Take a Nicholas Sparks Tour of North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands

nicholas sparks, southport, visitor center

Nicholas Sparks has made a name for North Carolina as a place to fall in love. Whether it’s with a significant other, or one of his novels or films, you are destined for romance in the Brunswick Islands. Come to discover the inspiration behind Nicholas Sparks’ masterpieces.

Sparks has stated that setting is a major aspect of his work, both in terms of natural and cultural environments and atmosphere. Every novel he has written since The Notebook has been set in North Carolina. He has claimed that this charming southern state is the inspiration behind his passionate novels.

Named one of USA Today’s “Top 20 Books of the Fall,” Sparks’ latest novel, Every Breath, set in Sunset Beach, North Carolina, explores the whirlwind love story between North Carolinian, Hope Anderson and Zimbabwean safari guide, Tru Walls, through the decades, continents and fate that follow a chance meeting at Sunset Beach.

Every Breath was inspired by Sparks’ fascination with a Brunswick Islands’ hidden treasure, the Kindred Spirit Mailbox. Sparks, like many others, visited Sunset Beach seeking inspiration from this local landmark. Located near the dunes on Bird Island, about a mile from the nearest public beach access point, lies the Kindred Spirit Mailbox. Planted by a Sunset Beach couple over 30 years ago, the mailbox, filled with journals and pens, encourages thousands of visitors each year to share their story with the universe. Readers of his new novel will come to find that this peculiar mailbox is at the center of the story line in Every Breath.

Sparks fanatics can enjoy a Safe Haven of their own by taking a Walk to Remember to the Kindred Spirit Mailbox and other iconic landmarks in the Brunswick Islands that were made famous by Sparks’ work.

Check out our list of some of the can’t miss stops on the Nicholas Sparks Tour of the Brunswick Islands:

Brunswick Islands, North Carolina:

With 45+ miles of pristine beaches and charming coastal communities it is easy to see why a few of Sparks’ novels have been set and/or filmed in the Brunswick Islands. Sunset Beach, Southport, Oak Island and Caswell Beach have served as the backdrop for Every Breath (2018), Safe Haven (2010), A Walk To Remember (1999) and The Longest Ride (2013).

Sunset Beach, Brunswick Islands: Featured in Every Breath.

  • Send a message at the Kindred Spirit Mailbox, the central location in the novel and the destination that Nicholas Sparks’ character in the novel finds the manila envelope detailing the “The Most Amazing Story Ever” of Tru Wallace and Hope Anderson’s romance.
  • Visit the charming town of Sunset Beach where Hope Anderson goes to spend time at her family’s cottage.

Kindred Spirit Mailbox

Southport, Brunswick IslandsFeatured in the film adaptation of A Walk To Remember and in the novel and film adaptation of Safe Haven.

Featured in A Walk to Remember:

  • Stop by the beautiful church where Jamie Sullivan’s dad was a pastor.
  • Stargaze at the Old Smithville Burying Ground where Landon Carter named a star after Jamie.
  • Watch the sunset over the water at the Riverwalk Gazebo where Jamie and Landon shared a kiss.

southport chapel in a walk to remember

Featured in Safe Haven:

  • Have a drink on the dock at Old American Fish Co restaurant, which transformed into Ivan’s Fish Shack where Katie Feldman worked as a waitress.
  • Walk through Downtown Southport to see some of the storefronts and restaurants that made their way into the film as well as housed the crew.
  • While you may not be able to see Ryan’s Port Market, you can still see some of its remains and other Safe Haven memorabilia at the Fort Johnston- Southport Museum and Visitors Center. While you are there be sure to pick up a brochure of all of the Safe Haven film locations.
  • Explore West Moore and Bay Street where the dramatic Fourth of July Festival was recreated in the Fall in order to film this iconic scene.
  • Fans will recognize the West Brunswick Street house where Alex Wheatley lived with his children in the film.
  • Enjoy a meal at Ports of Call restaurant—where Katie and Alex shared their first romantic dinner.
  • See where Alex kept his boat at the Southport Marina.

