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9 Feb 2024
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Ultimate Guide to a Topsail Beach, NC Vacation  

Topsail Beach is a classic beach destination along the coast of North Carolina with so much to love about it. Thanks to its idealistic beaches and the sleepy seaside town, this small community has been named one of the best destinations to visit in the south. Therefore, it’s a no-brainer to start planning a Topsail Beach, NC vacation ASAP. So here’s a brief guide to help you do just that. 

Traveling to Topsail Beach

Getting here is a breeze. Topsail Beach sits on the southern end of Topsail Island, a 26-mile long barrier island. Topsail Beach is the smallest of the three charming seaside towns (North Topsail Beach, Surf City, and Topsail Beach).

There are two ways onto Topsail Island - on Hwy 210/50 across the bridge in Surf City and on Hwy 210 from Sneads Ferry across the bridge in North Topsail Beach. After crossing over the Surf City bridge, travel roughly 7 miles south and you will arrive in Topsail Beach. Topsail Beach is an easy drive from major cities like Wilmington and Jacksonville (around 45 minutes). 

If you’re flying here, Wilmington International Airport (ILM) and Albert Ellis Airport in Jacksonville (OAJ) are terrific airports. It’s highly recommended to have a car while you're here to easily explore different areas from downtown to the beaches and beyond. Ubers and Lyft could be difficult to track down around the island, but are commonly used around Wilmington and Jacksonville.

Things To Do

Explore the beaches, waterway, inlets and marshes. Whether you decide to post up on the beach by the surf, or rent a boat and explore the marshes, a day spent by the water is bound to be a good day. 

Check out Anchors Up Adventures to book a sunset cruise or a full boat day to explore the channels and experience the beauty and adventure that Topsail Island, Lea Island, and the surrounding waterways have to offer. 

You don’t need to pay the steep price for a charter to go fishing on Topsail Beach. As with many North Carolina beaches, there are a number of fishing piers that provide affordable access to fishing. Pylons off the piers also supply a healthy habitat for the fish and a wide range of fish to be caught. Check out Jolly Rodger Pier in Topsail Beach when you’re in the area.

Learn About the Topsail Towers

The US Military launched Operation Bumblebee after the end of WWII in 1946. Topsail Island was an undeveloped barrier island during this time and was chosen as a testing facility to begin testing modern propulsion for missiles and spacecraft.

A series of photographic towers were built along the island to study the rockets’ trajectory, which still exist and can be seen along the island today. Nearly 200 experimental rockets were launched from the base before the program moved to Cape Canaveral. However, Topsail still has its mark in history and played an important role in the development of modern rocket and jet propulsion.

Learn more about the operation and history at the Missiles & More Museum on Topsail Beach.

Activities for the Entire Family

If you're searching for a fun rainy day activity, check out Topsail Skating Rink. This skating rink opened in 1964 and was featured in Our State Magazine as being one of the last retro skating rinks left operating. Located in the upstairs of the Post office in the heart of Topsail Beach, this skating rink is a fun must-do activity for the whole family to enjoy.

Sea Turtle Conservation

Topsail is best known for its sea turtle preservation and conservation efforts. Loggerhead sea turtles come ashore to nest and lay eggs from April through September. While you're here, visit the Karen Beasley Sea Turtle Rescue and Rehabilitation Center in Surf City. Visitors can volunteer at the sea turtle hospital, take a tour of the facility, and help with the rehabilitation efforts of the turtle patients.

Bike Along the Island 

You can bike along the Topsail Island bike path, the beach, or along any of the island’s roads. At 26 miles long and roads with slower speed limits, a bike is a pretty great way to get around. 50 South Surf Shop, Ride TI Ebike Rentals, and Mutiny Ebikes all offer bike rentals for visitors.

Shop Local 

Be sure to check out the local shops in Topsail Beach. Quarter Moon Books & Gifts is a south-end treasure with personalized cards, gifts, and wine. The shop also boasts a fantastic outdoor patio to relax and take in a day on the island.

Be sure to stop by The Gift Basket for unique gifts, and South End Outfitters for a selection of upscale clothing and apparel brands for both men and women. They also carry a selection of quality gear for outdoor coastal activities. A handful of establishments on the island close during the off season, so we recommend checking their website beforehand.

Places To Eat 

You can’t visit the Southeastern coast of NC without eating seafood. Beach Shop & Grill offers an authentic Lowcountry fare with fresh seafood and an award-winning wine and craft cocktail selection that is to die for. This casual fine dining establishment is located in the heart of Topsail Beach and is a staple to the island.

Surf City has several good restaurants on both sides of the bridge, like Sears Landing or Shuckin’ Shack Oyster Bar. If you rather take it back to enjoy in the comfort of your beach house, check out Topsail Steamer, for seafood steam pots prepared with fresh local seafood, meats, veggies and homemade seasonings to take home, steam, eat & enjoy.