Greater Topsail Chamber of Commerce
Get your questions answered and pick up a free information packet, especially useful if you’re visiting the area for the first time. You’ll find details about shops, restaurants, events and activities.
Topsail Island history
Topsail Island is a barrier island north of Wilmington that offers some of the most scenic and least populated beaches along coastal North Carolina. With its maritime forests and wide beaches with cooling ocean breezes, Topsail Island, measuring 26 miles long and 500 to 1,500 feet wide, has a charm not often encountered in other areas.
Island history dates back to prehistoric times, but the first written records of the island are from the 1500s when early explorers described the abundant seafood beds. Not much was written about the island for some time after that, but according to legend, two prominent pirates, Blackbeard and Stede Bonnet, buried treasure hereabouts, and visitors with metal detectors keep looking for it.
Why The Name?
How did Topsail Island get its name? Legend has it that many moons ago, pirates used to hang out in the sound between the island and the mainland. When they spied a likely prospect to plunder, they’d race out and do their pirate thing to the hapless merchant ship. Eventually the merchantmen figured this out, so when they saw the top sails of a ship behind the island, they figured it was a pirate. Whether that helped them to avoid the pirates or not, who knows? But it’s a cool legend. By the way, only visitors pronounce the name Top-sail; it’s properly Top’sl.
These days, very few pirates are lurking behind the island, which makes for considerably less piracy. On the other hand, the island itself has become a much more jolly place, what with civilization and development having made the island a far more pleasant place to live and visit.
For more information visit www.topsailchamber.org