Ivan's, Safe Haven

Oak Island, Brunswick IslandsFeatured in the film adaptation of Safe Haven.

  • Grab a bite at Wildlife Restaurant & Grill where Katie and Alex escaped the rain and shared a dance, that is until the police interrupted.

safe haven oak island

Caswell Beach, Brunswick IslandsFeatured in the film adaptation of The Longest Ride.

  • Visit the delightful seaside town of Caswell Beach where Ruth’s family spent the summer.

caswell beach

Looking for other things to do while on your Nicholas Sparks trip? Want to discover other movies that were filmed in the Brunswick Islands? Feeling a little peckish along your journey? Check out more information about the Brunswick Islands at ncbrunswick.com.

Discover the Museums of North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands

Museum of Coastal Carolina

Beyond the beautiful beach scenery, the Brunswick Islands hold a rich history, which guests can experience with a visit to the area’s museums. With history dating as far back as the colonial times and tales of pirates, visitors can explore the fascinating, in-depth past of the islands and coastal communities. Not only does the Brunswick Islands offer a great place for visitors to enjoy the beaches and sunshine, but a trip to coast can also be educational! Be sure to add these museums to your Brunswick Islands itinerary:

Fort Johnston – Southport Museum & Visitors Center:

Fort Johnston in Southport was built by the British in 1748. The fort was used to protect the region from the Spanish and French attacks during King George’s War. It served as the oldest active-duty fort in the United States after 250 years of federal service and was conveyed to the city of Southport in 2006. Today, visitors can explore the museum with an official tour guide or take a self-guided tour. Don’t miss the Safe Haven exhibit with memorabilia from when the movie was filmed in Southport. fort-johnston

Ingram Planetarium:

Visitors looking for more of an out-of-this-world museum experience can check out the Ingram Planetarium in Sunset Beach. This state-of-the-art planetarium has an 85-seat SciDome Sky Theater with high definition digital protection and surround-sound system. The theater shows educational programs about space exploration and astronomy, along with laser music shows. Explore the interactive exhibits in the Paul Dennis Science Hall for fun, hands-on learning. dsc_9509_sunset-beach_planitarium_lr

Museum of Coastal Carolina:

The Museum of Coastal Carolina on Ocean Isle Beach is North Carolina’s only natural history museum located on a barrier island. The museum showcases the unique coastal ecosystem of the Brunswick Islands and features the Southeast’s largest dry aquarium, collections of sea shells, shark jaws, wildlife dioramas and a Touch Tank with live sea stars, sea urchins and other animals. Young explorers will also love digging in the fossil pit for shark teeth. dsc_0010_oib_touch-tank_wm

North Carolina Maritime Museum at Southport:

The North Carolina Maritime Museum at Southport tells the story of the Cape Fear region and the people of its past and present. Exhibits provide a detailed history of pirates, shipwrecks, and the area’s extensive nautical history. The museum offers educational programs for both children and adults, making it enjoyable for all ages.mmsign

Old Brunswick County Jail Museum:

The Old Brunswick County Jail, built in 1904, has been maintained to keep its original form and serves as a museum open to the public. The two-story jail, which was used until 1971 before a new jail was constructed, has a runabout and two cells, which visitors can view on guided or self-guided tours. Visitors can also take a glimpse of the graffiti drawn by prisoners on the second floor. img_0523

Sunset Beach Swing Bridge & Museum:

The historic Sunset Beach swing bridge and tender house that linked the island to the mainland from 1958-2011, now rests in an area shaded by oak trees to serve as a museum and public gathering place. Locals thought that they would be saying goodbye to the swing bridge, but volunteers and the Old Bridge Preservative Society saved it from demolition. The tender house is now open to visitors and displays artifacts from the Blockade Runner Vesta, which ran aground on Sunset Beach. old-sb-bridge-horizontal-2

Brunswick Town/Fort Anderson Historic Site:

