25 Free Things To Do on Topsail Island

Raise your hand if you love free! We have some really good news for you—there are a lot of free things available to you and your family during your Topsail beach vacation, and they’re all right near your Topsail Island rental. This is by no means an exhaustive list, but rather 25 of the many free things you can enjoy while you’re here.

Here is our Topsail Top 25 list of best free activities, events, festivals, and things to do. How many will you take advantage of during your Topsail Island vacation? We want to know!

Free Annual Topsail Events

1. Participate in the Dolphin Dip on New Year’s Day.

It’s an annual tradition here on Topsail Island. Have you done The Dip? It happens every January 1st in Surf City on the beach. Bring in the New Year with a splash. Save the date! Event details here.

2. Attend the Surf City Easter Egg Hunt.

Every bunny loves an Easter egg hunt and the Surf City Parks and Rec Easter Egg Roll never disappoints. This year it’s held in a new location: the Surf City Parks and Rec Community Center fields. BYOB! (Bring your own basket.) Event details here.

3. Go to the Summer Concert Series.

From Memorial Day to Labor Day, enjoy the sweet sounds of some of the best musicians in the area. Come to Soundside Park on select summer nights for a fun and free evening out. Summer Concert Series schedule coming soon. Stay tuned! Event details here.

4. Watch free Movies in the Park.

Free outdoor movie showings in Soundside Park every Friday from Memorial Day to Labor Day are a summer favorite. Movies start at dark with pre-show activities and food vendors at 7pm. Movie schedule coming soon! Event details here.

5. Celebrate Independence Day with Surf City Fireworks.

We start the fireworks the night before the Fourth of July here on Topsail Island. The Surf City Independence Day celebration and fireworks in Soundside Park on July 3rd is a local highlight. Spend July 4th with us! Event details here.

6. Attend a Topsail Christmas tree lighting.

Christmas on the coast of North Carolina is a beautiful thing. Topsail Island comes alive with local tree lightings in Surf City and Topsail Beach, parades, and other special events throughout the season. Holidays are better at the beach, you know.

(Click here to see the best annual Topsail, NC events from our previous post. They aren’t all free but they are all totally affordable.)

Free Activities Around Topsail Island

7. Explore North Topsail Beach.

Spend a day or two or three just exploring around town. Start from your North Topsail Beach vacation rental and begin your adventures. Check out the Permuda Island Coastal Reserve, the Sea View Pier, the beaches and soundside waters just to name a few.

8. Explore Surf City.

Surf City is centrally located on the heart of the island. Walk out of your Surf City, NC rental and take in all the sights including the Surf City Ocean Pier, the beaches and sound, as well as the main dining and shopping strip on the island.

9. Explore Topsail Beach.

The southernmost town on Topsail Island, Topsail Beach offers miles of beautiful beaches, ocean and soundside waters, as well as the Jolly Roger Fishing Pier, the Missiles and More Museum, and access to Lea Island—plus they’re all right near your Topsail Beach vacation rental.

(Click here to read more about the area and each of our Topsail, NC towns.)

10. Visit the Missiles & More Museum

Learn about the storied past of Topsail Island at the Missiles and More Museum, housed in the historic Assembly Building in Topsail Beach. Delve into the people, times, and goings on that led up to the present day beach vacation destination that Topsail Island is today. It’s free, but donations are always welcomed.

11. Have a picnic at Soundside Park.

How much do we love Soundside Park? Let us count the ways. It’s the perfect spot to picnic, grill out, fish from the docks, watch the sunset, and let your kids burn off some pent-up energy. Lots of free events happen here, too!

12. Enjoy one of Topsail’s parks or playgrounds.

North Topsail Beach offers its Town Park; Surf City has Soundside Park, Kenneth D. Batts Park, and Nelva R. Albury Recreation Area; and Topsail Beach has its Town Center Park—each with their own unique amenities to enjoy.

13. Visit the Seacoast Art Gallery.

Stop by the Seacoast Art Gallery in Surf City and view the beautiful art and handiwork of Topsail’s local artists and artisans. It really is a local treasure!

14. Window shop around town.

One of the best things to do around town is to window shop Topsail Island’s unique stores. Right off the main strip you’ll find the Bumblebee Market, Topsail Island Trading Company, The Mermaid’s Purse, Mia’s Marketplace, and plenty of surf shops and sports shops just to name a few. Peruse the Topsail Chamber of Commerce Retail Shopping Guide here.

15. Bike along Topsail Island.

Hop on your bike and pedal your way all along Topsail Island. Try the Topsail Island bike path, the beach, and anywhere your two wheels can take you. Read more about biking around Topsail Island here.

