f you’re visiting the southern coast of North Carolina, don’t make the mistake of asking where Topsail Island can be found. Certainly, you want to find this 26-mile barrier island nestled between the Atlantic Ocean and the Intracoastal Waterway, but to locals it’s pronounced “Top-sul.” Topsail is one of several islands in a chain of barrier islands – a different set of barrier islands than those that make up the Outer Banks, which are located farther north.
Legend has it that the island got its name from the pirate trade in the early 1700s. Pirates that lay in wait for wealthy merchant ships to rob would hide their ships behind the island and only the tops of their ships’ sails were visible. More pirate lore has it that some of Blackbeard’s treasure may be buried here.
Whether you believe the pirate lore or not, Topsail Island does indeed offer many treasures, including its pristine beaches and fun beach towns. Three beach towns to be exact can be found on Topsail Island and each offers something different.
NORTH TOPSAIL BEACH
North Topsail Beach is more residential (read: less bustling) than the other two towns on the island, but still offers plenty of water sport and beach opportunities. It is a favorite spot for kayakers. For those looking to take advantage of the water sport opportunities, check out North Topsail Surf and Paddle for rentals and lessons. For those looking for the wild side of North Topsail Beach, Fat Turtle Tiki Bar & Market may scratch that itch. Here you can find live music, sand volleyball, good food, and island-style drinks!
Despite possibly being considered the more commercial of the three towns, Surf City is still a quaint and quiet little beach town. The beach, the pier, and the turtles are the draw here. Let’s talk about the turtles first. The Loggerhead Sea Turtle comes ashore to nest on the island about four times per year and it is the mission of the Karen Beasley Sea Turtle Rescue & Rehabilitation Center to preserve and protect the nests, the turtle moms, and the hatchlings. From May through August, you will see volunteers from the Center walking the beach to track the turtles and ensure their safety. Due to COVID-19, the Center is currently closed to public tours but check the website at seaturtlehospital.org when visiting to see if anything has changed.
The Pier was the first on the island and built in 1948. And this past off-season, the Pier and its facilities received a fresh update. The Pier has fishing opportunities, a tackle and bait shop, a souvenir shop, and an ice cream shop. It is open 24/7 and offers some great ocean views.
Tiki Tours offer several water cruises including a nature and history tour and a private charter shelling tour that takes you to a nearby island for some great shelling! The Tiki Queen offers a spectacular sunset cruise aboard a paddlewheel. To see tours, times, and prices, visit tikitoursnc.com.
Spend the day at Topsail Beach and stay for the beautiful sunset. In addition to the beach, the town of Topsail Beach offers shopping at souvenir and surf shops and has plenty of eateries. The unique Missiles and More Museum (check their website for COVID-19 regulations) details the top-secret missile operation, aka Operation Bumblebee, that was conducted on Topsail Island during World War II. The museum also has several more exhibits including one that details the area’s pirate history and several more about the history of the WWII operations that happened here. When visiting, check the website at missilesandmore.org as closures and hours may change. Topsail Beach even offers some non-beachy fun in the way of roller skating at the Topsail Beach Skating Rink and putt-putt golf at Patio Playground.⎯
BOOK A STAY AT WHITE OAK SHORES OR WHISPERING PINES WHILE YOU EXPLORE THE BEAUTY AND FUN OF TOPSAIL ISLAND. LEARN MORE ABOUT THESE NORTH CAROLINA LOCATIONS AT RVONTHEGO.COM!