From the ages of 14 to 16, I was tragically, hopelessly, to-the-bone addicted to Dawson’s Creek. Pacey Witter was my sexual awakening. Joey Potter was who I liked to think I embodied in real life, except mum wouldn’t let me buy any of those backless handkerchief tops. And also I’d try and do her famous all-teeth smile but I had braces and, to be honest, it was more alarming than adorable.
While my obsession with Dawson’s Creek moved beyond crawling to sit in front of the TV in the lounge room, fingers poised over the pause button on the VCR so I could cut out ads and have every episode smoothly recorded on videotape (I’d also scream blue murder at my younger sister if she DARED interrupt me during the hour of 8.30 – 9.30 on a Thursday night), my nostalgia for the show never died.
So when I finally went to America at 24, the number one must-visit on my list, besides New York of course, was Wilmington, North Carolina.
Wilmington is where Screen Gems Studios was based, but the town itself was used so often by the series, it basically *is* Capeside. I knew this prior to my visit, because I painstakingly trawled the internet for specific locations – Dawson’s house. Leery’s Fresh Fish. The wall Pacey rents for Joey (SIGHS IN TEEN ANGST). Thanks to some very determined fans who went before me, I found all the information I needed to locate every filming spot, and take 450 photos.
I only just remembered I’d done this, so because the internet is my personal diary and because I just KNOW some of you had hopes and dreams of marrying Josh Jackson circa 2001/had mums who let you buy handkerchief tops/definitely wrote fanfic about Joey and Pacey, I thought I’d share them with you here.
So interestingly, that facade of Dawson’s house is actually the back of a property. The same property has the pier attached to it, and while it’s a private residence, the homes along the river in Wilmington don’t have fences, so we just walked around and took snaps.
I realise how invasive this is now and as a grown adult who wasn’t an idiot 24-year-old, I’d be knocking to ask permission. But damn, it was pretty cool to see it JUST as it looked during filming.
The pier is just SO SO iconic if you’re a Dawson’s Creek fan. Primarily due to this pivotal season 3 moment:
Who doesn’t remember Dawson breaking down in some (very ugly crying) sobs after he deigns to release Joey from his cold-hearted grip and “allow” her to be with her true love, Pacey. Damn, that was a messed up plotline of control, wasn’t it?
Anyway, the pier is the same. Here’s a photo without me in it:
Wilmington is beyond gorgeous around the river area, and you can really see evidence of that in this photo.
Look, I don’t care for Dawson and Joey as a couple, and I never did. I really got hooked on Dawson’s Creek when Pacey and Joey became a thing, so the swings “moment” was never that important to me. But it’s still a foundational scene in the series, so I had to find the swings. I am fairly sure we did:
In the daylight they’re just some boring damn swings, huh. But I did think “DAWSON AND JOEY’S BOTTOMS TOUCHED THESE SEATS”.
Leery’s Fresh Fish
Leery’s Fresh Fish was the restaurant Dawson’s parents bought together, which ultimately led to them falling back in love. And then having a baby? I swear Dawson’s mum was like 50 at this point but okay. Anyway, it’s most remembered as the location for the Anti-Prom, which featured the most romantic moment in Dawson’s history – Pacey and Joey dancing as he recognises her mother’s bracelet.
Now that scene was my sexual awakening. So, so PG-sexy. Anyway, the actual Leery’s Fresh Fish is a mexican restaurant called Mixto, which I think doesn’t exist anymore but when we went, we totally saw Sophia Bush, aka Brooke Davis (did you know One Tree Hill filmed in Wilmington, too?) at dinner with her boyfriend.
Aaaaagh oh my god, what a MOMENT. What a pivotal teen moment for me and also for the globe. When Pacey bought Joey a WALL, she never painted it, and then in a last-ditch attempt at teen boy romance, he writes “Ask Me To Stay” across it.
I’m sad to say they built in front of The Wall, which should have been heritage listed in my opinion. Shame on you, Wilmington.
Just such an American-looking high school, right? There was even a bench with a plaque on it to commemorate filming, can you believe.
The Boat House
Remember when Joey and Pacey have this hot makeout session right before they all christen True Love? No? I do, and I had to find the boat house where it all went down. Here it is!
The Capeside Boardwalk
Look at that 24-year-old wearing thongs every day like her life depended on it. Ugh, anyway – the boardwalk was just such a strong part of Dawson’s Creek, everyone was always going down there for dates and so on. It was also a big part of One Tree Hill, so I had to walk the length of it and take plenty of cheesy snaps like this one. There’s also the fairy-lit courtyard area, which we revisited at night:
By the final season I was so clocked-off Dawson’s Creek. Really, after Pacey and Joey split up, it all went downhill. I did come back halfway through when rumours of a Pacey-Joey reunion swirled, and was pleasantly fulfilled with the finale. Anyway, here’s Pacey’s restaurant from when he becomes a semi-famous chef, lol.
The Exact Spot Where Pacey And Joey Kissed For The First Time
What, you don’t go driving all along the river searching for the particular spot where Pacey pulls over, mid-driving Joey home from her awful college visit to her now-dumped boyfriend, to finally kiss her and declare he has feelings for her?