Free Things To Do on Topsail’s Beaches

16. Soak up the Carolina sun.

You’re on a beach vacation, so soak it up! Whatever you enjoy most, get out there and do it. From fishing and boating, kayaking and canoeing, surfing and paddleboarding, biking and walking, or just finding your spot in the sand and relaxing, there are plenty of ways to get your daily dose of Vitamin D here.

17. Walk the Topsail shoreline.

Stroll your favorite stretch of the 26 miles of shoreline that Topsail Island has to offer. Make it your morning or evening ritual. Feel the sand beneath your feet, hear the waves crash around you, breathe in the salty ocean air, and enjoy the views all while getting your exercise.

18. Collect seashells.

Topsail Island has some beautiful seashells just waiting to be discovered. Get out early and go out often for the best selection. Want some tips on shelling? Read our previous post: How to Find the Best (and the Most) Shells on Topsail Island.

19. Hunt for shark’s teeth.

Shark teeth abound on Topsail Island. From recently lost teeth (sharks lose thousands of teeth over their lifetime) to fossilized Megalodon teeth, you never really know what you may find. That’s all part of the adventure!

20. Search for sea glass.

The search for that glint of sea glass in all its colors dotting the shoreline is a beachcombing adventure all its own. With a watchful eye and a willing spirit, you have all you need for your sea glass hunting expedition on Topsail’s beaches.

21. Surf the waves of the Atlantic.

With plenty of Topsail surf shops and sports outfitters to guide you, you can grab your board, get out on the Atlantic, and ride the waves. May the swell be with you!

22. Paddle the local waters.

Whichever mode of paddling you prefer, Topsail’s soundside waters are very inviting to those who seek peaceful and calm on-the-water adventures. Bring your kayak, canoe, or paddleboard then get out and explore.

23. Swim in the Atlantic Ocean.

When is the last time you went for a swim in the wide-open ocean waters? It’s good to feel small in a big world every now and again. Float with the pelicans, body surf the waves, or just take a refreshing dip in the Atlantic. It really is rejuvenating.

24. Savor the Topsail Island sunrises and sunsets.

Because of Topsail Island’s placement along the North Carolina coast, you get the best of both worlds when it comes to coastal sunrises and sunsets. You get a double color show every day with stunning sunrises over the ocean and breathtaking sunsets over the sound.

25. Try surf fishing from any Topsail Island beach.

Surf fishing from Topsail’s beaches won’t cost you a dime, as long as you have the minimal fishing equipment, some bait, and a little patience. Just make sure you already have your NC fishing license!


Which of these free Topsail Island activities will you enjoy this year during your beach vacation? Or do you have more to add to our list? We’d love to hear from you. Drop us a comment and let us know!


20 of the Best Budget-Friendly Vacation Tips to Save You Money

20 of the Best Budget-Friendly Vacation Tips to Save You Money

Why spend more money than you need to when it comes to a vacation? Like any other big expense, there are easy ways to cut back the costs without sacrificing any fun—with the end result being more vacation for less money. Interested? Check out our 20 best budget-friendly vacation tips guaranteed to save you money. You’re welcome!

1. Save ahead of time.

Start saving for your next vacation as soon as you can. It’s a major expense, so the sooner you start socking away money the better. Small savings spread out over time are much more manageable than waiting too close to your vacation dates. You won’t feel as stressed to save that way and you won’t have to pull from your savings account last minute to pay for it, or come home with a hefty credit card bill that you aren’t prepared to pay for.

2. Set a vacation budget.

Setting a vacation budget lets you know how much you need to save (see above) and gives you a pretty good idea of how much your vacation is going to cost. Break it down into categories like travel, accommodations, meals, attractions, spending money/incidentals, and the things you’re planning to do—and see how the numbers play out. You can always adjust where needed, but it’s a great start to knowing how much  you are able and willing to spend on your vacation without breaking the bank.

3. Choose a vacation rental instead of a hotel/motel.

When you choose a vacation rental as opposed to a hotel or motel stay, you are already getting more bang for your vacation buck. Not only do you have the ability to save money by cooking and eating some of your meals in a full-sized kitchen (which is a HUGE money saver), but you also get the additional perks of more privacy, more room, and more choices to personalize your vacation. Vacation rentals are definitely the way to go!

4. Be flexible when choosing your vacation dates.

Vacation rentals book up quickly, so do your research now and get your accommodations reserved. If you can be flexible with your vacation dates, do so. Off season and mid season dates are more affordable than peak season dates. Look at pricing for several different weeks you’re considering and see where you’ll save the most money.

20 of the Best Budget-Friendly Vacation Tips to Save You Money

5. Check for vacation rental deals and specials.

You won’t know what specials and deals are out there on vacation rentals unless you look (or ask). It’s well worth your time to do a little advance research and to know your savings options. For example, here at Access Realty we offer the following ways to save money on your NC beach rental.

