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  • Kristin Gongora

Topsail Island: Travel Tips to Enjoy a Family Beach Vacation Haven

Introducing Topsail Island Through Nostalgia and Discovery

A family picture on the beach on Topsail Island

As a Northeast Ohio native, Kristin's childhood was dotted with annual pilgrimages to Topsail Island. These cherished family getaways etched an indelible mark on her memory. Fast forward to September 2020, amidst the pandemic's uncertainties, we sought solace in a familiar destination, reigniting that sense of adventure. To our delight, Topsail, despite the inevitable march of time, remained remarkably unchanged over two decades. While it's no longer our little secret, the island's quaint beachside allure remains intact. Now, as we etch it onto our list of explorations, we're thrilled to share this slice of paradise with you.

History and Location:

Nestled off the coast of North Carolina, Topsail Island is a 26-mile long barrier island rich in history and natural beauty. The name 'Topsail,' pronounced "Top'sl," is believed to have originated from the days of piracy when ships would hide behind the island with only their top sails visible from the sea, waiting to ambush passing merchant ships. Today, this serene island is renowned for its laid-back atmosphere, picturesque beaches, and unique maritime forests. The island is divided into three distinct areas: North Topsail Beach, Surf City, and Topsail Beach, each offering its own unique charm.

How to Get There:

Reaching Topsail Island is a journey through scenic coastal roads. The most common route for visitors is via US Highway 17, turning onto NC Highway 210. Driving to Topsail Island is highly recommended, as having a car allows for more flexibility on the island. With most homes providing parking spaces, settling in is seamless. Flying in? The Wilmington, NC airport, conveniently situated nearby, caters to numerous major airlines. TIP: Most rentals have strict check-in times. To evade congestion and long waits, time your arrival towards the end of the check-in period.

When to Visit:

For those who prefer cooler water temperatures, an early season visit is ideal. However, while the warmth of July through October brings balmy seas, it also introduces the hurricane season's unpredictability. Always keep an eye on the weather forecasts and consider travel insurance for peace of mind. Beyond the seasonal allure of the island, Topsail hosts several annual events worth checking out. For a complete list, explore this blog detailing Topsail Island's annual events.

Where to Stay:

Accommodation options on Topsail Island cater to every traveler's preference. From campgrounds, such as oceanfront camping near Topsail Beach, to vacation rentals and hotels, such as the Loggerhead Inn or the Saltwater Suites. Opt for local rental companies over platforms like AirBNB or VRBO. Their vast local knowledge ensures a seamless stay, letting you tap into their years of experience.

TIP: Before booking a rental property, scrutinize the property's map location. Staying near public piers or access points might mean more crowded beaches. Also, if you have younger kids or prefer calmer waters, the southern beaches might be more suitable.

What to Do:

Topsail Island is a treasure trove of activities. Whether you're kayaking through serene waters, visiting the Missiles and More Museum to delve deeper into the island's history, or simply building sandcastles with the kids, there's something for everyone. Topsail Island may not boast a bustling boardwalk, but its tranquil charm is its biggest draw. Relish in:

  • Beachcombing on spacious shores and exploring tide pools at Serenity Point.

  • Casting a line at Jolly Roger Pier.

  • Witnessing marine life at the Karen Beasley Sea Turtle Rescue & Rehabilitation Center.

  • Quenching the thirst for thrills at Surf City Jet Ski & Watersports.

  • Letting the kids have their share of fun at Soundside’s playground.

A little boy with a sad face sitting on a beach chair on Topsail Island

What to Pack:

Many vacation rentals come well-stocked, making packing a breeze. Almost all have well-equipped kitchens, often with plenty of cooking staples and spices already there. Sand toys are also frequently left by previous guests for the next family to enjoy. However, if you're traveling with little ones, a little extra preparation is key.

Here's a few of our favorites.

  • Baby Monitor: VTech DM221 Audio Baby Monitor ensures you're always connected, even without Wi-fi.

  • Beach Tent: This outdoor beach tent promises a hassle-free setup, offering shelter from the sun and wind. Our little one loved napping here.

  • Air Bed: The hiccapop Inflatable Toddler Travel Bed is a lifesaver, ensuring a cozy sleep for your child.

Dining and Food:

Topsail boasts an array of family-friendly dining options. Whether you're in the mood for fresh seafood at a waterfront restaurant or seeking out local eateries that serve classic North Carolina barbecue, there's a culinary experience waiting to tantalize your taste buds.

Safety Tips:

Beach vacations are fun, but safety should never take a back seat. Always keep an eye on the little ones, especially near water and equip your kids, both swimmers and non-swimmers, with a reliable floatation device. The Puddle Jumper offers a range of options, coupled with essential water safety tips. In addition to water safety, take sun protection into consideration as well. Embrace mineral sunscreens, ideal for both kids and marine life. For the delicate facial area, consider Neutrogena Wet Skin Kids. And remember to reapply every 90 minutes or as after coming out of the water.

Remember, Topsail Island is more than just a vacation spot; it's a place where families create lasting memories. So pack your bags and set sail for an unforgettable family beach vacation on Topsail Island. Don't forget to check out our other Family Travel Tips to make the most of your trip!


About Us

Raul, Kristin and Benicio - the family behind Little Legs, Big Adventures

We're Raul, Kristin, and our little explorer, Benicio, on a mission to uncover all seven continents together. From our home base in Cleveland, Ohio, we're here to share practical advice, budget-friendly tips, and our personal stories to help you turn international travel into a joy-filled, educational adventure. Explore the world through our eyes and let our experiences guide your family journey.

Check out for more travel guides and reviews!


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