We just finished our first-time visit to Topsail this week and loved it. If you are looking for a low-key, laid-back place to go to the ocean, this is it. In other words, on Topsail you're dressed up when you put your flip-flops on.
We stayed at Answer to Prayer, a 4-bedroom rental house in North Topsail, and have nothing but positive comments about the place. The ocean front house let our teenagers easily come and go from house to deck to beach to ocean and back. It also made it easy for their grandmother to stay inside during the heat of the day, yet still see and be a part of what was happening outside.
There isn't much "to do" on Topsail, and that's exactly the charm of the place. A highlight of the week was getting icecream at Island Delights. The flavors were so yummy that we went back three times. We did visit the Turtle Rehab facility one afternoon, and went off-island to play mini golf twice. We ventured out for dinner at Sears Landing. The location was nice, service was good, but the food was so-so. (We live in Maryland and have high standards for what a crab cake should taste like....theirs was not it). We also bought lovely fresh seafood from the Shrimp Lady's store, and went to the the Bait Shop next door. The man in the shop talked me into skipping the frozen fish bait and buying a synthetic bait. I was buying the bait for my boys, who are avid fishermen, and they were highly skeptical when I didn't come home with the frozen kind. However, when they both caught fish on their first casts surf fishing, my reputation was made.
We rented our linens and beach items through Topsail Sunsational Rentals. They came through with flying colors and had everything at the doorstep when we arrived. I made a mistake in ordering sheet sizes for one of the beds and called to see if we could switch them. I could only reach an answering machine and left the message, thinking that I probably wouldn't be able to get the problem fixed without getting through to a live voice. However, within an hour, someone was at the door with the right sized sheets. That's service!
The only thing we wouldn't do again is rent bikes. The bike path on the north end of the island is just a small easement on the side of the main road, where cars whiz by at 40+ miles per hour. That's fine for adults and my oldest teen, but I wasn't about to let my younger kids bike on their own on the non-existant path. They did use the bikes on the side road in our area, but that really limited where they could go. When we drove to the south end of the island, there was a separate "path" that ran beside the road, however it wasn't in good shape in lots of places. We really love to bike at the beach and the lack of good bikiing areas was a disappointment. If i had to do it over again, I would just rent bikes for a single day and not the entire week.
However, our disappointment in the biking was more than overcome by the wonderful beach where we spent many hours sitting, sunning and swimming. We really enjoyed ourselves on the island and have it on our list of vacations to repeat in the future.