Topsail Island is one of the east coast's best kept secrets. Topsail Island is a 26 mile long barrier island located on the southern eastern coast of North Carolina about 30 miles between Wilmington & Jacksonville, NC. To locals and some very lucky visitors, the island is known for its vast history ranging back to the days of pirates to rocket testing in the 1940's and in present day a beautiful family oriented island.
The area is located near Interstate 40 which ends in Wilmington, NC. Once in Wilmington, the island is an easy thirty minute drive down US Hwy 17 and NC Hwy 210. The immediate area also offers the New Hanover International Airport in Wilmington, Albert J. Ellis Airport in Jacksonville and 2 small private civilian aircraft landing strips just a few miles from the island in Holly Ridge. Once on the island, most people choose to use cars although it is a growing trend to rent or purchase golf carts or mopeds for laid back traveling.
There are several accommodation options on the island, from a handful of oceanfront "mom and pop" quaint motels some even offering ocean access, as well as a Holiday Inn just off the high rise bridge in North Topsail Beach. Most visitors choose to rent their own home from several vacation rental companies on the island. There is a truly a home for any family with any budget ranging from small cottage like bungalows to large 15 bedroom homes!
Visitors and locals alike enjoy the island's great unspoiled sandy beaches, fishing both in the ocean or sound, kite boarding, surfing, paddle boarding and even diving offshore.
Topsail Island lies inshore of the famous "Graveyard of the Atlantic" where over the past several hundred years many ships and their sailors meet mishap because of dangerous shoals, storms and even war. Many sites and natural ledges are easily accessible for the scuba diver from Topsail Island whether on a personal owned boat or through a private charter boat.
The originally 1700's settlement and fishing village of Sneads Ferry, located just off the northern end of the island, offers a unique perspective of generations of families passing down the traditional of commercial fishing. The village offers several restaurants overlooking the commercial fishing boats your dinner was caught on just the day before! Many visitors choose to venture out to catch their own dinner from the waters. The area offers inshore or sound fishing easily accessible by small boats or sound side fishing piers to ocean fishing where visitor choose to use one of the ocean fishing piers or take a cruise out into the Atlantic.
The area is also home to a North Carolina State Conservation Reserve, Permuda Island. Permuda Island is only accessible by boat or kayaks and offers the visitor a window into the untouched coastline with many types of sea birds and other wild life. Historians will also enjoy the reserve as archeology studies show it was settled by Native Americans as early as 300 BC and was part of an original Queen's Grant in the 1700's.
The Missle's and More muesuem located in Topsail Beach gives a unique perspective to the area's history from the days of Native Americans ranging to the days of the US Gov't missile testing on the island. Visitors will also enjoy the daily tours of the Jean Beasly Sea Turtle Rehabilation Hospital located in Topsail Beach, one of only several sea turtle hospital in the world.
Each town in the area also offers parks; many with nature trails. Surf City Sound Front park gives the public access to a sound side fishing pier, boardwalk, bath houses, outdoor theater and boat ramps. The town of Topsail Beach, located at the southern end of the island, is home to the town owned Bush Marina giving boaters slip rentals and boat ramps. North Topsail Beach offers several parks with basketball courts and tennis courts. Over on the mainland, there are several county owned parks with baseball fields, soccer fields, jungle gyms and nature trails.
Once the family is put to bed, Mom and Dad may venture out to enjoy the nightlife of the area. Surf City being the commercial hub is home to over five bars, several of which are oceanfront. Many of the restaurants and bars in the area offer live music as the night goes on as well as several having dance floors to get your groove on!
Topsail Island is truly a best kept secret of the east coast, pay yourself a visit soon! More information can be found with the writings of Chris Rackley, a local to the island.
(By Chris Rackley)