Located halfway between Jacksonville NC and Wilmington on U.S. Highway 17, Topsail Island is a 26-mile barrier island just a mile from the mainland. With mild weather year-round, beautiful views, an interesting history, 26 miles of beaches, and plenty of Topsail Island rentals, this slice of the North Carolina coast is well-equipped for visitors.
South of Roanoke Island and the rest of the Outer Banks Topsail Island NC is home to three communities: Top Sail Beach, North Topsail Beach, and Surf City. Sneads Ferry and Holly Ridge are just across the way on mainland. Two bridges provide access, the Surf City Swing Bridge and a more modern high-rise bridge. While the island is open year-round, summer is the busiest season. It's not uncommon to see some backups on the swing bridge in July and August.
Once you've crossed over onto the island, you can head to check in at one of the Topsail Island hotels, grab lunch at one of the seafood restaurants, hit the beach, or visit one of the gift shops. No matter what suits your fancy or what tops the list, you'll find a place to relax and escape from everyday cares.
Rimmed by 26 miles of sandy shores, time at the beach is one of the top things to do on Topsail Island, just like its neighbors to the south, Kure Beach and Bald Head Island. More than 20 different areas provide public access to the beaches along the Atlantic Ocean and the sound. Most of the areas offer parking and restrooms, and some are wheelchair accessible. Whether your idea of the perfect beach activity is swimming, splashing in the surf, looking for shells, or lounging in the sun with a good book, you'll find it here. And with a fishing pier, marinas, boat ramps, and charter boats, Topsail Island is also a top choice for outdoor recreation, too.
Pristine Topsail Island NC may be known for its beaches, but they aren't the only highlights of the tourism scene. Most afternoons, the Karen Beasley Sea Turtle Rescue and Rehabilitation Center is open to visitors. This hospital cares for sick and injured turtles, getting them healthy enough to return to the open waters. In the summer, an army of volunteers works hard to monitor to the 26 miles of coastline, keeping track of hatchlings. If you're at the beach early in the morning, you just might see the beach patrol at work, and if you're lucky, you could see a turtle.
The Historical Society of Topsail Island shares an interesting story with the Historic Assembly Building and the Missiles and More Museum. In the years just following World War II, the Navy operated a missile program right at the Assembly Building, dubbing it Operation Bumblebee. The museum also details the history of the secret program as well telling tales of pirates, Native American, natural history, and Osprey aircraft. Both of the historic sites are open April through October.
Like any good coastal getaway, the island offers an array amenities primed for visitor enjoyments. With shops, galleries, Topsail Island rentals to suit various budgets, and plenty of restaurants, you'll find what you need to turn a trip to the beach into a full-fledged vacation.
Choices for Topsail Island rentals include townhouses, luxury villas, single-family homes, and duplexes. The lodging scene also offers campgrounds, motels, and beach-side inns, all with excellent views and welcoming hospitality. Another option for beach rentals is to look on the mainland; both Sneads Ferry and Holly Ridge are home to North Carolina beach hotels, just minutes from the bridges leading to the barrier island.