While in Southport, North Carolina, recently for a speaking engagement with the Brunswick Civil War Roundtable, I had the pleasure of staying at the historic Robert Ruark Inn. It proved an ideal base of operations to explore the neighboring Civil War landscape, including Fort Fisher and Fort Anderson.
Robert Ruark was an internationally known writer—which, of course, caught my interest right away—best known for his column in Field and Stream magazine and a series of books based on his childhood in Southport, Old Man and The Boy. Ruark was the boy and the “old man” was his maternal grandfather, captain Hawley Adkins, who taught his grandson how to appreciate the great outdoors. Adkins was a riverboat pilot in the generation after the blockade runners of the Civil War and the original owner of the Victorian-era house, built in 1890, that now serves as the inn.
Located at 119 N. Lord Street, the Robert Ruark Inn features four rooms, each with its own private bath, available for guests. The home’s original owner, Captain Hawley Adkins, was a riverboat pilot in the generation after the blockade runners of the Civil War. His daughter was Robert Ruark’s mother.
Innkeepers Linda and Rick Pukenas had port and sherry waiting in the downstairs hallway when I arrived and cheese and crackers in the beautiful dining room throughout the afternoon and evening (and coffee and bottled water, too). The morning following my talk, they served a delicious breakfast of French toast and sausage, berries and yogurt, and fresh fruit.
While I could have taken advantage of a lush Victorian parlor or a row of comfy rocking chairs on the front porch, I instead decided to unwind after my talk on their outdoor patio, where I enjoyed a leisurely cigar and did some writing.
Ruark himself did not have a Civil War connection, but Southport—located about 25 miles downriver from Wilmington—has plenty of adventures available for a Civil War traveler. Southport sits near the mouth of the Cape Fear River, on the west bank. A 23-minute ferry ride across the river, Fort Fisher awaits. (And there’s a fantastic aquarium there in the Fort Fisher Recreational Area, too).
Up the road a piece is the nearby North Carolina Military History Museum, located just north of Fort Fisher at Kure Beach.
And no military history trip of the area is complete without a visit to the battleship North Carolina, docked just across the river from downtown Wilmington. For more on the Civil War attractions in Wilmington itself, check out the Official Tourism Development Authority for Hanover County.
On the west bank of the Cape Fear River (the same side as Southport), upriver from Fort Fisher, is its sister fort, Fort Anderson, the scene of a futile, last-ditch stand by Confederates who’d been driven from Fort Fisher.
In Southport itself is the North Carolina Maritime Museum at Southport, located at 204 E. Moore Street. Situated at the mouth of the Cape Fear River and protected by notoriously dangerous offshore shoals, Southport has a fantastic nautical history.
And if you’re sticking around town, visit the many quaint shops and good restaurants. And nearby Oak Island has excellent golfing (or so I’m told, although I subscribe to Twain’s old adage that “golf is a good walk spoiled!”).
After a day’s worth of adventuring, the calm respite offered by the Robert Ruark Inn will be absolutely perfect.