We rented a 1-bedroom condo on North Topsail Beach in late May. Not to be self-sufficient but because a lot of the beach houses on this island are multi-bedroom and quite large. That makes perfect sense for extended family stays but more than what we needed for 4 nights. Our unit was on 5th floor, at the rear of the complex but with good views over both the ocean in front of us and the back water behind us. It was very clean, neat, and had a good floor plan for such a compact area. The balcony was small but big enough for 2 chairs. It had air-conditioning but wasn't needed at night. The only problem we had was a towel bar in the bathroom needed repair. Pretty minor. Overall, it was a pleasant place to base ourselves and sight-see.
The island itself is a 26-mile sandbar (they call it a barrier island) and the dunes are fascinating. We walked the beach each morning and night. The beach at North Topsail is good sand, free of debris, not very crowded at all, and a lot of surrounding land is still undeveloped, so it was nice. Good stars at night when it wasn't cloudy. No hint of a town though, just some residences and condo communities. Our condo complex didn't have a restaurant, although it had a concierge, exercise room, indoor and outdoor pools, outdoor Bar-B-Qs and picnic tables, and free parking. There were good restaurants further south on the island at Surf City and Topsail Beach.
At Surf City, I highly recommend paying the $1 fee to walk out on the fishing pier. It's ocean fishing at its best. The water is very clear from above and large, brown and white striped jellyfish can be seen floating int he water. The water is good for swimming close to shore and surfing as far out as the pier.
Lastly, we really liked Topsail Beach at the bottom of the island, which had a 1950's feel and look to it. The beach houses on Topsail Island were all built on pillars to allow the storm tossed ocean to wash under them, not thru them, and are mostly 3-story structures so one can see over the dunes. Then they have wooden walkways built over the dunes with steps down to the beach. Some houses are inter-connected by elevated walk-ways.
The island also has quite a few concrete observation towers left standing after the 1940's "Operation Bumblebee" experiments, where rockets were tested in preparation for the space program.
I liked the island and the unique beach culture. Very worthwhile seeing!
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