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. We did grow curious about the communities that surrounded us and ventured out more than a few times. Immediately, we were met with one of the friendliest “small town” atmospheres you’ll find in North Carolina. And here are some of the fun weekend things to do on Topsail Island that we discovered while staying there.
This post is part of our series covering the North Carolina coast.
10 Weekend Things to Do on Topsail Island
You could never leave your Topsail Beach rental or hotel as we almost pulled off at Sound n’ Sea. Inside our house for the weekend, we had everything we needed to cook, entertain ourselves, read books about Topsail’s background, and to enjoy the epic sunsets from our sound-side porch. 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.
Sound n’ Sea is one of our all-time favorite places to stay in North Carolina. You can read more about our experience here.
Okay, so who am I kidding? You come here for 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. You’ll find plenty to do, see, and explore while in 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 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. We enjoyed a nice walk there 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
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 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!
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 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?