Where was Dawson’s Creek filmed?
Wilmington, North Carolina
American, Rustic, NatureScapes
Americana/Anywhere America, Bungalow, School
About Dawson’s Creek
In what was a seminal series for many teenagers worldwide, Dawson’s Creek is one of those shows that is so quotable and great every time you rewatch it.
Part of this show’s charm is the nostalgia that it brings to mind for many of us. It’s the show that launched Katie Holmes, Michelle Williams and James Van Der Beek into stardom, and gave us emotional moments, torrid love triangles, and an outstanding ugly crying meme.
Set in the small coastal town of Capeside, Dawson’s Creek is about a group of high school friends who are trying to navigate life, love and family with some dramatic outcomes. Much like a similar North Carolina-based show, One Tree Hill, it helped a lot of viewers figure out their problems on screen.
Running from 1998 to 2003, it also shows some amazing examples of the late ’90s and early 2000s fashion and music, which transports viewers back to their youth. Many of the themes shown throughout the series are still as relevant today as they were when the show originally aired – just without smartphones and social media!
It’s probably one of the first big teen series to get a super dedicated group of fans that would tune in each and every week to see what Dawson, Pacey, Joey, Jen and more got up to. Would Pacey and Joey finally get together? Would Jack stand up to his dad? Will Dawson ugly cry again? All worthy questions worth tuning in for.
Dawson’s Creek Locations
The small coastal town of Capeside is a fictional place supposedly in Massachusetts, giving that Cape community backdrop to Dawson’s Creek. However, the series was actually filmed in Wilmington, North Carolina.
With the intracoastal waterways, sunshine vibes and small-town atmosphere, Wilmington and its surrounding areas were the perfect New England doppelganger for the Dawson’s Creek production team.
For some of the more sandy Dawson’s Creek filming locations, the production team also used the surrounding island beaches to bring that North East coastal community to life.
As most of the 128 episodes of Dawson’s Creek were filmed in or around Wilmington, it’s really easy to make your Capeside road trip fantasy come to life. Many of the filming locations are within walking distance of each other, so you can feel like you’re one of the gang!
Okay so it’s been almost two decades since the finale aired (does anyone else feel super old right now?!), but if you keep reading on you might find some major spoilers for Dawson’s Creek. If you’re all caught up, read on!
Jack’s dad accepts him scene in Dawson’s Creek
S 3rd St in Wilmington, North Carolina
To say that Jack’s dad (David Dukes) didn’t take the news of Jack’s (Kerr Smith) coming out well is a bit of an understatement. Earlier in the series, the two had a major blowout and it looked like Joseph McPhee was never going to accept his son as gay.
Jack and his dad were estranged for a long time so to see them come together in the season three finale and hug it out was a really special moment. It also comes shortly after the first TV kiss between two men – so breaking all kinds of boundaries in this episode!
In this emotional Dawson’s Creek scene, Jack says, “I didn’t ask to be gay” to which Joseph replies, “No more than I asked for a gay son … but boy, am I glad I got one.” Heartwarming stuff.
This pivotal scene as well as the confrontation earlier in the season takes place at Jack’s house which can be found at 207 S 3rd St in Wilmington, North Carolina. Located a few blocks away from the waterfront, it’s in a more residential area so you can pretend you’re living in Capeside as you wander around.
As it’s in a residential area, there are plenty of public transport links with the 201 and 210 bus routes stopping right outside.
Pacey dumps Joey at prom scene in Dawson’s Creek
One of the hallmarks of Dawson’s Creek was the will they, won’t they romance of Pacey (Joshua Jackson) and Joey (Katie Holmes). By the time the gang reaches the senior prom in season 4, it seems like they’re together and nothing can stop them, however, in the world of teen drama, it’s not always that simple.
Pacey goes into a self-destructive mode, dumping and humiliating Joey in front of the entire senior class, which is a jerk move if ever we saw one. Yes, we know it comes from him not feeling good enough for her and being worried about holding her back when she goes to college, but still. Not cool Pacey.
This move obviously goes down well with Joey after the stress of a less than smooth prom night, and she says, “You break my heart into a thousand pieces, and you say it’s because I deserve better?” You tell him, girl - this actually ends up being one of the best scenes in Dawson’s Creek.
The senior dance takes place at Capeside High School, which is obviously used throughout the seasons. However, the real Capeside High is UNC Wilmington in the North of the city. The university campus is pretty accessible, but it is further away from the rest of the Dawson’s Creek filming locations.
You can get to UNC Wilmington on the 103 or 107 bus routes, or you can drive up there as there’s plenty of parking.
Joey sends her dad to prison scene in Dawson’s Creek
The Dockside Restaurant
All in all, Joey’s dad (Gareth Williams) was not a good guy. Despite being her dad, Joey agrees to wear a wire so that he can be arrested for dealing drugs yet again. It’s a real conflict for Joey and makes for some intense and emotional viewing.
