A Year-Round Guide to Franklin and Nantahala

[caption id="attachment_137408" align="alignright" width="251"] Debbie & Ricky Evans.[/caption] At their gallery in Southport, Ricky and Debbie Evans showcase the beauty of their coastal town. All of the artists featured in

Madison County Championship Rodeo

[caption id="attachment_137408" align="alignright" width="251"] Debbie & Ricky Evans.[/caption] At their gallery in Southport, Ricky and Debbie Evans showcase the beauty of their coastal town. All of the artists featured in

Rosemary and Goat Cheese Strata

[caption id="attachment_137408" align="alignright" width="251"] Debbie & Ricky Evans.[/caption] At their gallery in Southport, Ricky and Debbie Evans showcase the beauty of their coastal town. All of the artists featured in

A Guide to Downtown Southport

Bird's eye view of Fishy Fishy Cafe and dock.
Debbie & Ricky Evans sit on swinging chair of porch.

Debbie & Ricky Evans. photograph by Matt Ray Photography

At their gallery in Southport, Ricky and Debbie Evans showcase the beauty of their coastal town. All of the artists featured in the shop live within 60 miles, and many pieces reflect the landscapes, seascapes, and colorful culture of the area. “It seems like Southport attracts that talent in people,” Debbie says. “With the retirement communities here, there are so many people who have worked in other areas and always wanted to pursue their artistic careers, and they just found the perfect spot, like we did, to let that grow.”

Debbie was working for a frame shop in Wilmington when she was hired by Ricky, a watercolorist and photographer, to help him in his galleries in Laurinburg and Southport. Then, Debbie says with a laugh, “he decided it was going to be cheaper if he married me than to have me as an employee.” The two tied the knot in Southport in 2000 and never looked back. “One of the things we loved about [the town] was its location right here on the river, right next to the ocean,” Debbie says. “We’ve got all kinds of water surrounding us, the beautiful oak trees, the old homes. It’s just a quaint place, yet it’s a thriving place.”

Shop

Ricky Evans Gallery. Just two blocks from the waterfront, the Evanses have made their home in this cozy cottage, where they sell Ricky’s paintings, photography, and pen-and-ink drawings, plus pottery, copperwork, jewelry, and other pieces by area artists. “We’re a true mom-and-pop operation here,” Debbie says. “We work downstairs and live upstairs.”

Front of Ricky Evans Gallery

Shop for one-of-a-kind gifts at the Ricky Evans Gallery. photograph by Matt Ray Photography

Franklin Square Gallery. The Evanses partnered with this artist co-op to start Southport’s First Friday Gallery Walk. “They maintain an old historic building, and they renovated it and brought it up to date so that everybody can see it, as well as enjoy the artwork,” Debbie says. “It’s a very nice gallery, and we’re proud to be one of their partners.”

Potter’s Seafood Market. Fifth-generation fisherman Royce Potter’s family has been providing the fresh catch of the day for folks in Southport since 1899. “We go down and get fresh shrimp off the boat, as well as grouper and oysters,” Debbie says. “They have all kinds of goodies in there, depending on the season.”

Front of Potter's Seafood Market.

Pick up delicious, fresh seafood at Potter’s Seafood Market. photograph by Matt Ray Photography

Ocean Outfitters. “Ocean Outfitters started as a little cinder-block building right outside of town, and they moved downtown and have about a third of a block now,” Debbie says. They sell outdoor clothing, shoes, and gear that Debbie says is “right on the cutting edge of all the new stuff that the young folks like — and us old folks, too.”

Wild by Nature. Robin Weir’s flower shop is “one of the most colorful little buildings in town,” Debbie says — both inside and out. “Her shop has got every color in the world on the outside, and it is so pretty.” Weir has been designing floral arrangements for more than 30 years, and she hosts classes to share her knowledge.

Painted flowers on outside of Wild by Nature.

Snap a picture outside of Wild by Nature’s colorful building. photograph by Matt Ray Photography

Stay

The Bell-Clemmons House Bed and Breakfast. This renovated Civil War-era house welcomes guests to sit in a rocking chair on one of its three porches and relax in one of three guest rooms. “I like seeing people who renovate these old homes and turn them into something that people can enjoy,” Debbie says.

Eat

Blue Cow Grille. “Blue Cow has become one of my favorite places to eat,” Debbie says. “Their burgers are out of this world, and my husband always gets the pork rinds. They’re always alternating their menu a little bit to suit different tastes, and they do a good job of it.”

Delicious burger from Blue Cow Grille.

Order a burger with pork rinds at Blue Cow Grille. photograph by Matt Ray Photography

Flava’s Ice Cream. Debbie says that almost everybody who comes to town stops here for both traditional and adventurous flavors (she loves Death by Chocolate). In addition to Blue Bunny, they carry Maola Ice Cream, which was founded in New Bern and is sourced from North Carolina dairy farmers.

Fishy Fishy Cafe. This casual seafood spot is right on the water, drawing visitors who come by boat as well as by car or on foot for the bacon-wrapped stuffed shrimp, grilled tuna, and lump crab cakes from North Carolina. “Everything I’ve ever had there is good,” Debbie says. “The fish is fresh off the boat — you can’t get much closer than when the boat’s next door.”

Delicious crab cakes from Fishy Fishy Cafe.

The lump crab cakes at Fishy Fishy Cafe draws visitors by boat and by car. photograph by Matt Ray Photography

Provision Co. Another Southport standby for locals and visitors, this waterfront restaurant serves up steamed seafood, salads, sandwiches, and pies. “You just stand by the water and enjoy the view and linger over the food,” Debbie says. “All the locals go there at least once a week to meet and greet and just enjoy life. It’s a happy place.”

Play

NC Maritime Museum at Southport. Situated where the Cape Fear River, the Intracoastal Waterway, and the Atlantic Ocean meet, the Maritime Museum traces the history of the region through exhibits on local fisheries, shipwrecks, hurricanes, and military conflicts. “The Maritime Museum is something I think the whole community is proud of,” Debbie says.

Keziah Park. The centerpiece of this small downtown park is the Indian Trail Tree, estimated to be about 800-years-old. “Legend has it that when the tree was a sapling, the Indians bent it, and it took root in the ground again, so it’s formed in the shape of an upside-down U,” Debbie says. “It marked their trails down to the fishing spots. It’s a neat place to go and think about how old this little area really is.”


Small Town on the Big Screen

Southport’s colorful setting on the North Carolina coast has attracted producers of many movies and TV shows. Here are just a few of the locations that have helped make a name for Southport in Hollywood.

American Fish Company. This waterfront bar was Ivan’s Fish Shack in the movie Safe Haven. Known as “the best place to watch the sunset in Southport,” it has also appeared in Weekend at Bernie’s, I Know What You Did Last Summer, and The Three Lives of Karen.

Bird's eye view of American Fish Company.

American Fish Company has appeared in several movies, including Safe Haven. photograph by Matt Ray Photography

Old Smithville Burying Ground. Shaded by giant live oaks, this mid-1700s cemetery predates the town and serves as a backdrop in scenes from Crimes of the Heart, A Walk to Remember, Matlock, Under the Dome, and more.

Trinity United Methodist Church. This simple white church was built in 1890 and features a beautiful wooden interior. In A Walk to Remember, Jamie’s father was the reverend at this church, which has made appearances in several TV shows and movies.

Amuzu Theatre. Built in 1918, this historic theater has served as a cinema and a live theater venue. It has been on the big screen in Crimes of the Heart, I Know What You Did Last Summer, and The Secret Life of Bees.

This story was published on Apr 27, 2021

Katie King

Katie King is an assistant editor at Our State.