15+ Wonderful Places to Visit in Pender County, North Carolina

Last Updated on March 28, 2023

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Pender County is home to some of our favorite places to visit in North Carolina. Of course, you may know Topsail Island, which this Eastern NC county shares with Onslow County.

The Revolutionary War-era Moores Creek Battlefield is also in Pender County, and the annual NC Blueberry Festival is one of the most popular summer events in NC. The area is also known as a wonderful backdrop for movies and TV shows, which we’ll cover in this guide.

Because there is so much to know about Pender County, we’ve organized the guide into the following sections:

  • Where is Pender County? (Hint: a Great Location!)
  • Pender County Towns
  • Where to Stay
  • Annual Events
  • Places to Visit
  • Where to Eat
  • More Things to Do in Pender County (Travel Guides)

You can skip ahead to “Places to Visit,” any other section, or keep reading about Pender County’s location in Eastern North Carolina. If you’d like to visually plan your trip, you can do so via our Eastern North Carolina Map!

Read More: Our North Carolina Travel Map

Where is Pender County?

Pender County NC
Image Credit: David Benbennick, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Pender County is situated along the coast of Eastern North Carolina, north of Wilmington and South of Jacksonville. It’s in the heart of the Cape Fear region, as part of the Cape Fear River basin.

Pender borders NC counties, including the following:

  • Duplin County (north)
  • Onslow County (northeast)
  • New Hanover County (south)
  • Brunswick County (south)
  • Columbus County (southwest)
  • Bladen County (west)
  • Sampson County (northwest)

You may associate Pender County with the coast, but much of it runs from east to west (or west to east). At 933 square miles, Pender County is the fifth largest in North Carolina by land area.

If you’re traveling to the area from Raleigh, the trip is approximately two hours, and much of the drive is along I-40. Beyond I-40, highways that run through the county include US-17, US-117, and US-421.

Read More: The Best Day Trips from Raleigh

Pender County Towns

Things to do in Pender County Burgaw

When thinking of places to visit in Pender County, we start with its awesome towns. Overall, there are six incorporated towns in Pender County, followed by even more census-designated places, unincorporated communities, and the Village of St. Helena.

The county includes the towns of Burgaw and a portion of the 26-mile barrier Topsail Island, both the towns of Surf City and Topsail Beach.

Parts of Wallace are shared by Pender County and its neighbor to the north Duplin County.

Here’s a quick breakdown of the four biggest towns in Pender County:

  • Burgaw: Burgaw is the county seat of Pender County and an adorable small town with a charming historic district. Trees dot the historic streets, making it an excellent walkable downtown. 
  • Hampstead: Hampstead is a growing town, known as the “Seafood Capital of the Carolinas.” You’ll find seafood vendors, great restaurants, and easy access to the water with your boat in Hampstead. ArtExposure is a wonderful showcase of the area artists. The studio/gallery offers classes, supplies, and more to aspiring and current artisans. If you’ve come to the area for the outdoors (you should), Eastern Outfitters has everything in mind, including hunting, fishing, boating, and more gear.
  • Surf City: Just over the bridge, Surf City is the first and busiest city you’ll explore on Topsail Island. Even though it’s the island’s geographic center, there’s such a laid-back feel.
  • Topsail Beach: Compared to the busy Surf City, Topsail Beach is much quieter and a place where you can relax and live like a local. Play putt-putt at Patio Playground, strap on a pair of skates at the retro Topsail Skating Rink, or make your way around the end of the island at Serenity Point.

Read More: 30+ Amazing NC Coastal Towns (+ Things to Do in Each One!)

Where to Stay in Pender County

Loggerhead Inn Topsail Island Pender County North Carolina Hotels
Loggerhead Inn.

There are plenty of accommodation options in Pender County for every type of traveler.

  • Bed & Breakfast at Mallard Bay is a nice and peaceful place to stay on the Intracoastal Waterway in Hampstead.
  • Campers and RV travelers have plenty of choices, too, including Blackbeard’s Treasure Family Campground and Lanier’s Campground, both in Surf City.
  • Of course, there are plenty of beach rentals that dot the shores of Topsail Island, and we’ve enjoyed stays in a few of them.
  • If you are looking for a laid-back historic hotel, then check out the Loggerhead Inn & Suites. With 29 beautifully appointed pet-friendly and family-friendly rooms, there are lodging options for every type of traveler and budget.

