Beer Trip Ideas★ ★ Take a trip to the taps. ★ ★

Wilmington to Southport: Toasts of the Coast

Read the screen credits for Wilmington and Southport and you’ll rightfully conclude that there’s beauty to behold on the 40-mile stretch of North Carolina’s southern coast. The historic port city of Wilmington, the charming town of Southport and their island beaches have been picture-perfect for hundreds of television and movie projects (One Tree Hill, Iron Man 3, Safe Haven and Crimes of the Heart, to name a few).

But there’s more to turn a beer lover’s head than familiar-from-film sites and faces. In just a few years, the Wilmington-area beer scene has grown from one brewery to more than a dozen, with enough bottle shops, specialty retailers and tasting rooms to earn the city a place on’s list of “America’s Beeriest Beach Towns.” Add walkable waterfronts and an assortment of mother nature close-ups to create undeniable appeal for Wilmington and nearby Southport.

Wilmington’s riverfront area offers an excellent vantage point for surveying the city’s arrival as a beer destination. Named a TripAdvisor 2018 Travelers’ Choice “Top U.S. Destination on the Rise,” Wilmington’s walkable river district is home to Front Street Brewery, Ironclad Brewery, Flytrap Brewing, Waterline Brewing Co., New Anthem Beer Project and Edward Teach Brewing. Downtown Wilmington is also where beer lovers board the Port City Brew Bus to connect to other breweries – Broomtail Craft Brewery, The Sour Barn, Bill’s Front Porch Pub and Brewery, Wilmington Brewing, Wrightsville Beach Brewery and Waterman’s Brewing Co.

Other tours depart from the river district as well. Revisit history, encounter ghosts, savor the restaurant scene, hop into a horse-drawn carriage, board a boat to zero in on a special interest, or enjoy the city’s charms and its 1.8-mile riverwalk on foot. Regardless of how you get around, expect to see sites used in filming and places where stars dined and shopped.

To add coastal style to the trip, cross the Intracoastal Waterway to Wrightsville Beach, a prime destination for anyone in the mood for a spring surf or stand-up paddleboard adventure. Travelers can also see the sights with Wrightsville Beach Scenic Tours, which ferries visitors to Masonboro Island, a pristine coastal reserve, for shelling and birding. Then enjoy a cold one in the beer garden at Lighthouse Beer & Wine, which offers a strong selection of North Carolina craft beer on tap.

Travel down U.S. 421 to find two more beach destinations, Carolina Beach and Kure Beach. Carolina Beach, known for its boardwalk and Britts Donut Shop, offers the pet- and family-friendly Good Hops Brewing to its list of attractions. Visitors can bring in food to enjoy the flagship beers and seasonals with in between rounds on the brewery’s 9-hole par-3 disc golf course. And Island Beverage is a popular spot for shopping and tasting.

Continue on to Southport by way of Kure Beach, home to Fort Fisher with its aquarium, recreation area and remains of the Civil War fort. Spend time with nature and history before heading to the Fort Fisher Ferry terminal for the scenic 35-minute ride past three lighthouses to reach Southport. Coastal Living magazine named this scene-stealing city “America’s Happiest Seaside Town.” Take a visit with a tour that takes in film sites and other landmarks, then return to places that inspire a closer look.

Southport played itself in the adaptation of Nicholas Sparks’ Safe Haven, and the heroine soon found the appeal of getting around town by bike. Rent one for your stay, or enjoy walking the shaded streets, whose names include Lord, Howe, Dry and I Am. Before reading the street signs becomes a lament, treat yourself to a pint at Old American Fish Co. – which appeared in Safe Haven and I Know What You Did Last Summer – or Fishy Fishy Café, which played Porter’s Stowaway Tavern in the ABC series Revenge. Silver Coast Winery offers daily tastings from rotating taps.

Southport’s Check Six Brewing Co. takes its name from a term used by fighter pilots (no coincidence that co-founder Tim Hassel is a retired Air Force colonel and fighter pilot). The brewery ties into Southport’s military history with its decor and beer names that tap local and national aviation history. The stories behind Wright Flyer Cream Ale, Wrong Way Corrigan’s Irish Stout, Harley Pope Imperial Porter and others make raising a pint even more memorable.