One Tree Hill Self-Guided Road Trip
Wilmington, NC USA
Ever since the basketball focused, rotating love triangle, teenage romance drama One Tree Hill (OTH) premiered in 2003 I was an immediate fan. I couldn’t wait to tune in every Tuesday night on The WB to see what would unfold on my favourite show set in fictional Tree Hill, NC. It was always more than just watching a teen love drama for me, and I was absolutely in love with the music they played in each episode. I couldn’t wait to research online what was played on the previous episode and try to download them creating my own version of a OTH soundtrack using this site.
Peyton was my initial favourite character as I saw a lot of myself in her with her love of music. Throughout the seasons I found myself comparing myself more to the personality of Haley though. My love for Lucas and Nathan was always rotating as well. I felt like I was growing with the show and something about it felt like home to me.
It was always an idea of mine to visit Wilmington, NC one day where they filmed the series. I was young when it first aired, around 13, and when I got older and realized people visited the filming locations and it was an actual thing to do I wanted to take the road trip even more.
None of my friends watched the show, so I recruited my boyfriend to re-watch the first season with me. I figured he should have a clue as to what was going on when I would inevitably stand in front of a stranger’s house, a bridge or the Naley bench and jump for joy asking him to take a photo of me.
I did a lot of research before my trip, as I wanted to cover as many locations as possible during my time there. I loved reading other people’s experiences and watching their vlogs on Youtube, but found the Internet didn’t provide a ton of them, or the people who did visit only went to a limited amount of locations.
Many of my references came from this website, which also linked me with a map that pinpointed their exact locations. I took this data and created my own list that grouped specific places I was interested in together so I wasn’t zigzagging across the city. We stayed at the Fairfield Inn & Suites by Marriott, which was located in between downtown Wilmington and Wrightsville Beach so we weren’t too far from any particular location.
Please enjoy the music links I’ve provided above to get you in the OTH mood as you scroll through my long awaited trip of a lifetime!
We parked downtown Wilmington for $7 USD for the day in a lot near the tourist centre on the corner of S. Water and Market Street. We then started our search for The Black Cat Shoppe (formerly CD Alley) on 8 Market Street, which happened to be right around the corner. They had some really cool OTH memorabilia in there including some signed posters of the cast on the walls. I purchased the Keith Scott Body Shop grey sweatshirt that every OTH fan would recognize from Lucas consistently wearing throughout the show. It was $30 USD. My boyfriend bought the same thing in t-shirt form for $20 USD. He must have liked the show!
On the same street is Edge of Urge on 18 Market Street, which was the lingerie store Nathan and Haley went in on their first date Brooke set up for them. We did go inside although it was no longer a lingerie store.
The area was a bit under construction at the time but we found our way to Alton Lennon Federal Building and Courthouse on 2 Princess Street, which acted as the college party steps that Brooke and Peyton end up on during a night out. The steps always looked so huge on TV, but I found them to be much smaller in person.
We then headed North on foot and found the building used for Karen’s Café/ Clothes Over Bros. on 272 N. Front Street (Corner of N. Front + Grace Street). It is now the home of Outdoor Equipped and didn’t really resemble any remnants of past use. All of the awnings were removed except one at the far back. Later that night when we were in the area I realized we were also at the site where they filmed the scene where Haley gets hit by the car while pregnant with Jamie. The area looked so small in person.
Staying on N Front Street, we were able to walk to a bit of the outskirts of the downtown core to find the school where they filmed the exterior high school scenes of Tree Hill High. In real life it is the location of Cape Fear Community College Schwartz Center on 610 N. Front Street. This was one of the more difficult locations to find. It doesn’t jump right out at you and you have to walk through a little courtyard to find it.
Again, like previously mentioned about other locations, it was so much smaller in person than how it’s perceived on TV. This was one of my favourite spots to visit since they filmed so much here. Since it was May I assumed school was finished for the year since there wasn’t a person around, which was nice to take photos and not feel stupid. I missed seeing the Whitey Durham Field House sign above the entrance.
