15 Pros and Cons of Living in Southport, North Carolina

Southport, located on the southern coastline of North Carolina, hails where the famous Cape Fear River flows into the Atlantic Ocean. As a major tourist destination, Southport attracts between 40-50 thousand people coming to see the North Carolina 4th of July Festival. Retirees find solitude in Southport’s quiet beaches and shorelines. 

As a small city uniquely placed in Brunswick County, Southport offers a rich history and popular filming spot for famous TV series and movies. The population of Southport is small, but the city has seen an influx of residents within the past decade.  

For those contemplating a move to Southport, we have compiled a comprehensive list of 15 pros and cons of living in Southport, NC. The first 10 entries list positive aspects of living in the small coastal city, while the last 5 on the list outline negative things to consider. 

A photo of a boat and pier. There are red, white, and blue buoys and a sign that says SOUTHPORT, NC
  1. Pro: Ranked in Top 10 Happiest Seaside Towns

In 2015, Time Inc.’s Coastal Living feature listed Southport as No. 1 for Americas’ Happiest Seaside Towns. The magazine’s happiest seaside ranking decision consisted of public vote and quality of living metrics. 

Southport, the only city considered from either of the Carolinas, faced competition from bigger cities and seaside states. Southport competed against Delray Beach in Florida, Ocean Springs in Mississippi, and Corona del Mar, California. Still, the small town came out on top. 

Southport’s small-town Southern charm and waterfront earned its place. 19th-century buildings, antique boutique shops, and old waterfront architecture fill the small city and emphasize Southport’s long history. 

  1. Pro: Southport’s Cost of Living 

When moving, the cost of living is one of the most important features individuals consider and Southport, NC delivers. According to the national average cost of living reports, Southport’s cost of living is lower than the national average by 1%. A combination of grocery, transportation, housing costs, utilities, healthcare, and other services indicates the cost of living. 

The housing situation in Southport keeps the cost of living down and attracts retirees and residents from across the country. 

For example, Southport’s housing expenses are 10% lower than the national average. However, the utility prices are 1% higher than the national average. Transportation expenses such as gas prices are 3% higher than the national average.

  1. Pro: Education

Southport, NC provides a decent public education for young families. 

Compared to other cities in the state and nation, Southport’s education system ranks high. Education rankings calculate graduation rates, the ratio of students to teachers, family reviews, and enrollment rates. 

For example, South Brunswick Highschool, a secondary education institution, holds a sufficient rank in North Carolina. Out of thousands of schools in the state, South Brunswick High places at 192. Students at South Brunswick High have the opportunity to participate in AP coursework. The school enjoys a high participation rate in AP classes. 

North Carolina ranks the Brunswick County School District well overall. The college readiness index, college curriculum breadth index, math and reading proficiency rates, math and reading performance rates, and graduation rates fall in the middle compared to other school districts in the state of North Carolina and across the country. 

  1. Pro: Southport’s Rich History 

History buffs love Southport, NC. Even if you are not a history buff, Southport’s long narrative provides something for everyone to appreciate. 

The history of Southport goes back to Indigenous people groups living in the area before Spanish exploration and exploitation in the 1500s. Spanish colonies resulted in the extinction of coastal Cape Fear tribes. 

In 1792, Southport came to existence under the name Smithville after Benjamin Smith, a colonel during the Revolutionary War and governor of North Carolina. Decades later, the city was renamed Southport to promote the town as a major shipping port. 

Historically, the city has been subject to colonial acquisition and war, leading to a series of forts built in the area such as Fort Johnston, which now exists as a Museum and Visitor Center. Fort Johnston was active for 250 years before being acknowledged as a historical landmark. 

  1. Pro: Popular Filming Spot 
A photo of filming equipment including a clap board and two rolls of tape film.

The entertainment industry utilized Southport as a filming location for TV series and movies alike. More than 40 filming productions took place in Southport, NC. 

Southport hosted the movie adaptations of Nicholas Sparks’ A Walk to Remember and Nights in Rodanthe. Other major romantic films such as Safe Haven broadcasted Southport. 

TV series such as Revenge, Under the Dome, Dawson’s Creek, and Matlock located filming efforts in Southport. Additionally, the famous slasher movie I Know What You Did Last Summer filmed a large portion of scenes in the city, including the Cape Fear River. 

Southport held other major productions such as Domestic Disturbance, Summer Catch, and Crimes of the Heart. 

  1. Pro: Climate 

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Southport is the warmest city in North Carolina, and for most prospective movers, that’s a plus! 

The summers in the small city feature high temperatures combined with high humidity. Residents of Southport enjoy the mild winters that average temperatures in the 40s. Year-round, Southport sees well over 100 sunny days with clear skies and rarely deals with snowfall. 

Besides the beautiful climate, Southport has a clean average air quality index (AQI) rating. The AQI measures air quality by calculating major air pollutants such as ground level ozone, carbon monoxide levels, sulfur dioxide, and particle pollution. The AQI distinguishes what health effects residents may experience by breathing in local air for an extended period of time. 

The AQI measures from 0-500. The lower the rating, the healthier the air. A rating between 0-50 indicates that the air is generally not harmful to breathe and poses little to no health risk. The average daily AQI of Southport, NC ranges from 45-55.

  1. Pro: Geographic Location 

The beautiful climate of Southport complements the city’s geographic location. At 2 miles inland from the Atlantic Ocean, Southport consists of wonderfully close beaches and coastlines. Residents of the hottest city in North Carolina cool off by taking a dip in the Atlantic Ocean. 

