Overview and History

Topsail Island, N.C., folklore claims the name, Topsail (pronounced Top'sul), dates back to the 1700s when the area was home to Blackbeard and his marauding gang. Pirates often hid their ships behind this thin ribbon of island to ambush passing merchant ships loaded with goods. Eventually merchants caught on and began watching for the tops of the pirates' sails peeking over the live oak trees—hence the name, Topsail Island.

Topsail Island is a 26-mile-long barrier island located approximately 45 minutes north of Wilmington, NC. Two bridges allow access to the island, a swing bridge in Surf City and a high-rise bridge that connects mainland's Sneads Ferry, NC to North Topsail Beach, NC. Topsail Island is home to three distinct towns.

On the northernmost end of the island is North Topsail Beach. Visitors will find a peaceful beach, a variety of rental cottages and a few high-rise condominiums complexes. Surf City, in the geographic center of the island, is the island's commercial hub with many shops and restaurants. At the southern end of the island is Topsail Beach which has a downtown area with shops and restaurants.

A single main road runs parallel to the ocean along the length of this narrow 26-mile-long island. In a few instances on the wider parts of the island, there an additional smaller street or two running parallel to the ocean, but there is still only one traffic light on the entire island strand. The 3,500 year-round residents here enjoy a relatively quiet lifestyle on the beach, that is until summer rolls around and Topsail's summer population swells to 35,000.

Today, Topsail Island is a popular vacation destination. Water enthusiasts can fish, surf, sail, kite board, kayak and swim. Land lovers have access to a number of great golf courses located just off the island or they can tour the Karen Beasley Sea Turtle Rescue and Rehabilitation Center and see a variety of endangered sea turtles, or learn about Topsail's past as a former government rocket launch testing site at the Missiles and More Museum.

Surf City

Surf City is the center of the island both geographically and commercially. There are restaurants, gift shops, grocery stores, a fishing pier, tackle shops, surf shops and kayak outfitters — everything you need to enjoy a trip to the beach. The city has an oceanfront welcome center, bike paths and a community center that offers a variety of classes from ballroom dancing to boating. Soundside Park at the foot of the swing-bridge is a perfect place to picnic and watch the boats go by.  For all things in the sun and plenty for after it sets, Surf City is sure to please you. 

Topsail Beach

The Town of Topsail Beach, situated at the southern end of Topsail Island, is the least populated of the three island communities. Though there are more than 1,300 homes, there are only around 500 year-round residents. The seasonal influx of tourists helps sustain the town's motels, restaurants, gift shops, book store, fishing pier and other businesses. Topsail Beach is also home to the Karen Beasley Sea Turtle Rescue and Rehabilitation Center and the Missiles and More Museum. 

North Topsail Beach

North Topsail Beach stretches from Surf City to the northern point of the island, where the New River Inlet joins the Atlantic. While predominantly a community of full-time residents and rental cottages, there are also a few large oceanfront resort condominium complexes. With a few restaurants providing the majority of businesses, North Topsail Beach's visitors and residents depend on Sneads Ferry or Surf City for their shopping and entertainment.

Sneads Ferry

The village of Sneads Ferry is a working fishing village located on the New River near the northern tip of Topsail Island off N.C. Highway 172. Here the river joins the Intracoastal Waterway and access to the Atlantic Ocean is easy. Sneads Ferry takes in more fish than any other Onslow County port — more than 385 tons of shrimp, 25 tons of flounder and alomst 5 tons of other delicious seafood like clams, crabs, scallops, oysters, mullet, spot, grouper and sea bass per year.

Holly Ridge

Holly Ridge was incorporated in 1941 when 28 people lived in the town. Two years later, Camp Davis, an anti-aircraft, artillery training base, came to the area and the population soared rapidly to 110,000. Today, with over one thousand full-time residents, Holly Ridge is once again on the grow. New neighborhoods of single-family homes and condominium communities are readily available and conveniently located. Halfway between Wilmington and Jacksonville, Holly Ridge is merely a skip or a jump to the larger cities and to the gorgeous local beaches. 

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