Right in front of the hallway area is the spot they used for exterior shots of the school gym, which in reality is just the entrance to the CFCC Schwartz Center.
As we walked back downtown it started to pour rain so we hid out in a Port City Java for an hour while it passed. Once it cleared up we visited other souvenir gift shops downtown that carried OTH merchandise such as Krazy Mike’z on 1 N. Front St and Poodle Island Wear on 18 S. Water Street. They were selling the Keith Scott Body Shop sweatshirt cheaper, but we found the quality wasn’t nearly as good as the ones we purchased from The Black Cat Shoppe.
Right outside the coffee shop was a spot I had only read about through someone else’s trip, which was where Nathan was pushed through the glass during a fight. It’s located at 23 N. Front Street, which they pointed out was ironic because it reflected his basketball jersey number.
On our way back to the car we realized we were at the site of the Nathan and Haley tutoring bench (Corner of S. Water and Market Street). There is some discrepancy online as to which bench it actually is, but the majority of information I found was that it’s the last bench behind the visitor’s desk. The biggest difference I noticed was in the show there was no railing behind them and in real life there is. Regardless, all the benches in the area are filled with fan messages and quotes from the show.
Continuing on to the car, in an alley off the path, I spotted the site of Lucas and Brooke’s first date at Blue Post Billiards (15 S. Water Street). We were unable to enter as it was a member’s only venue and to be honest I didn’t really want to enter based on the area it was in.
The rain completely stopped and in set the humidity, which my naturally frizzy hair loved. We continued on our journey via car and set the GPS to find some homes used on the show. First up was Brooke’s house in a beautiful area on 2314 Tattersalls Drive. Someone was pulling into the driveway at the time, but didn’t seem to mind. One house over on 2316 Tattersalls Drive was the home used for Felix and Anna’s House in Season 2.
Dan/Deb and Nathan’s house on 1621 Country Club Road was a short drive away. It was also a very beautiful neighbourhood. Whenever I see the exterior shots of the house I think of when Lucas, Karen and Keith used the code word of “Kaw” to signal they wanted to leave during one of Dan’s parties. I had seen online what looked to be a walking trail that would allow you to see the back of the house from Highland Drive, but unfortunately it started to rain again so we left.
Wow, we covered a lot in one day. I never actually realized it until now.
Onward to Day 2!
In the morning we did some non-OTH related site seeing and toured the USS Battleship North Carolina located at 1 Battleship Road for 3 hours ($14 USD/adult). Parking in the lot was free and allowed us to leave our car there while we found the River Court (Battleship Park), or should I rephrase that and say what’s left of it. It was just rough patches of grass that were slightly flooded from the previous day's rain. There was also a pavilion with picnic tables, which like the Naley bench, was covered in quotes.
I like to pretend this was a Raven that landed at the exact time I took this picture. Across the water you can see the Alton Lennon Federal Building and Courthouse as mentioned above.
Since OTH’s music was such a big part of my attraction to the show I couldn’t wait to visit the site used for TRIC (Corner of Front Street + Marsteller Street *Back of building*). Pulling up though I was slightly disappointed as most of its defining features have since been removed and it resembles more of an old warehouse. There are some businesses within the building, but no one noticed we were even there. We left our mark on the bricks to commemorate our trip and my birthday!
We then headed over to more homes used for exteriors on the show. A popular one I’ve observed online is visiting Peyton’s house on 1901 Chestnut Street, but I’ve noticed that a lot of people don’t recognize that the house right next door was the one used for Haley’s on 1811 Chestnut Street. Peyton’s house was large, but the front yard seemed much smaller in comparison to TV. Haley’s was really nothing special, but was still cool to take pictures in front of.