Brunswick Town was a pre-Revolutionary port located on the Cape Fear River that was destroyed by British Troops in 1776 and never rebuilt. Fort Anderson was constructed during the Civil War at the same site as the old village to defend the river and north toward Wilmington. What remains of Brunswick Town and the fort is now one of North Carolina’s historic sites and a working archaeological site. Visitors can view displays and audiovisuals about its history, as well as explore outdoor trails along the ruins of the fort.img_5863_tonemapped

Smith Island Museum of History:

Smith Island Museum of History is located on the grounds of Old Baldy Lighthouse on Bald Head Island and is a replica of an 1850s lighthouse keeper’s cottage.img_3467

When planning your visit to the museums in North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands, be sure to check the hours, which vary by season. To learn more, visit http://www.ncbrunswick.com/fun_and_adventure/heritage_museums.

It’s Official: Southport is Coastal Living’s “America’s Happiest Seaside Town”

fans rallied and Coastal Living Magazine heard. The magazine has named the picturesque village of Southport, NC as “America’s Happiest Seaside Town for 2015.” It was the only town in the Carolinas nominated. Coastal Living features Southport as the No. 1 “Happiest Seaside Town” in the July/August issue of the magazine and online.

Coastal Living revealed the top 10 finalists for “America’s Happiest Seaside Towns” in its March issue. Voting was open until March 31, with Southport receiving the most online votes of the 10 finalists. Southport residents won the contest with a “get out the vote” in a big way.  They created a whimsical and heartfelt YouTube video to make their case, encourage voting and to show how happy they are – as happy as those who enjoy Southport’s charms while on vacation.Southport BC043

Southport’s allure has already been recognized by Hollywood and the television industry, with more than 40 productions having filmed there, including the recent film “Safe Haven” and television series “Under the Dome.” Southport winning the crown as the No. 1 Happiest Seaside Town for 2015 comes as no surprise to both residents and visitors who have always known how special their beloved home and vacation spot is.

Southport is filled with breathtaking waterfront, beautiful 19th Century architecture, uniquely southern landscape and a wealth of history including stories of Native Americans, pirates and the Revolutionary War. With culture that runs as deep as its history, it is no wonder that residents and visitors of Southport are smiling.

Southport has beautiful B&Bs, inns, flagship chain hotels and other comfortable accommodations to make a week or weekend visit.  If you want to add a beach vacation, next-door Oak Island and Caswell Beach have miles of uncrowded, pet-friendly beaches with more than 60 public access points. Family-oriented attractions include the Oak Island Lighthouse, mini-golf, skate park, nature center, two fishing piers, two marinas and three public boat and canoe ramps.  Did we mention golf,  fine and casual dining and ice cream shacks?

 

 

Southport -See It On Screen And Experience It In Person

With its dramatic views of the Cape Fear River, ancient live oaks drizzled with Spanish moss, and Victorian homes on flower-edged lanes, the picture-perfect village of Southport charms residents, visitors and even Hollywood. The rich history of Native Americans, pirates, Revolutionary war and blockade runners makes the town, so full of southern coastal appeal, one of the loveliest on the Atlantic coast.

Brimming with art galleries, cafes offering locally caught seafood, and unique boutiques and shops, it’s a Norman Rockwell painting come to life. The extraordinary waterfront and early 19th century architecture also draws Hollywood and the television industry. More than 40 productions have filmed here, most recently “Safe Haven” and “Under the Dome.”

During your next Brunswick Islands vacation, get a close-up of some of the places made famous by “Safe Haven” and “Under the Dome,” via electric carts from Southport Tours or Southport Fun Tours. Narrated biking tours are offered by The Adventure Company and Old South Tour Company presents historical walking tours. Showcased are filming locations including iconic homes, the Old Brunswick County JSafe Haven displayail Museum, (Cissy Spacek, “Crimes of the Heart”) Fishy Fishy Café (“Dawson’s Creek” and “Revenge”), Trinity Methodist Church (“Under the Dome” and “A Walk To Remember”) and the River Pilots Tower (radio station in “Under the Dome”).  While in Southport, visit also the Southport Museum at Fort Johnston to see film related exhibits.  For a list of motion picture and television productions filmed in North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands, visit here.