Topsail Island: From a pirate’s hideout to a beach paradise

Stef Zisovska
North Topsail Beach, North Carolina

Topsail is a 26-miles long island along the coast of North Carolina. It’s a home of thick forests, beautiful sandy beaches, and sea turtles. There are only two ways to reach the island and those are two bridges, one on the north side and the other one is a swing bridge into Surf City.

Before the World War II, the island was a very famous pirate hiding place. Pirates were hiding their ships in the channel between the island and the mainland, waiting for the merchant ships to pass by and steal all their goods. After a while, the merchants realized what’s going on and started looking for the topsail which was the only visible part of the pirate’s ship. That’s where the name of the island comes from.

Topsail Island – Author: Topsail1995 – CC BY-SA 3.0

The Legend says that the famous pirate Blackbeard was hiding his gems on Topsail Island over many years. After his death people were still looking for the hidden treasure, searching the island just in case they found something.

Who knows, people could be sitting on millions of dollars worth of gems while they’re having their afternoon picnic in the sun!


Top sail – Author: ClemRutter – CC BY 4.0

At the end of World War II, Topsail Island went into the possession of  US Navy for the missile testing program, known as the Operation Bumblebee. This operation led to the maturing of supersonic aircraft and shipboard missile design in the mid-20th century.


Observation tower – Author: Wcleeuwenburg – CC BY-SA 3.0

Topsail Island is a home to turtle colonies whose number is decreasing since the human population on the island is rising. There are four turtle species that can be seen here including loggerhead, green, leatherback and Ridleys Sea Turtle.

The most important thing these days is to protect the egg sites and don’t disturb their natural way of life. The Sea Turtle Rescue and Rehabilitation Center in Topsail Island is doing a great job in helping these amazing sea creatures to breed in their natural habitat.


Sea turtle

Places you can visit this summer and have a nice beach vacation are Surf City and North Topsail Beach. Both of them are small communities with pristine sandy beaches and not too many households.

Topsail Island offers anything from a beach rental to a property with a swimming pool if you like the idea of spending a few days there.


Surf city – Author: Michael Helms – CC BY 2.5

Topsail Island is never too crowded with tourists, unlike the other beaches in North Carolina. It’s one of the less known beach spots in the country which makes it even more interesting for people who like exclusivity.

Spending your family vacation on Topsail Island will be an absolute win for the whole crew. You don’t need to travel around the world to find a perfect sandy paradise. Sometimes what it takes is a drive to North Carolina’s coast and swim with the turtles.

Enjoy the pirate’s island!


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