1, 1 p.m.; 5/2, 2 p.m.; 5/3, 3 p.m. 5/4, 9 a.m. and 3:45 p.m.; 5/5, 10 a.m.; 5/6, 10:45 a.m.; 5/7, 11:30 a.m.; 5/8, 12:15 p.m.; 5/9, 1 p.m.; 5/10, 1:30 p.m.; 5/11, 8:30 a.m. and 2:15 p.m.; 5/12, 9:45 a.m. and 3 p.m.; 5/13, 10:30 a.m.; 5/14, 11:15 a.m.; 5/15, 11:30 a.m.; 5/16, 12:30 p.m.; 5/17, 1:15 p.m.; 5/18, 2:15 p.m.: 5/19, 3:15 p.m.; 5/20, 9 a.m.; 5/21, 10 a.m.; 5/22, 11 a.m.; 5/23, 11:45 a.m.; 5/24, 12:45 p.m.; 5/25, 1:45 p.m.; 5/26, 9 a.m. and 2:30 p.m.; 5/27, 9:30 a.m. and 4 p.m.; 5/28, 11 a.m. and 4:15 p.m.; 5/29, 12 p.m. and 5:15 p.m.; 5/30, 1 p.m.; 5/31, 1:30 p.m.

• Sunset/Evening Paddle: A guided kayak tour by the warm light of the setting sun. $55/single kayak; $80/double kayak. Call for info and reservations. Dates and times: 5/22, 6 p.m.; 5/23, 7:15 p.m.; 5/30, 6:15 p.m.

• Full Moon Kayak: A two-hour guided kayak tour by the light of the full moon. Will be held on Friday, May 24th at 7:30 p.m. $55/single kayak; $80/double kayak. Call for info and reservations.

• Funsails: A two-hour introduction to sailing with one of The Sail Shop’s instructors aboard a 26-foot J80 sailboat. Beginners are welcome. Based on the tidal conditions and wind direction, the journey will travel down the Cape Fear River or to the Atlantic Ocean. Offered daily at 9:30 a.m., 12:30 p.m., and 2:30 p.m. (these times remain the same throughout the summer). $75 per person; limit four to five people per boat. For parties of six to 10 people, ask about using both boats. Call for info and reservations.

• Creek Fishing: Catch Red Drum, Black Drum, Flounder, Speckled Trout, and more aboard a fully equipped 20-foot Carolina Skiff. Expert instruction and professional equipment are provided. The fishing skiff is a licensed craft, with a local licensed captain/fishing guide that will answer any and all questions regarding the waterways, fish, and wildlife. A four-hour inshore fishing trip; $350. Call for info and reservations.

807-A N. Howe St., Southport
(910) 454-0607
• Kayak Tours: Paddle areas with little or no motor-boat traffic and hopefully see lots of wildelife along salt marsh creeks, black water rivers, and out to barrier islands. All guides are certified in first aid and CPR. Bring your own kayak, paddle and life jacket to join the fun for $15/single kayak or $30/double kayak two-hour tour fee. Longer trips will require an additional fee. Otherwise, kayak, paddle and life jacket rental, as well as intro. lesson, are included in the price of the tour, ranging from $45 to $50.

The tours are based on the tides, so times and locations vary, but tours are offered almost daily and a full list of options is available on the website. Call to confirm info and reservations. Pre-registration is required. Wear secure shoes that can get wet—no flip-flops—and avoid wearing heavy cotton clothing such as jeans and sweatshirts. Bring water to drink. If you are allergic to bee stings, bring your EpiPen or other medications.

A “Night Before the Full Moon” paddle will be offered for those with kayaking experience on May 23rd at 5:30 p.m. for $50; bring a flashlight.

• Historical Southport Bike Tour: Lori Duppstadt, the curator of education for the NC Maritime Museum at Southport, leads these monthly tours. She has a degree in history and her specialty is Lower Cape Fear history. Pedal past Fort Johnston, the Brunswick Inn, the Old Brunswick Jail, the Crimes of the Heart Home, The Indian Trail Tree, along the Cape Fear River and more. Meet at The Adventure Company at 9 a.m. on Saturday, May 25th. Bring your own bike and helmet, $15. Rent a bike and helmet, $20. Pre-registration and pre-payment required.

