Photos from Topsail Island!

A seashell on the beach at Topsail Island, North Carolina
A seashell on the beach

I just got back from an awesome week at the beach!  Usually, we got to Holden Beach in North Carolina, but we couldn’t find what we wanted in a rental house there, so we ended up at nearby Topsail Island (pronounced Topsill).

Part of the chandelier in the rental house on Topsail Island, North Carolina
Part of the chandelier in the rental house

It was a lovely location, set back in a gated community amongst live oaks, with a short walk to the beach and a reasonable walk down to a community dock where we could launch our kayaks.

A motorboat on the Intracoastal Waterway from the dock at sunset, Topsail Island, North Carolina
A motorboat on the Intracoastal Waterway from the dock at sunset

Talk about the best of both worlds!

Three common sandpipers on the beach at Topsail Island, North Carolina
Three common sandpipers on the beach

We kayaked on the Intracoastal Waterway (and saw dolphins!), swam in the ocean (with some great waves for using boogie boards!), walked along the beach (lots of shells and jellyfish!), biked up and down the island (my one downside… there’s a bike path but it’s bumpy and hard to ride on), and generally had fun hanging out.

A shadow of a heart!  Topsail Beach, North Carolina
A shadow of a heart!

The trip was planned to celebrate my parents’ 40th wedding anniversary (which was actually last spring, but due to extenuating circumstances we pushed off the celebration until October).  They had a great time, which was the real point of visiting the beach!

Walking on the beach in Surf City, Topsail Island, North Carolina
Walking on the beach

Walking along the beach the first day, we stumbled across a concrete tower poking out of the sand dunes.  It turns out that this was part of “Operation Bumblebee,” a WWII-era Navy initiative to test the ramjet engine.

A concrete tower south of Surf City, Topsail Island, North Carolina
A concrete tower south of Surf City

At the time, Topsail Island was mostly uninhabited, so the US Navy built eight towers to aid in the testing of missiles offshore.  Seven of the towers remain.  This is Tower #3.

A window in the concrete tower on Topsail Island, Surf City, North Carolina
A window in the concrete tower

An assembly building (now in the town of Topsail Beach) was also built to use as a facility for building the missiles.  About 200 experimental rockets, 3-13ft. long and about six inches wide, were built and detonated on Topsail Island.  It’s said that the “foundation of the modern world of rocket and jet propulsion were [sic] laid out… in Topsail Island,” though the site was abandoned because of irregular weather and an uptick in nearby sea traffic.  More info here and even more info here.

Looking up at the tower above some wildflowers, Topsail Island, North Carolina
Looking up at the tower above some wildflowers

Another interesting part of Topsail Island’s history is its name.  Pirates used to hide in the bays behind the island (the live oaks hid the pirate ships from the view of passing sea traffic).

Live oaks in our gated community on Topsail Island, Surf City, North Carolina
Live oaks in our gated community

However, the pirate ships’ topsails were often still visible over the trees, alerting sailing ships to the need for caution.

Seashells and a sea plant on the beach of Surf City, Topsail Island, North Carolina
Seashells and a sea plant on the beach

There is some debate as to whether this story is true or not, but at least it’s fun to think about.

A cannonball jellyfish that washed up on the beach, Topsail Island, North Carolina
A cannonball jellyfish that washed up on the beach

The beach is a nice width – wide enough to play on but narrow enough to not be too long a walk.

Walking along "the strand" (beach) in the surf, Topsail Island, North Carolina
Walking along “the strand” (beach) in the surf

I enjoyed the seashells.  There weren’t a lot, but there were enough to find a few special ones. There were also quite a few sandpipers.

A sandpiper trying to escape the waves, Surf City, North Carolina
A sandpiper trying to escape the waves

There were also a lot of sea stones, polished smooth by the ocean.  This was one of my favorites.

A white seastone on Topsail Island, North Carolina
A white seastone

There were quite a few people out fishing.  I don’t know if any of them caught anything, but they looked like they were having fun!

A fisherman in the surf on Topsail Beach, North Carolina
A fisherman in the surf

One of my family members made a sandy sea turtle.  Wow!

A sea turtle made of sand! Topsail Island, North Carolina
A sea turtle made of sand!

We also did a fair bit of kayaking in the Intracoastal Waterway and nearby marshes. (More on that in another post!)

Kayaking in the marshes off of the Intracoastal Waterway near Topsail Island, North Carolina
Kayaking in the marshes off of the Intracoastal Waterway near Topsail Island

We landed on a little island covered in shells.  Beautiful!

Clam and oyster shells on an island in the Intracoastal Waterway, Topsail Island, North Carolina
Clam and oyster shells!

Kayaking also means quite a few birds in the reeds.  This egret was especially nice.

An egret on a dock into the Intracoastal Waterway, Topsail Island, North Carolina
An egret on a dock into the Intracoastal Waterway

In the middle of the marshy area between the Intracoastal Waterway and another channel, we found a shellfish farm.  There were even signs about how to lease space at the farm!

Kayaking through the shellfish farm near Surf City and the Intracoastal Waterway, Topsail Island, North Carolina
Kayaking through the shellfish farm

One night, we went out to the boardwalk down to the beach.  Actually, we started out by walking down the road…

Walking through the neighborhood at night on Topsail Island, North Carolina
Walking through the neighborhood at night

Seeing a spider…

A wolf spider and a leaf at night on Topsail Island, North Carolina
A wolf spider and a leaf

And then looked out across the Intracoastal Waterway.

A red beacon across the Intracoastal Waterway, Topsail Island, North Carolina
A red beacon across the Intracoastal Waterway

We finally made it to the boardwalk across the sand dunes down toward the beach.  A thunderstorm was happening about 30 miles out to sea.

Lightning in the storm out over the ocean, Topsail Island, North Carolina
Lightning in the storm out over the ocean

It was fun to watch, and I had a great time trying to photograph the lightning (a new experiment for me).  I loved some of the results of my 30-second exposures.

Another lightning shot from Surf City, Topsail Island, North Carolina
Another lightning shot

Another evening, I ran down to the dock to take pictures of the sunset over the Intracoastal Waterway.  It was gorgeous!

Sunset over the Intracoastal Waterway, Topsail Island, North Carolina
Sunset over the Intracoastal Waterway

Did I mention it was spectacular?

Afterglow of sunset, Topsail Island, North Carolina
Afterglow of sunset

The end of the week, quite a few helicopters and Ospreys flew over.  I’m guessing they were from the local Marine base.

Two v22 ospreys over Topsail Island, North Carolina
Two v22 ospreys

The last morning, I walked out on the upper deck of the rental house.  The moon was setting, so I caught a few last pictures of the sliver of a moon.

A sliver of a moon over Topsail Island, North Carolina
A sliver of a moon

It was a long trip back home, but that meant lots of time to read and enjoy the fall colors in the mountains of Pennsylvania.  There’s always something to look at and it was a great way to end our trip!

This Week’s Featured Product!

Find great places to kayak along the North Carolina coast in this book. Even locals can find new paddles that are both beautiful and enjoyable.