Annual Events in Pender County

  • March: The annual Poplar Grove’s Herb and Garden Fair marks the beginning of Spring! The two-day event features the best herb and plant vendors and local artisans, crafters, food, and fun! 
  • May: Spring Fest is an annual event held by the Pender County Arts Council and Art Beat. Arts and crafts, vendors, food, and memories. Also in May is the “Celebrate Hampstead” Festival, usually held on Mother’s Day weekend. This great event benefits the town’s Chamber of Commerce and arts programs in Topsail Schools.
  • June: NC Blueberry Festival is the biggest annual event in Pender County. Fresh blueberries, a BBQ cook-off, blueberry-themed shopping, and so much more! 
  • October: Autumn with Topsail brings 100+ regional artists together for juried competitions and retail markets with live music, food, and inflatables for children. The NC Bacon Festival celebrates the most delicious part of breakfast! With plenty of bacon, helicopter rides, pig races, and loads of family fun! Ghost Walk of Pender’s Past brings the paranormal history to life with spooky theatrics! 
  • November: NC Spot Festival is an annual event in Hampstead that celebrates the Spot Fish and the coastal community. Enjoy live music, fireworks inflatables, vendors, and Spot dinners! 

Read More: The NC Tripping Events Calendar

Places to Visit in Pender County This Weekend

Bannerman Vineyard and Winery

2624 Stag Park Rd, Burgaw, NC

Blueberries aren’t the only fruit in town, as Burgaw’s Bannerman Vineyard and Winery will demonstrate to you. Their six varieties of NC muscadine grapes are available for u-pick during September and October.

Make sure to stop in the tasting room and sample some of the delicious wines too! 

Read More: Muscadine Grapes in North Carolina (History, Health Benefits, and Great Farms to Pick Them!)

Blueberry Farms

Home of the North Carolina Blueberry Festival in June, you can find some of the juiciest blueberries in Burgaw!

If you can’t make the festival, buy or pick blueberries during the summer months at Carol Sue Farms (20000 US-17, Hampstead) and Farmer Mac’s Blueberry Farm (184 Berry Patch Rd, Hampstead). Both are located in Hampstead.

If you’re in a hurry, there are plenty of local blueberry stands that offer excellent and delicious blueberries. 

Read More: Blueberry Picking in North Carolina

Board and Brush

201 Alston Blvd Ext B, Hampstead, NC

Things to do on Topsail Island Board and Brush

If you are looking for something fun and unique to do while in Pender County, Board and Brush is our recommendation! Great for families and even date nights, Board and Brush is a creative space where you can pick your project and enjoy time together.

Make your appointment take your time as you sip on a local beer while crafting. Take home your Topsail memories and tell the owners Vanessa and Preston we said, “Hi!”

Read More: 50+ Easy Day Trips from Fayetteville (Great Getaways!)

The Burgaw Train Depot

S Dickerson St, Burgaw, NC

The Burgaw Train Depot is believed to be the oldest train station in North Carolina. Home to the Chamber of Commerce, step inside and take a tour of the Railroad Museum. 

Read More: The NC Museum of History in Raleigh (+7 Things We Love About It!)

Film Locations

Historic Pender County Jail above Pender County Visitor Center Burgaw

Pender County and its neighbor Wilmywood (Wilmington) have served as the backdrop to many Hollywood films. If you consider yourself a movie buff and want to see the film locations of some of the best movies filmed in North Carolina, then consider making your own tour.

Film locations include movies like I Know What You Did Last Summer, Idlewild, and Secret Life of Bees. TV shows filmed in Pender County include Dawsons Creek and One Tree Hill.

Visit Pender County has curated this list of filming locations, including addresses to each site.

We were lucky enough to be allowed upstairs of the Pender County Visitor Center (106 E Wilmington St, Burgaw), which used to be the county jail. This historic building in Burgaw has been used for many major motion films, and we can definitely see why!

Read More: Unique Things to Do in North Carolina

Jolly Roger Pier

803 Ocean Blvd, Topsail Beach, NC

Things to do on Topsail Island Jolly Roger Pier

The Jolly Roger Pier in Topsail Beach is an excellent place to cast a reel and enjoy beautiful views of the water. From the JRP, you can sometimes see dolphins and sea turtles from the end.

If you plan to fish here, tickets are $16 per day. To walk the pier, spectator tickets are $2. 

Read More: How to Explore the NC Oyster Trail (10+ Adventurous Ways!)

The Karen Beasley Sea Turtle Rescue and Rehabilitation Center

302 Tortuga Ln, Surf City, NC

Things to do in Pender County Karen Beasley Sea Turtle Hospital turtle

The Karen Beasley Sea Turtle Rescue and Rehabilitation Center is the #1 thing to do in Surf City. The volunteer-run non-profit rescues and cares for sea turtles of North Carolina.