Southport Marina, 606 W. West St.
(910) 278-8955; (910) 547-9375
Captain Nancy Hahn is licensed by the US Coast Guard as Captain but she also works at the USCG Station Oak Island in Rescue and Survival Gear. She is a qualified boat crew member on the USCG 25-foot rescue boat with active-duty crew. Captain Hahn has 30 years of boating experience, and she is a weather and communication specialist with a master’s degree in secondary education.

The tours are 90-plus minutes long to see the local coastal sights including lighthouses, large freighter ships, USCG boats, tugboats, ferry boats, and dredges, plus local wildlife including dolphins, turtles, and many sea birds. Be sure to bring a camera. There are no bathroom facilities onboard or tables for eating. Finger snacks are the best food to bring. Bottled water and life jackets are supplied.

The Tugboat is 21 feet long, has a pilothouse and comfortable cushioned seats on the open stern deck for your private party (six person maximum), which is by reservation only. The tugboat has a full-length weighted keel which stabilizes the ride. The fee is $25 per seat per adult and $15 per child ages 5 to 12 years old. $50 minimum. Under 5 is free.

700 Federal Road, Bald Head Island
(910) 457-0089 • www.bhic.org
The Bald Head Island Conservancy was founded in 1983 as an independent, non-profit organization with a mission to foster community-based barrier-island conservation, preservation, and education to live in harmony with nature. Tour registration is required, available online or by calling 457-0089, ext. 16.

• Island Nature Tour: Bundle ferry tickets, two-hour naturalist-guided tour, and golf-cart transportation. The tour will focus on the best wildlife areas for the particular season you are visiting. Take the opportunity to see birds, mammals, reptiles, and other amazing wildlife by exploring the island’s pristine beach, maritime forest, and salt marsh. Dates in May: every Thursday and select Saturdays (May 4, 11, 25), 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. Off-island guests must board 8 a.m. ferry from the Deep Point Marina in Southport. $50/off-island guests; $25/on-island guests.

• Birding BHI: Two-hour tour to see the majestic birds of the island. Location is dependent on tides, weather and recent sightings. Bug spray is recommended. Bring binoculars if you have them; we will provide some extra to share. Participants must provide their own transportation. Meet at the Barrier Island Study Center. Reservations required. Mondays, 8:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. Free for lifetime members of BHIC; $15/members; $20/non-members.

• CSI: BHI Beachcombing Edition: Embark on the ultimate scavenger hunt. Explore the beach with BHIC naturalists to unearth evidence left behind by beach-dwelling animals. Learn how to use investigative tools like seine nets, dip nets, binoculars, and magnifying glasses. Your trip will begin in the Young Hatchling Learning Laboratory. This wet laboratory is located in the Barrier Island Study Center. Sunscreen, hats, and water bottles are recommended. Reservations required. Offered on Thursdays; call for times. Free to $15/person.

• Bald Head After Dark: The island takes on a very different feel as the sun goes down and darkness falls. While many of the island’s critters wind down for the night, several others are just gearing up. Join us in the Barrier Island Study Center for a brief presentation on Bald Head’s active nightlife—including bats, frogs, toads, alligators, and bioluminescent plankton—before heading out and about on the island. Mon. and Wed., 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. Free to $15/person.

Other excursions offered (see website for details): Kayaking the Creeks, Kids-only Kayaking, Middle Island Hikes, Maritime Forest Hikes, Crabbing and Cast-netting.

(910) 457-0579
The Old Brunswick County Jail was built in Southport in 1904, and it is located at the corner of Nash and Rhett Streets across from the Old Smithville Burying Ground. The Southport Historical Society uses the Old Jail as its headquarters and the building is now open to the public as a museum. Usual hours are Wednesday and Saturday afternoons from 12:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. Tours can be coordinated by contacting the Southport Historical Society.

12B Maritime Way, Bald Head Island
Try the fastest growing water sport in the world: stand-up paddleboarding (SUP). One of Coastal Urge’s experienced coaches will take the entire family on a journey through the salt marshes of Bald Head Island, while guiding form and technique. Includes paddleboard and paddle rental; basic ground instruction; paddle technique and board instruction; wildlife and backwater views. Daily at 10 a.m., 11:30 a.m., 1 p.m., 2:30 p.m., 4 p.m. Meet at The Board Room (86 Keelson Row). The ratio is a maximum of 1:5 (instructor/student). $30/person. Book online or call for more info.

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Southport Area's Culture & Events Magazine