Before the Beach Shop & Grille, Chef Chris Gates was a private chef for several politicians, celebrities and bands including Steve Winwood, Widespread Panic and Ashley Judd. It was the beach and music scene that brought him to the Topsail area.
Topsail Island & Hampstead
A string of communities dotting the 26-mile-long shore host family businesses that bolster the small-town feel. Think of Topsail as paradise with a simple charm.
Completed in early 2019, a new high rise bridge connecting the mainland of Surf City to Topsail Island, was completed 10 months earlier than planned. This new bridge replaced the old fashioned swing bridge that connected locals and visitors to the island for years. One of the region’s least populated beaches, Topsail Island is void of super high-rise hotels and condominiums. Locals still come to weekend homes that have been in their families for generations. This beach is a favorite day-trip destination thanks to public parking and wooden fishing piers and watermen selling fresh shrimp from coolers on their tailgates.
Make sure you say the name correctly. It’s not pronounced like the “top-SAIL” on a schooner, although that may be what the island is named after. Rather, local dialect demands “top-SUL.”
Topsail Island is the next barrier island of any significant size north of Wrightsville Beach. The strip is split between the two counties.
Onslow County’s northern half includes the town of North Topsail Beach. You may hear someone call it by the original name, West Onslow Beach. If that happens, you’ll know you’ve encountered a true local. Politicians changed the name when the town incorporated in 1990. Just over the high-rise bridge to the mainland sits Sneads Ferry. The fishing village has sprouted many new homes, but the community maintains its quaint character.
Surf City and Topsail Beach lay in Pender County. The new high rise bridge takes you to Surf City, where you can still shop a little and meet locals at seafood steam bars. Serene Topsail Beach is the island’s southernmost town.
Year-round populations in these towns are small but they swell into the thousands in summer. Yet, the area never feels crowded.