The Ultimate Guide to the Best Topsail Day Trips

Beautiful Topsail Island, North Carolina with its 26 miles of barrier island beauty is a beach lover's paradise. There's so much to love about the island that you may never want to leave (we don't blame you), but if you're in search of some off-island adventures—we've got them, too! Here are some of the best Topsail Island day trips you can take during your beach vacation that are an easy drive and not too far from your Topsail vacation rental. Explore some of our nearby cities and towns and get to know the greater Topsail area and beyond even better. Happy day tripping!

From Topsail Island to the Mainland 

From the center of Topsail Island in Surf City to the mainland of coastal North Carolina, it's just a hop, skip and jump from one place to the other. This makes it easy to travel off the island and explore the mainland any time you please. Here are three quaint North Carolina towns that each have their own unique character and ambiance. 

Holly Ridge, North Carolina

Holly Ridge is the gateway to Topsail Island beaches, offering abundant sporting and recreational opportunities in a natural coastal area. The town has strong military ties and is the home of historic Camp Davis. Citizens and visitors alike enjoy a peaceful, friendly environment to live, work, play and visit.

Sneads Ferry, North Carolina

Sneads Ferry is located in Onslow County, North Carolina, between Jacksonville and Wilmington and the inlet where the New River flows into the Atlantic Ocean.Visitors to Sneads Ferry will find that it has much to offer, whether their stay is but a few hours or longer. Besides the blue skies, abundant sunshine, sparkling waters, soft breezes and friendly people, there are fishing skiffs for rent for fishing and boating in the river, as well as sounds and charter boats with licensed captains for fishing in the ocean. Sneads Ferry is a many faceted place, a composite of old and new, the old-fashioned and the modern, the slow easy ways of the old south and the fast moving pace of the new. The Sneads Ferry Shrimp Festival, the Official Shrimp Festival of North Carolina, is held the second full weekend of August each year and is a popular local event.

Hampstead, North Carolina

With its beautiful location along the Intracoastal Waterway, Hampstead is just minutes from Topsail's beaches and right off I-40, making it close and convenient to everything in the greater Topsail area. There is boating, fishing galore, easy access to peaceful waterways for an assortment of water affiliated activity, and enough local golf courses to challenge even the extreme club-swinging enthusiast. There are several pleasant shops and restaurants in Hampstead, from local jewelers, thrift shops, antiques and most shopping, to seafood, country cooking and burger joints. Topsail Island and the Atlantic Ocean are just a 15-minute drive away.

From Topsail to Wilmington, NC

Wilmington is one Southern destination with something for everyone and just under an hour's drive from Topsail Island. Explore the city's National Register Historic District, which spans 230-plus blocks of churches, classic architecture, moss-draped live oaks, brick-lined streets and antebellum homes. Enjoy live music, performing arts, and museum exhibitions. Celebrate the arrival of spring and all things Southern culture and arts in April during the world-famous North Carolina Azalea Festival. Visit Airlie Gardens or stroll along the pedestrian-friendly Riverwalk lined with shops and cafes and the Port City Marina. Then hop aboard a water taxi to the famous World War II Battleship North Carolina, one of USA TODAY's Best North Carolina Attractions, or take a scenic cruise or sightseeing tour. 

Here are of few more of the many popular places to explore on your day trip from Topsail to Wilmington. You can find more about these and other top Wilmington, North Carolina attractions and things to do here.

Airlie Gardens

A premiere garden of the coastal South featuring 67 acres of walking paths, formal gardens, seasonal blooms, mighty live oaks, historic structures, and contemporary sculpture. Also part of the North Carolina Birding Trail with unique habitats for a variety of colorful wildlife.

Battleship North Carolina

Moored in quiet dignity and majesty the Battleship North Carolina, across the river from downtown Wilmington, beckons visitors to walk her decks. Envision the daily life and fierce combat her crew faced in the Pacific Theatre during World War II. 

Bellamy Mansion

The mansion is one of North Carolina's most spectacular examples of antebellum architecture. Tour the 10,000-square-foot home, visit the meticulously-recreated gardens, and walk through the restored slave quarters, one of very few preserved urban slave quarters in the country.   

Children’s Museum of Wilmington

Kids will have so much fun here they won't even know they're learning. Located in historic downtown Wilmington, the museum provides hands-on interactive exhibits and programs where children "play to learn!" They can scan purchases at the grocery store, give teddy bears their annual checkups, or experiment in the Magnetic Minds Science Center.

Downtown Wilmington

Downtown is a dynamic, 24-hour destination that offers something for everyone.  Shoppers delight in the eclectic mix of locally owned and operated shops. Foodies savor a variety of cuisines served up in trendy bistros and down-home pubs. Patrons of the arts appreciate theatrical performances offered on weeknights and weekends of this nationally recognized historic district.