Early Bird Booking Rates

(Secure this years’ rate for next year when you book and pay 50% right now!)

Last Minute Bids

Current Specials

Military Discounts

(select properties offer a percentage off with Military ID)

6. Book your rental far in advance.

You know what they say: The early bird gets the worm. Not only will you get the best selection of vacation rentals to choose from by booking in advance, but you will also save money on the biggest portion of your vacation expense—the accommodations. Book early and start making payments on your vacation a year in advance. Access Realty takes reservations a full year ahead of time. Avoid the convenience fee by paying by check ahead of time on your vacation (convenience fee applies when paying online/over the phone/or paying less than 30 days from check in date). Save, save, save!

7. Vacation with your friends to split the cost.

If you travel with another family, you will be able to split the cost of the rental, as well as some of the food expenses. As an added bonus, your kids will probably need less entertaining since they’ll have friends to keep them occupied. Traveling with a large family or group? No problem! Access Realty offers amazing rentals that accommodate large groups where everyone can vacation together with ease and in comfort.

8. Eat most of your meals in.

This one is kind of a no-brainer. Take full advantage of preparing and eating some of your meals in your vacation rental kitchen, where the appliances you need are right there ready and waiting for you. From coffee and snacks to breakfast, lunch and dinner—every time you choose to stay in as opposed to going out, you’re saving yourself money. Dining out every day for every meal during your vacation can quickly escalate to one of your largest vacation expenses! So by choosing to dine in, you’re cutting back your spending quickly and easily.

9. Meal plan and grocery shop online ahead of time.

While we’re discussing dining in, meal planning ahead of time is a great vacation strategy. Save your precious vacation time by being prepared when you arrive. How? Draw up a meal plan and start making your shopping list. While you’re en route to your vacation, you can shop online and schedule your pickup for the afternoon of your check-in. Here in the Topsail NC area, you can do online shopping at Harris Teeter, Publix, or Walmart and do order pickup so that you’re grocery shopping is done and ready for you the day you arrive.

20 of the Best Budget-Friendly Vacation Tips to Save You Money

10. Bring your own snacks.

You know your local grocery stores at home and where you can find the best deals, so go ahead and shop for your vacation snacks ahead of time and bring them along with you, if you can. Those items are less things you have to shop for when you arrive—and if you’re road-tripping to your vacation destination, then you’ll have things to munch on along the way. Win-win!

11. Buy your beach supplies before your vacation.

The same idea holds true for your beach supplies. Don’t wait until you get to the beach to buy your supplies. It will almost always be more expensive that way. Instead, bring your own beach chairs, sunscreen, towels and toys. Stock up on what you’ll need ahead of time for your vacay and buy them locally when they’re on sale or you have coupons.

12. Plan ahead and research discounts.

Part of vacation planning is knowing how you’re getting to your destination and what you’re going to do when you get there. Research discounts online and in advance for the big-ticket items like plane fare, big attractions, and costly vacation experiences that you’re planning to do while away. There’s almost always some kind of discount that awaits those who search for them.

13. Stop by the local Welcome Center.

Swing by the local Welcome Center on your way in to your vacation destination. Oftentimes they have a plethora of helpful local information, coupon books and special offers available to visitors and vacationers. Have questions? They’re also a great resource to answer any questions you may have about the area attractions, things to do, and miscellaneous information you may need or want to know. We love our Topsail NC Welcome Center in Surf City, so be sure to stop by!

14. Follow social media sites.

Follow the social media sites of the town or beach you’re vacationing in, as well as the vacation rental company you’re renting from. Not only will you stay up-to-date with what’s happening locally, but you also can find special discounts or fun giveaways just by being a follower or interacting with them via their social media accounts. Be sure to follow along with Access Realty on Facebook and join our VIP – Promos & Savings Group too for an exclusive first look at special savings!

20 of the Best Budget-Friendly Vacation Tips to Save You Money

15. Check your credit card benefits for travel discounts.

Sometimes it’s easy to overlook the fact that many credit card companies offer travel and vacation discounts. From travel and accommodations to attractions and experiences, it’s worth researching what your credit card company has to offer you. Sometimes it’s cash back or points applied to your card just for using it at certain places, so it’s well worth the time and savings to know that information ahead of time before your vacation spending begins.

16. Find free local events, activities and things to do.

Don’t underestimate the amount of free things you can find to do while on vacation. From free (or at least inexpensive) local events and activities to parks, playgrounds, nature trails and more—you definitely want to know what your budget-friendly options are. Looking for local events and things to do during your Topsail beach vacation? Check out these awesome area resources.

