Secrets of Topsail Island: Kayaking, Hiking, and Local Lore

topsail island

Everyone remembers that first moment passing the midpoint of the Surf City Bridge and descending into Topsail Island with views of the expansive Atlantic Ocean. This 26-mile-long barrier island is a popular beach destination on the North Carolina Coast. Like all our great beach communities, you’ll find tons of water fun, nature explorations to untouched regions on the island, and a captivating coastal history.

See why this hidden gem will be your favorite annual beach vacation spot. There’s always something to do during your stay at our Sea Scape properties vacation rentals. Check a few of these off your Topsail Island to-do list.

Best Beach in Topsail Island

With the beach waves knocking at the doorsteps of your oceanfront vacation home, it’s hard to resist rushing to the beach as soon as you finish unpacking the car. Topsail Island consists of three different beaches, each worth checking out.

Our Salt Life Retreat puts you right at North Topsail Beach. The beach is more tranquil than the more touristy hub since it mainly has vacation rentals in the area. Enjoy the serenity of a long stretch of white sand with few footprints and a playscape for the kids at the North Topsail Beach Town Park.

You arrive in Surf City as soon as you cross the Surf City Bridge. Check out Sparrow’s Beach Nest to stay in the heart of all the action. It’s where you’ll find the most popular beach, local beach shops, and eateries steps from the ocean. This is a fun, family-friendly beach with rental shops nearby for jet skis and paddle boards. Many of our vacation rentals provide beach equipment for our guests to use.

Topsail Beach is the southernmost beach on the island, where everything seems to move at a “beach time” pace. It’s great for a quiet day at the beach or watching the sunset at Sunset Point.

Kayaking Adventures on Topsail Island

Barrier Islands are always fun to explore because they often have plenty of hidden waterways and untouched shorelines. Rent kayaks this vacation and see what interesting sights you discover around Topsail Island.

For self-guided exploration, rent kayaks for a half- or full-day to paddle along the coast, navigate the Intracoastal Waterway, or let your curiosity lead you through historic waterways once explored by Native American tribes. Guided tours are great for beginners or seeing Topsail Island through an expert’s eyes. Embark on kayaking tours to Lea-Hutaff Island and Serenity Point.

Best Hiking and Walking Trail in Topsail Island

You’ll be an expert at driving our famous roundabouts by the end of your trip to Topsail Island. However, one of the best ways to explore the island is on foot. No, we don’t expect you to walk all 26 miles of the coastline, but you’ll find some pretty neat trails full of scenic views and photo-worthy plant life.

The North Carolina State Hiking Trail, the Mountains-to-Sea Trail, passes right through Topsail Island. It covered 1,175 miles from the Great Smoky Mountains to the Outer Banks. You’ll get a sample of this extensive hiking route at one of the best trail segments. The trail takes you along the Atlantic Coast for ocean views before heading back inland to forested areas and the Bogue Sound marshes.

For a more casual walk you can do for morning exercise, explore the pedestrian paths at North Topsail Beach Town Park. It’s lined with coastal vegetation, flowers, and native trees.

Get to know the local wildlife

ocean isle local wildlife

Wildlife and marine life are abundant on Topsail Island. There are tons to see, from the sky to animals hiding in the coastal shrubs to inhabiting the waters.

There are several places on Topsail Island to encounter sea turtles. The Karen Beasley Sea Turtle Rescue and Rehabilitation Center welcomes visitors to learn about the efforts to protect local sea turtles, see rescued turtles, and even watch them released back into the wild. Don’t be surprised to spot sea turtles on the beach. They’re protected by law, so watch and take photos, but do not touch them.

North Topsail Beach is the most natural area of the island. It’s a popular nesting spot for sea turtles between May and October. It’s also a great birdwatching spot to see migratory and shorebirds.

For even more untouched landscapes to find exciting wildlife, visit Bermuda Island Reserve and Lea-Hutaff Island.

Uncover Topsail Island’s Military History

missiles and more museum topsail island

Shh! Operation Bumblebee was top secret by the U.S. Navy during the 1940s. Its purpose was to test guided missiles for wartime. The top-secret files are now open! You can learn all about the program and other military history on Topsail Island.

Operation Bumblebee is one of the spotlight exhibitions at the Missiles and More Museum. It features full-sized missiles and a documentary film about the secret program. Other wartime exhibitions show military aircraft and detail Topsail Island’s role as a battleground during the Civil War.

Keep an eye out for historical markers around town. These markers highlight locations like the not-so-hidden three-story missile testing tower used in the Operation Bumblebee program.

Fishing at local piers

Topsail Island has not one but three different fishing piers! So, if the fish aren’t biting at one, you can always change locations to change your luck. But that shouldn’t be an issue because people always catch fish at each of these piers.

Surf City Ocean Pier is the oldest and most popular pier on the island. Mackerel are popular to catch, and you may also reel in a tiny shark. North Topsail Beach features the Seaview Fishing Pier, the longest pier on the island. You’ll easily find a spot to set your rod and catch various species like bluefish and flounder. The southern end of Topsail Beach is where you’ll find the Jolly Roger Pier. It’s open 24 hours, so come here for a special night fishing session.

Where to Stay in Topsail Island

The best places to stay on the island are near the main beaches—North Topsail Beach, Surf City, and Topsail Beach. We have Topsail Island vacation rentals near each location, where you’ll be mere steps away from the ocean or other exciting island adventures.

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