Visitors are welcome to come and learn from June through December, and tours provide a valuable educational experience for ocean lovers of all ages. 

Read More: 8 Beautiful Brunswick County Beaches to Explore

Missiles and More Museum

720 Channel Blvd, Topsail Beach, NC

Pender County NC Missiles and More Museum

I bet you didn’t know that in the late 1940s, Topsail Island was the base of operation for top-secret missile research, also known as Operation Bumblebee?

At the Missiles and More Museum in Topsail Beach, you can learn about the history of this mission via its Operation Bumblebee exhibit. This comprehensive exhibit shares how the US Navy project developed supersonic guided missiles here on Topsail Island.

The “and More” portion of the museum includes exhibits on local history, pirates, and the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP) developed in response to World War II. 

Read More: Interesting Facts about North Carolina

Moores Creek National Battlefield

40 Patriots Hall Dr, Currie, NC

Pender County NC Moores Creek National Battlefield

History thrives in this area and Moores Creek National Battlefield in Currie is a testament to Pender County’s significance. Moores Creek was one of the first battles fought in the South during the Revolutionary War.

You can learn all about it at the Visitor Center and by walking the 0.7-mile trail through the battlefield and across a historic bridge along Moores Creek.

This National Parks Site is also part of the Mountains to Sea Trail, extending 1175 miles from Clingmans Dome to Jockeys Ridge State Park on the Outer Banks

Read More: 100+ Hiking Trails in North Carolina

Salty Turtle Beer Company

103 Triton Ln, Surf City, NC

Pender County NC Salty Turtle Beer Company

After a busy day on the beach, hit the local brewery for a pint! The Salty Turtle Beer Company is located in Surf City and uses high-quality, innovative brews.

Feel good about your drink choice as this brewery donates a portion of its sales to the Karen Beasley Sea Turtle Hospital. 

Read More: The Best North Carolina Breweries

Serenity Point

Topsail Beach, NC

Pender County Serenity Point Topsail Island NC

Serenity Point is an undeveloped area at the Southern tip of Topsail Island and is perfect for beachgoers and boaters. There is limited FREE parking, which adds to the privacy you’ll get.

Find a spot to lay out along the sound side and calmer waters. You can also walk to the very tip where the ocean meets the Intracoastal Waterway. 

Read More: 13 Spectacular Restaurants in Surf City for the Foodies!

Surf City Ocean Pier

112 S Shore Dr, Surf City, NC

Things to do in Pender County Fishing

While in Surf City, make sure to check out the Surf City Ocean Pier, the island’s first fishing pier constructed in 1948. The view of the beach is gorgeous, and there are plenty of anglers hoping to snag a nibble. 

Read More: The Best Beaches in North Carolina

Where to Eat in Pender County

Things to do in Pender County MeMas

It’s not uncommon for us to plan our travel around food, and Pender County is filled with tons of great restaurants. We will try our best to include as many delicious places as possible, but stay tuned for more food guides to specific areas and towns.

  • MeMa’s is a destination restaurant in Burgaw (602 US-117). Serving incredible smoked barbecue, chicken, and ribs, every single thing on the menu is prepared with love. Sure, you’ve had baked beans before, but we guarantee you haven’t had ones as good as MeMa’s!
  • Sears Landing in Surf City (806 Roland Ave) is a mainstay Topsail Island restaurant for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Here, you’ll find boat access to tasty coastal food served with a friendly smile!
  • Located next to the Surf City pier, Daddy Mac’s Beach Grille (108 N Shore Dr) pairs the best patio views on Topsail Island with delicious food. Serving up local seafood and open year-round (double bonus!), a meal at Daddy Mac’s should always be on your Topsail beach vacation itinerary.
  • The Beach Shop and Grill in Topsail Beach (701 S Anderson Blvd) uses local ingredients and offers an impressive wine selection. We won’t dispute what area locals often tell us—Jeff makes the best burger on the island!

Read More: 17 of the Best Topsail Island Restaurants (Great Food for All!)

Want to Know Anything Else about Pender County?

We love visiting Pender County and always look forward to our next visit.

If there’s anything else you’d like to know about it, please feel free to contact us by email. You can also join our North Carolina Travel Facebook Group and ask a question there any time!

If you’re familiar with Pender County, we’d love to know about your favorite things to do and places to see in the area.

More Things to Do in Pender County

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