Things To Do on Topsail Island

Area Events & Activities

Onslow County NC Events & Things To Do

Pender County NC Events & Things To Do

17. Plan some nature activities.

Just a reminder that nature is free for you to enjoy! Get out there and stroll along the beach, walk a nature trail, explore the coastal landscape, visit a park, go shell collecting, take a run through town, or just get out there and take some photos of the gorgeous coastal Carolina sunrises and sunsets.

18. Know where the local parks and playgrounds are.

If you are a family traveling with kids, then you already know that parks and playgrounds are perfect ways to let the kids play, explore, get outside and burn off some energy. Get to know where the local parks and playgrounds are before you arrive, so you know where they are and what they offer. Topsail Island has some wonderful park and playground options.

North Topsail Beach Parks & Playgrounds

Surf City Parks & Playgrounds

Topsail Beach Parks & Playgrounds

19. Collect souvenirs instead of buying them.

If you’re trying to save money and don’t want to buy souvenirs for everyone in your family to take back home, try collecting your own instead. Seashells, sea glass and shark teeth are all special treasures that can double as the mementos you take home with you from your Topsail beach vacation. Get crafty and display them in a unique way or just gather them up and put them in a jar with some sand straight from the beach.

20. Bring spending money but avoid impulse buys.

(Refer back to #2!) Of course you want to bring some spending money for incidentals along the way that you may want to purchase during your vacation but that you can’t always know ahead of time. That’s perfectly fine! You are on vacation, right? Just be mindful of your spending and avoid impulse buys whenever possible.

We hope you find these money-saving tips and budget-friendly ideas helpful when planning your next vacation. Cheers to vacationing and saving money while doing it!

Did we miss anything? If you have any advice on how to save money on a vacation that we missed, please drop a comment below. We want to know!

20 of the Best Budget-Friendly Vacation Tips to Save You Money

Book Direct & Save!

In today’s day and age, there are a multitude of online booking websites where you can shop thousands of properties in a wide range of areas around the world to find your perfect vacation rental in just one click

But did you know that many of these websites charge additional HIDDEN fees or inflate EXISTING prices?

We understand that your vacation is important and you only get to take a limited number of trips during the year. We simply want to make sure you are getting the most out of your vacation dollar when you visit Topsail Island and the only way to do that is by Booking Direct!

Everything You Need to Know About Booking Direct:

February 7th, 2018 marks the inaugural #BookDirect Day – a day created to educate Vacation Rental Guests on the benefits of booking directly through an owner or local Property Management Company versus using OTA’s (Online Travel Agencies), such as HomeAway, VRBO, AirBNB, or TripAdvisor (to name a few).  

These big name websites, sometimes unbeknownst to you until after you click “BOOK, make their money by charging you a service (or booking or “take rate”) fee. This fee ranges from 5% to as much as 15% of your TOTAL vacation rental cost!

(See how you can be saving a TON of money just by booking directly through our website?) 

For example, the average cost of a two bedroom Topsail Island Rental Home during Peak Rental Season is about $2,000 pre-tax. If you book through an OTA who charges a 15% booking fee, you will pay an additional $300 on top of your $2,000 rental cost!

And what special OTA service does this extra $200 provide you?
Nothing. It’s simply the cost of using their website to book your vacation rental.

The OTA’s don’t know the ins and outs of each individual property to answer specific questions you might have. They don’t send out repairmen when you run into a maintenance issue. They don’t give you suggestions on the best local restaurant for dinner or what there is to do on a rainy day…but Access Realty does! 

When you book directly with us, you speak one-on-one with a knowledgeable, LOCAL, professional who lives, works, and plays in the Topsail Island area. We know the details of each property because we have actually been inside of them! We can give personal recommendations on the best places to eat, shop, or visit because we love to frequent those businesses in our day-to-day lives! Our two conveniently located offices are within 15 minutes of each of our rental properties, so you can rest assure that we will respond to your issues quickly!

How Do I #BookDirect?

It’s simple! We encourage all of our guests to book their vacation directly through our safe and secure website, www.AccessTheBeach.com, or by calling us directly at 1-800-TOPSAIL (867-7245), (910)329-9800 for our Surf City Office, or (910) 327-2050 for our Sneads Ferry Office. We promise we will never charge you hidden fees and we will always provide you with the lowest available rate on our professionally managed accommodations.

Recap: Why Book Direct?

  • Properties are professionally managed by Access Realty, a local, reputable property management company with two office locations in the Topsail Island area.
  • Save up to 15% by avoiding online travel agency booking fees!
  • Secure and simple 24/7 online booking at AccessTheBeach.com
  • Helpful and knowledgeable local staff who know the properties and live, work, and play in the Topsail Island area!

Ready to plan your Vacation?

Make sure you #BookDirect with Access Realty!

Click here to Search our Vacation Rentals!