Fort Fisher Historic Site

A Confederate fort during the American Civil War, it protected the vital trading routes of the port at Wilmington, North Carolina, from 1861 until its capture by the Union in 1865. The fort was located on one of Cape Fear River's two outlets to the Atlantic Ocean, which today is known as Pleasure Island. Approximately 10% of Fort Fisher still stands today and tours are offered.

NC Aquarium at Fort Fisher

Make connections with the natural world at the North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher. Feel the smooth skin of a gliding stingray. Climb along Adventure Reef. Talk with a diver swimming the depths with eels and sharks. Look an albino alligator in the eye. Wonder at baby sea turtles. Discover aquatic wildlife at free daily dive shows and animal encounters. Explore more with behind-the-scenes tours, outdoor adventures and kid friendly camps. 

Poplar Grove Plantation

Spend the day exploring one of the last remaining plantation complexes in North Carolina and within the National Park Service’s Gullah Geechee Corridor. Formerly a sweet potato and peanut plantation, Poplar Grove was in the Foy family for six generations, from 1795 to 1971, producing peanuts that were shipped as far north as New York City. The original manor house was restored and opened to the public as a museum in 1980 and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Wilmington Riverwalk

The Riverwalk in Downtown Wilmington is a showstopper of a stroll that is a distinctive attraction all its own. Originally conceived in the 1980s as a way to generate more interest and tourism to the Cape Fear River waterfront regions of Wilmington's historic Downtown, today the Riverwalk encompasses a full mile of scenic boardwalk, hugging the riverfront, and providing visitors with endless views and easy access to some of the Downtown's most beloved attractions.

From Topsail to Jacksonville, NC

Jacksonville has grown rapidly since 1941, when Camp Lejeune was established. The same qualities that drew the Marine Corps to build the world's most complete amphibious base in Onslow County were also some of the same qualities that caused the city to be formed along the New River. The City of Jacksonville is the commercial hub of Onslow County and home to Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune and Marine Corps Air Station New River. Jacksonville has grown rapidly since 1941, when Camp Lejeune was established and possesses a rich history dating back to 1731. Some 81,612 people make the city their home. The once quiet farming community has grown into the business, retail, medical, banking, and cultural center for Onslow County.  

You can learn more about these and other top Jacksonville, North Carolina attractions and things to do here.

Escape Room Games

Escape Room adventures and outings are all the rage these days. Jacksonville has a couple options for you: Cracked It and The Escape Trials. They are ranked high on TripAdvisor's top things to do in Jacksonville and come with really good reviews. If you're looking for some family bonding and team building experiences, then this may be just what your Topsail vacation needs. Test your problem-solving skills, improve your communication, and try to solve the mystery presented to you before time runs out. It really gets your adrenaline pumping. Make some vacation memories at one of the local Escape Room adventures.

Jacksonville Mall

Jacksonville Mall is located in Onslow County in the heart of Jacksonville, North Carolina—just under 40 minutes from Topsail Island and 15 minutes from the Intracoastal Waterway. In addition to being the area’s premier shopping destination, the mall hosts an AMC movie theatre featuring the newest film releases every week. Stop by and satisfy day-to-day shopping needs from affordable fashion apparel to jewelry, cosmetics, electronics, children’s clothing, toys, homewares and everything in between. Jacksonville Mall has a selection of over 60 popular specialty retailers with many popular restaurants nearby.

Lejeune Memorial Gardens

Lejeune Memorial Gardens is where residents, military members and visitors come to honor those who serve our country and remember those who have given the greatest sacrifice for our freedom. It is home to the Beirut Memorial, the Onslow Vietnam Veterans Memorial, the Montford Point Marine Memorial, and 9/11 Memorial Beam from the World Trade Center. Lejeune Memorial Gardens is located at Montford Landing Road and Lejeune Boulevard, the gateway of downtown Jacksonville. 

Lynwood Park Zoo

Lynnwood Park Zoo is built on a 10 acre parcel and has a 1/2 acre pond next to the picnic area. The zoo was established in 1990. They are the only animal exhibiting facility in Onslow County. The zoo displays over 80 animal exhibits, with many different species ranging from reptiles, birds, mammals, and many, many more. Bring the kids for a fun day getting up-close-and-personal with animals of all kinds. It's the perfect family-friendly day trip from your Topsail rental.

As you can see, you won't run out of options and day trip adventures during your Topsail beach vacation. Happy exploring!

What's your favorite day trip to take from Topsail Island? We want to know!

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