• Photo: Charles Chadwick Talton / Shutterstock

Southport

This small town, quietly positioned at the mouth of Cape Fear River, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. An increasingly desirable retirement spot, Southport retains its village charm and front-porch hospitality. Stately and distinctive homes, antiques stores, gift shops, and vibrant restaurants line streets that veer to accommodate ancient oak trees. The town, portrayed in Robert Ruark's novel The Old Man and the Boy, is ideal for walking; it's also popular with moviemakers—Crimes of the Heart (1986) and Safe Haven (2013) were filmed here.

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