10 of the Best Things to Do on Topsail Island

Last Updated on June 7, 2021

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Topsail Island’s (pronounced “Tops’l”) beautiful ocean views quickly convinced us that this 26-mile barrier island was the right choice for a weekend trip. We had the perfect place to stay, to the point that we really never needed to leave. Of course, we ventured out and found quite a few fun things to do on Topsail Island.

Immediately, we were met with one of the friendliest “small town” atmospheres you’ll find in North Carolina. From amazing beach towns to important environmental organizations and great food, this is a place that you need to put on your NC bucket list.

After a few visits to the area, here are some of the best things to do on Topsail Island that we think you’re going to love.

This post is part of our series featuring our favorite places to visit in Eastern North Carolina. We also included Topsail Island among the best beaches in North Carolina.

10 Things to Do on Topsail Island

Stay Put

Rentals at Topsail Island Sound N' Sea Image

You could never leave your Topsail Island rental as we almost always pull off.  

We’re restless souls, though, so we just had to venture out for a bit and investigate all the fun things to do on Topsail Island.

Topsail Beach

Topsail Beach NC Travel Guide Image

Okay, so who am I kidding? The best things to do on Topsail Island are to spend time on either Topsail Beach or North Topsail Beach, depending on where you stay. Walks by the water, chill-out time on the beach, and some of the best sunsets you’ll ever see are a big part of why so many people come here.

A lot of folks also visit for the seashells, as Topsail is one of the best places to hunt for them, and shark teeth, too. 

Hang Out in Surf City

If you enter Topsail Island via the Surf City Bridge, you’ll find yourself in the island’s busiest city. Surf City’s population of just over 2,200 easily beats that of North Topsail Beach and Topsail Beach, the island’s other two communities.

Even though it’s the center of the island, there’s such a laid-back feel to the place. There are plenty of things to do on Topsail Island, especially when you’re exploring Surf City!

The Karen Beasley Sea Turtle Rescue and Rehabilitation Center

Surf City is also known for the Karen Beasley Sea Turtle Rescue and Rehabilitation Center that spearheads the area’s conservation efforts. It’s open for public tours every day except Wednesdays and Sundays from 12 to 4 pm.

There, you can learn from the center’s volunteers about the turtles they are caring for, tour the facility, and even join the rehabilitation effort as a volunteer. 

Soundside Park

Topsail North Carolina Surf City Bridge Soundside Park Image

Soundside Park is close to the Surf City Bridge, which is the way you may arrive at the island unless you take Island Drive into North Topsail. At Soundside, there’s a nice walking path, a playground, and picnic shelters if you’d like to have a family get-together or birthday party there.

There, we enjoyed a nice walk after letting our little one play before getting on the road home. 

Buy Fresh Seafood at JM’s

Part grocery store, part watering hole, JM’s Place has the hook-up on locally caught seafood, and the good stuff, too. A friend whose family frequents the island told us to go there and I’m glad she did.

We loaded up on fresh (and huge!) NC-caught shrimp for our low country boil at our place and will be returning to JM’s from now on.

Eat Somewhere Local

Surf City NC Hot Diggity Dogz Image
Hot Diggity!

There are a lot of great restaurants on Topsail Island, especially around Surf City Ocean Pier. We enjoyed Hot Diggity Dogz for a quick bite and a snow cone.

Oh, and there will be return trips for meals at Seaview Fishing Pier & Restaurant, Max’s Pizza, and Island Delights

Got a favorite place to eat on Topsail Island that you’d like to share? We’d love to know about it!

Surf City Ocean Pier

Topsail Island NC Surf City Ocean Pier Image

Topsail has a few places to walk on top of the water, but Surf City Ocean Pier stood out for a few reasons. On busy days, you’ll see tons of people sitting on either side patiently waiting for fish to bite.

You’ll also get a nice view looking back at the beach and everyone enjoying it. And if you’re searching for a bite, a souvenir, or something to stock your own tackle box, the family-owned and operated shop inside will be happy to help. 

Like the rest of the island, it’s dealt with its fair share of storms, destroyed by Fran in 1996 and damaged by Florence in 2018. Thankfully, the pier remains and will hopefully stick around for the foreseeable future. 

Drive Somewhere Nearby

I guess this isn’t exactly something to do in Topsail, but it’s worth mentioning that you’ll be near some other cool spots on the coast.

Depending on where you’re staying, you’re about an hour north of Wrightsville Beach and southwest of Jacksonville, which are both fun if you’re looking for a change of scenery.

Emerald Isle is about an hour and a half away, too. But honestly, I see you sticking around Topsail for the remainder of your trip there. 

Come Back for More Topsail Island Fun!

Topsail Beach NC Things to Do Image

Yes, you’ll have to leave at some point, unless you decide to settle down in the area. Topsail Island isn’t as well known as other beachy spots in North Carolina, which is another reason to keep coming back.

However, that could be changing as folks continue discovering this awesome island and all the things to do here. Even though we all want multiple return visits to Topsail, I’m sure there’s plenty of room for everyone to enjoy it for the foreseeable future. 

Have you ever been to this piece of paradise? If so, what are your favorite things to do on Topsail Island?

Do you love it as much as us or more? If you’ve never been, what would be the first thing that you’d want to do there? 

More Things to Do in Eastern North Carolina

6 thoughts on “10 of the Best Things to Do on Topsail Island”

  1. In Topsail Beach, Cora’s South End Deli has the best sandwiches on the Island (maybe in Eastern, NC). The Beach Grill has great food. The Quarter Moon Bookstore and Wine Bar is a good place to buy books, wine and other eclectic stuff. In Surf City, the Topsail Island Trading Co. has a wonderful selection of clothing, jewelry, souvenirs, other beachy stuff and especially great fudge. Max’s Pizza has yummy burgers.

  2. Rent an e Bike from RideTI. As a senior I was hesitant to get on a bike. I was thankful to find that electronic bikes are easy. What a great way to visit the island workout getting in my car. I bet the younger generation enjoys them more, but it was rather enjoyable and the staff was great

  3. Go to Buddy’s and take a drink to the top deck and watch the ocean. Eat at Daddy Mac’s , sit out on the deck overlooking the ocean, enjoy the food and the view. Stop by Unwined for some music and a drink to un wind with some wine! Dennis at Hulas is best known for his famous burgers and home made potato chips, but his Thursday night spaghetti always draws a local crowd. And don’t forget Splash by the Sea on the North end of Topsail beach for a good variety of food and drinks with a wonderful view.
    The Surf City Pier grill has some wonderful burgers as well as hand dipped ice cream. Take a walk out on the pier to check out the fishing and enjoy the view while you are there!
    If you or your kids want to surf or bike stop by On Shore Surf Shop to rent bikes, surf boards, or a paddle board.
    The South end of Topsail boasts a skating rink, putt putt course, a fishing pier, and a slow more relaxed feel for those that want to wind things down while still having fun.
    And don’t forget to walk the Surf City high rise bridge! Great exercise, perfect evening stroll, and great views!


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