However, during the sting in the family’s restaurant, the somewhat ironically named The Icehouse, the deal goes terribly wrong. Suddenly the entire restaurant is on fire (hence the ironic name) and it burns to the ground.
In one fell swoop, Joey loses her dad to prison and the family restaurant – definitely not a good day to be her. Add in the fact that people keep telling her she’s a hero and brave enough to put her dad away, and it’s a lot for a teenager to deal with.
The situation is pretty much summed up by Dawson (James Van Der Beek), who says, “Some situations are too tragic to have a hero.”
In reality, The Icehouse restaurant is actually The Dockside Restaurant at 1308 Airlie Road. This Wilmington staple is home to some beautifully fresh seafood and equally stunning river views. Grab a beer, kick back, and enjoy your surroundings.
The Airlie area of Wilmington is beautiful but outside of the main roads, public transport can be scarce. The 104 bus can get you within walking distance, or if you want to walk or cycle to the riverfront, you can take advantage of the cross city trail.
Dawson realizes he likes Joey at the Miss Windjammer Pageant scene in Dawson’s Creek
Although the Joey, Pacey, Dawson love triangle forms the basis of much of Dawson’s Creek, there was a time when they were just friends with no romantic feelings for each other. We know – sounds crazy to think about that now!
In one of the best episodes in season one, we see Dawson coming to the realization that he actually likes Joey. It’s in the middle of the Miss Windjammer Pageant where Joey memorably performs On My Own from Les Miserables to try and win $5,000 towards her college tuition.
Both Jen (Michelle Williams) and Dawson realize that something is changing between them all and Joey quickly puts the crush down to her being dressed up for the pageant.
She says, “It’s just makeup — and hairspray — and tomorrow I’ll be back to being Joey. Just Joey. The too-tall girl that lives on the wrong side of the creek.”
The Miss Windjammer pageant was actually filmed at the Bluewater Grill which is located on Wright Island. It’s a beautiful spot and if you sit out on the deck, you should be able to see The Dockside Restaurant across the water – of course, the filming location for The Icehouse.
As it’s on Wright Island, public transport is pretty much a no-go, so you’re going to have to drive or grab a bike and cycle across. If you have a boat, you can moor slightly up the coast and walk down to the Bluewater Grill.
Pacey buys Joey a wall scene in Dawson’s Creek
In what has become one of the most iconic scenes in Dawson’s Creek history, Pacey makes his grand gesture for Joey. He buys Joey a wall to paint a mural on. This is not that scene, the scene that follows is Pacey declaring his love for her.
After having a go at her for not painting anything on the wall, Joey goes and has a look at it, trying to find inspiration. When she arrives she sees that someone has already painted something on it - Pacey.
He painted "Ask me to stay!"
It’s a moment that’s huge for Dawson’s Creek fans and one of the major moments in a jam-packed season finale episode.
Unfortunately, Joey’s wall is no longer there, it’s now outdoor seating for a restaurant, however it is around the back of the Reel Cafe on 100 South Front Street. This cafe was used throughout the seasons so it’s also a Dawson’s Creek filming location.
Located just off Wilmington riverwalk and a couple of streets away from the filming location for Jack’s house, it’s super easy to access and it’s a chill spot to while away a few hours with a drink and a view.
You can get the same buses - the 201 and 210 - that you would for Jack’s house, so why not tick off two iconic Dawson’s Creek filming locations in one go?
Dawson lets Joey be with Pacey scene in Dawson’s Creek
Pier on Head Road
Later on in this stacked season finale, we get the scene that launched a thousand memes. One of the accidentally funniest Dawson’s Creek scenes, it’s where Dawson lets Joey follow her heart and leave him to be with Pacey.
As problematic as that whole scenario is – he’s letting her go? Give me a break. It’s a heartbreaking one for Dawson who is also at his parents' wedding at the time. So he’s surrounded by love and his girlfriend is leaving him for his best friend.
In his very long speech to Joey, Dawson says, “Which is why you should turn around and go to Pacey.”
Cue the ugly cry on the pier meme.
The famous pier is actually behind Dawson’s house as it is in the series itself and can be found at 6424 Head Road, Wilmington. This is in the Rabbit Run neighborhood and is obviously a private residence, but you can drive by it.
Driving is the only way to get out to this end of Wilmington, and it is residential so be mindful of that during your visit.
If you want to live out your teenage nostalgia fantasy and visit the real-life equivalent of Capeside, you absolutely can make that dream a reality in Wilmington, North Carolina. The show may be long over but the spirit lives on in the various filming locations and in the fan’s hearts.
Whether you were Team Pacey or Team Dawson, whether you were rooting for Andie or whether you were struggling along with Joey, Dawson’s Creek is one of those shows that is going to live on for a long time. So, why not start rewatching now and plan your trip to Capeside!