On route to our next destination we took a pit stop at the cemetery. Online some people call it Bellevue and some say it’s Oakdale, but either way the address of 520 N. 15th Street (Corner of 17th Street and Princess Place Drive) led me to the same place. It did seem a bit odd to be excited about visiting a graveyard, and I’m sure my boyfriend was wondering why I was making him drive around a cemetery so I could take pictures of it. There really wasn’t anything that stood out to me as being from the show, but I took a few pictures that I thought looked cool.
Karen and Lucas’s house on 1829 Wrightsville Avenue was a 4-minute car ride away into a very narrow street. The owner had signs in their windows about private property so we didn’t get too close to the house. From what I could see there wasn’t a bench swing on the porch anymore that was used a lot on the show. I thought I would be more excited about this location than I was when I saw it in person.
That night we celebrated my birthday @ The Little Dipper downtown at 138 S. Front Street, which was not OTH related but it was so good I had to include it in here because I 100% recommend it.
We got up early and took a drive out to Carolina Beach to see if we could find Dan, Deb and Nathan’s Beach House (1515 S. Lake Park Boulevard, Carolina Beach). There is nowhere to park on the side of the road so we parked in a lot a few homes down from the beach house for about $2 USD for 30 minutes. It didn’t appear that anyone was home at the time so we took some photos from the front and back of the house.
Immediately it reminded me of the episode where Lucas and Haley showed up to Nathan’s party and Nathan later crashed Peyton’s car. The beach is absolutely beautiful and I wish we would have spent more time there, but onward went the OTH tour!
The next beach on our list was Wrightsville. It was metered and cost $2.50 USD/hour or $15 USD/day from 9am-6pm. It cost $2 USD/person to go out on the Johnnie Mercer’s concrete pier located at 23 E. Salisbury Street. It was a nice view but we didn’t really think it was anything special.
Here is both a daytime and nighttime view of the intersection of 3rd Street and Princess Street, where the Luke and Keith car crash happened in Season 1.
At night we drove past Keith Scott Body Shop (called Performance Import Cars in real life) on 19 Covil Avenue. We figured it would be closed at that time and we could get better photos that way. I couldn’t believe how close the body shop is located to the road and the main strip of Wilmington. I never picked up on that when they used it as a location in the show.
Day 4. Last Day ☹
After we packed up our things we started to head out of the city. We had to ask a local for directions to the Grace United Methodist Church on 401 Grace Street, which was the location used for Luke and Lindsey’s wedding in Season 5. The church was beautiful in real life. We walked around the entire perimeter to take it all in.
Next stop on my list was the famous opening credits bridge (6th Street Bridge) on N. 6th Street + Hanover Street that Lucas bounces a basketball across. I found it wasn’t in the best area of the city and I didn’t get out to take a photo. I really wanted a photo when the light was red because it reminded me of Peyton driving her Comet down the street running red lights. We drove a few streets over to get a wide shot of the bridge like in the credits.
The final stop on my self-guided OTH tour was one of my favourites but also one of the most difficult ones to find. I absolutely love the Season 3 finale episode- the combination of scenes all being acted out over Led Zeppelin’s Babe I’m Gonna Leave You will always play back in my mind every time I hear that song. It was a must for me to find the bridge that Cooper and Rachel crashed into, with Nathan and Lucas subsequently diving in after.
The only information I could find online was that it was simply called Bridge 144 on Service Road 1102 on Morgan Road. The bridge goes over the body of water named Colly Creek. It seems like maybe they were going to tear down that bridge anyway and that’s why OTH chose it as it’s crash site as when doing research I saw it was closed from September 2014 to March 2015 for construction of a new bridge and now is not made of wood like in the episode.
The location requires a car as it’s in the middle of nowhere about 30 minutes from downtown. The best way to find it is using this Google Maps link.
The 12.5-hour trek home was quite long, but I had many OTH memories to look back on during the trip back. I’m so glad I finally was able to do this trip, as it was literally a dream come true. I hope anyone reading this who is thinking about embarking on this trip makes it happen, as you won’t regret it.