Escape to Topsail Island, North Carolina
It’s time to book your next laid-back beach getaway.
Venture to Topsail Island, North Carolina, for your next vacation. The serene beaches and small-town atmosphere offer a laid-back getaway. According to local legend, Topsail got its name centuries ago when pirates would hide their boats in the channel between the island and the mainland, and only the top of the boats’ sails were visible to ships approaching from the Atlantic. Rumor has it, Blackbeard’s treasure is still buried somewhere on the island.
Topsail Island sits about 40 miles northeast of Wilmington. A 26-mile long barrier island just off the North Carolina coast, it’s home to three charming seaside towns: North Topsail Beach, Surf City, and Topsail Beach. This destination is easily accessible by car, or you can fly into a nearby airport and take a shuttle. Topsail Island isn’t a part of the Outer Banks, which are also a set of barrier islands off the coast of North Carolina but are located farther north.
Choose to stay in one of the three main towns: North Topsail Beach, Surf City, or Topsail Beach. Each provides a unique yet fun beach experience. With its maritime forests and natural landscape, North Topsail Beach is surrounded by water on three sides and offers dog-friendly shores. Surf City, located in the middle of the island, is the most commercial destination, offering lots of dining options, shopping, and community events. It’s also home to the Karen Beasley Sea Turtle Rescue and Rehabilitation Center. Situation on the southernmost end of the island, Topsail Beach—with a population of 419—is an old-school coastal town with untouched sands and unbeatable views.
Book a weekend trip to Topsail, or plan to stay for a full week. No matter how long or short your stay, you’ll enjoy your time on the island. You can’t go wrong with staying in any of the three towns for your getaway. Topsail is best known for its sea turtle preservation and conservation efforts. Throughout the 26 miles of coastline, loggerhead sea turtles come ashore to nest and lay eggs from mid-May through August.
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. Or cast a line off of the Surf City Ocean Pier, another point of interest here. Pack a picnic and spend an afternoon at Town Park in North Topsail Beach, or hop in a kayak to explore the sound, inlet, and ocean surrounding the town. In Topsail Beach, set up your chair at Serenity Point to catch a breathtaking sunset. You’ll also want to pay a visit to another popular attraction in the area, the Missiles and More Museum, and learn about the island’s history during WWII.
When it’s time to refuel, you’ll have plenty of dining options to choose from. Have dinner at the Breezeway Restaurant in Topsail Beach for fresh seafood and prime waterfront views. Or choose authentic Lowcountry fare at the Beach Shop and Grill. Satisfy your shellfish craving at the Shuckin’ Shack Oyster Bar in Surf City, and wash it down with a craft beer on tap. Have a drink at Topsail Beach’s Dirty South Bar & Grill, and stay for a round of trivia and live music. The appropriately decorated Fat Turtle Tiki Bar in North Topsail Beach is a local favorite that’s always on island time. Order a margarita, and challenge your party to a game of corn hole. When a guitar shop doubles as a bar, you know it’s a great place. Second Row in Surf City offers beer and wine along with open mic performances and invites musical patrons to jam out with one another.
After a long day of exploring, come home to a cozy rental for some R and R. Book a room with a balcony overlooking the Atlantic at the classic Jolly Roger Oceanfront Inn & Pier near downtown Topsail Beach.
Another favorite of visitors is the Island Inn in Surf City; it’s located directly across form the beach, has its own pool, and is within walking distance of the town’s shops and restaurants.
If your crew needs a bit more space, opt for a condominium rental in North Topsail at the Villa Capriani. The units offer necessities like a fully equipped kitchen and a washer and dryer as well as prime oceanfront views.
If you’re traveling with a larger group, book a beachfront cottage for your time in Topsail. Browse VRBO and AirBnB for finding the perfect home away from home for your family. Keep in mind that many home rentals require at least a three-night minimum (some may ask that you book for an entire week).
Just outside of Surf City, the charming Bliss Escape offers an oceanfront home the whole family will love. Its amenities include fresh linens, TVs, and even a kid-friendly bunk room.
There’s no bad view at the Bumblebee cottage in Topsail Beach. This spacious rental sits right on the beach, welcomes pets, and features rocking chairs on its two decks for watching sunsets.
If you’re looking for a secluded stay in North Topsail Beach, book the Rescue Retreat house. The newly renovated home provides unobstructed views of the coastline and sits directly across the street from its private beach access. You’ll feel like you have the entire beach to yourself during your stay at this peaceful spot.
From sea turtle conservation to dazzling sunsets to fresh seafood, there’s a reason visitors keep coming back to Topsail Island year after year. Come for a weekend or stay for a week—you won’t be disappointed by this memorable coastal getaway.