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Discovering Nicholas Sparks’ SAFE HAVEN

North Carolina is a state of beauty with winding roads through friendly mountain towns, breathtaking views of national forests, historic sites and a must-visit destination during the fall color season. It’s the birthplace of Pepsi, a state where college basketball runs shades of blue, BBQ is on the line, moon pies are mainstream, and the coastal scenery that translates into the romance of Nicholas Sparks novels.

I grew up in the Blue Ridge gem, Madison County, in Western North Carolina. A majestic backdrop of Pisgah National Forest seems to rush to meet the French Broad, the world’s third oldest river. Here the rural abundance highlights the colors of fall.

fall in madison county

It’s a county of agricultural heritage, a county in the mid-1900s that was the largest producer of tobacco in the state.

The story seems now narrated by rustic barns and their unique architecture a reminder of the hard-working people who live here.

william cook barn

In Belva, rests the William Cook barn.

The colors along the French Broad seem to set the mountains on fire.

mountain of fall fire

On the Marshall Bypass, we love the Bigger Better Burgers at Longnecks just 27 miles to Asheville where the road to Panem, of Hunger Games, begins.

bigger better burgers at Longnecks on Marshall Bypass


the road to panem

The rolling mountain hills become ironed-out paths of flatlands; the trees migrate to evergreens, and the signature terra-cotta soil becomes white grains of sand.

The children’s tummies grumbling and our eyes are weary! With the light of dusk, we seek rest. With a few clicks on the Roadtrippers app, we find the comforts of home at Holiday Inn in Wrightsville, near the beach.

holiday inn suite

As we step through our Holiday Inn Suite doorway, my son exclaims, “Whoa! This is where the PRESIDENT stays.”

We bring in our bags, and Li’l Man stretches out on the couch.

holiday inn couch

The kiddos can smell the ocean air, and their speech becomes a rapid recall of their first time here to see the Atlantic Ocean.

This journey here to Wilmington has been one of family time, enjoying the scenery of fall fading from mountain ranges to coastal calm.

The humidity kisses the window as sleep brings on dreams of the journey ahead.


Morning light and an inspiring place to start is the state’s most accessible beach, Wrightsville.

Here the air was filled with saltwater mist, and the sun sparkled in golden specks as the waves broke along the shore.

wrightsville beach

We walked the four miles stretch of beach, finding seashells and getting the courage to meet the ocean.

shells on wrightsville beach

As the sun climbed the sky higher and higher, our day became relaxing, toes in the sand and the weather perfect for curling up with one of my favorite authors, Nicholas Sparks, who happens to be from North Carolina. Our #extraordinaryjourneys was about to go from cozy reading to coastal setting as we headed south to Southport.


We crossed the Cape Fear River, aptly named for the terror of pirates and treacherous shoals that extend 30 miles out to sea.

Beyond the dense pine trees, the shore opens up to the town of colorful pastels and inspiration for the real-life settings that inspired some of Nicholas Sparks’ bestselling novels, the location for filming Safe Haven and A Walk to Remember. A charming historic town with tidal rivers and murky marshes fill the eyes.

Today, our extraordinary journeys are all about SAFE HAVEN. If you’ve seen the film, Katie (Julianne Hough) winds up on the Carolina coast after fleeing a dangerous Boston police officer and then falls for local shop owner Alex (Josh Duhamel). With a few exceptions, everything depicted in “Safe Haven” exists here in South Port.

fishy fishy safe haven

We started our Safe Haven Romance with lunch at Fishy Fishy. Here is the exact location of the General Store in Safe Haven.

safe haven fishy fishy southport

Fun Fact: Fishy Fishy Cafe was disguised as “Porter’s Stowaway Tavern” on ABC’s “Revenge” pilot took place in and outside the café. For the shoot, Fishy’s interior got a complete makeover. After shooting was done, it was repainted, returning it to its original look.

Fishy Fishy is a colorful place right on the shore. It’s a great place and has good food. I had the Fish with Sweet Potato Fries.

fishy fishy cod with sweet potato fries

Following dinner, I walked to the end of the street to Brunswick Avenue. The street where Alex lived in the movie. His exact address is 410 West Brunswick Street.

brunswich street southport

Back down the street in the opposite direction, past Fishy Fishy is the Old American Co., in the movie Safe Haven, it was the location of Ivan’s Fish Shack where Katie worked.

Old American Fish Co. Ivan's fish shack in safe haven

Visit the landmark at 150 Yacht Basin Drive in Southport.

You’ll see it like below from the street.

Old American Fish Co southport, nc

It’s Nicholas Sparks’ words translated back to coastal scenery–where pelican perch on poles just off the beach.

pelican at southport

A short drive later, we were in front of Ports Of Call Restaurant where the romantic dinner scene takes place.

Ports of call restaurant where the safe haven romantic dinner scene was filmed

We wrapped up our extraordinary journey tour of the landmarks in Nicholas Sparks’ Safe Haven just in time to head to Caswell Beach to watch the sky reflect the season’s colors.

sunset at caswell beach

While the colors of home are hues of fire and the clouds look like smoke rolling across the valleys, extraordinary journeys, like this one, span across the state to Southport, a small, beach town filled with Antebellum architecture, 200-year-old oak trees, salubrious breezes and the backdrop for Nicholas Sparks novels.

This post is brought to you by Roadtrippers, Holiday Inn, my love for travel, and Nicholas Sparks novels.

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