Besides the Atlantic Ocean, water surrounds Southport. The combination of the Cape Fear River, lakes, creeks, and swamplands surrounding Southport makes for interesting ecosystems and wildlife to explore. 

Best of all, the climate keeps ocean temperatures comfortable year-round. Southport’s access to beaches makes the city a prime retirement and vacation home destination. 

  1. Pro: High Recreational Activity

The geographic location offers other outdoorsy recreational activities. Southport residents sail, fish, golf, hike, and enjoy community recreation facilities. 

The North Carolinian coastline is a great place to learn how to sail, and Southport even offers sailing classes. The coastline also provides the opportunity for deep-sea fishing and surf fishing. 

One of the most popular activities for locals and residents is kayaking, and Southport offers the perfect environment for it. Kayaking companies station along the waterfront and offer kayak equipment rentals and guided kayaking tours. 

The city of Southport is home to several large golf courses and fitness and aquatic centers that offer running tracks and water pools for the public. Additionally, state parks nearby host hiking and off-roading trails. 

  1. Pro: Walkability 

The small size of Southport makes it fairly easy for residents to walk everywhere. Most residents report being able to run errands by foot because of walkability, especially in Southport’s historic districts. 

Within the last few years, the city of Southport installed new traffic patterns ideal for pedestrians and maneuvering by foot. 

  1. Pro: Overall Quality of Life 

According to the World Population Review, Southport’s overall quality of life is solid and above the national average. Quality of life ratings considers livability metrics such as crime rate, education quality, costs of living, and the happiness of city residents. 

Out of 500 cities in the state of North Carolina, Southport’s quality of life score falls well above average at a ranking of 186. 

  1. Con: Natural Disasters 
A graphic showing a large hurricane hitting America. There are semi-transparent dollar bills on the left of the photo.

While the coastline and beachy location of Southport has more perks than flaws, major issues still arise. Southport’s location makes it vulnerable to certain natural disasters such as tropical storms and hurricanes. Hurricane season for the city lasts from June 1st to November 30th annually. 

Previous hurricanes caused significant damage in Southport. For example, Hurricane Isaias cost boat owners in Southport millions of dollars in damage. Another famous hurricane, Hurricane Irene, resulted in structural damages and flooding. 

  1. Con: Crime Rates 

Compared to the rest of the country and state of North Carolina, Southport’s crime rates are not the best. According to Crime Grade Statistics, crime rates in Southpoint are slightly higher per capita compared to other cities in the US. Specifically, Southport is only in the 34th percentile for safety, meaning that 66% of American cities are safer than Southport. 

Depending on your location in Southport, the likelihood of being a crime victim changes. In more southern Southport neighborhoods, your chances are 1 in 10. In northern parts of Southport, your likelihood drops to 1 in 49. 

Most of the crime involves property infiltration rather than violence. Crime Grade Statistics also affirms that a crime occurs in Southport once every day and 11 hours on average. Additionally, you are 300% more likely to be a victim of a property crime if your home does not have a security alarm system. 

  1. Con: Small Population Size 

The population size of Southport is extremely low. To some, this might be positive. However, most people prefer to live in more populated locations. 

According to the 2020 US Census, less than 4,000 people live in Southport. Southport has a population density of about 1050 people per square mile spanning over 4 miles. 

The 2020 Census counts 1,434 households. The median income of a single household in Southport came to $33,714, compared to the $45,714 median income for a family. 

In 2020, Southport claimed a per capita income of $23,059. Additionally, about 7% of families and 13% of the population lived below the poverty line in 2020. 19% of individuals living in poverty were under the age of 18 and about 15% were over the age of 65. 

  1. Con: Low Diversity 

The 2020 Census also proved that Southport has extremely low diversity rates. The racial makeup of Southport is overwhelmingly white, with 86% of residents claiming to be non-Hispanic white in the 2020 census.

 About 7% of the population registered as Black, 3% as mixed race, and 2% as Hispanic or Latino. Less than 1% of people registered in Indigenous American, Asian, and Pacific Islander groups. 

The average age of citizens in Southport came to 54 in 2020, which makes sense due to Southport’s notoriety as a retirement community. While Southport’s public school system may be decent, not many young families live there. 

Additionally, the 2020 census found that 35.3% of households were claimed by individuals, and 16.2% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size for 2020 was 3.08 and the average family size was 3.12.

  1. Con: Tourist Attraction 
A photo of a marching band in a parade, walking down the street

The last pitfall on the list is Southport’s tourist attraction status. In fact, the economy of Southport relies heavily on the tourism industry. During the summers, people from all over the world are found vacationing at Southport. 

In July, Southport hosts the NC 4th of July Festival. Each year, the city expects between 40-50 thousand visitors. For most, the festival offers fun activities. For residents, the massive influx of tourists is stressful. 

Final Thoughts 

What makes a city livable comes down to subjective opinion. To some, a life without public transportation may be unfathomable. To others, education is the number one priority. 

When considering Southport, it depends largely on who you are. For retirees, Southport seems ideal. If you have young children, not so much. Others may enjoy Southport’s small-town feel and sense of community. Some may despite living in such a small town and seek out bigger cities in North Carolina such as Raleigh or Charlotte. 

Whatever it may be, do your research before making a big move to Southport, North Carolina!

Related: 17 Pros and Cons of Living in North Carolina