History of Topsail Island

History of Topsail Island
Located off the coast of North Carolina, Topsail Island is 26 miles of beach communities and vacation resorts. Its long history dates back to the 1700s when pirate ships frequented the surrounding waters.


Local folklore claims the island owes its name to pirates who would use the island as a hiding place after attacking merchant ships.

World War II

Operation Bumblebee had the U.S. Navy and Johns Hopkins University join forces, a venture which saw growth and development on the island. This venture became the beginning of the U.S. space program.

After the War

Used as a base of military operations until 1948, the island was sold to the public after local military testing programs were dismantled.


Surf City, the center of the island was incorporated in 1949, The Town of Topsail Beach in 1963 and the Town of North Topsail Beach in 1990.

Sea Turtle Hospital

The Town of Topsail Beach is home to the only sea turtle hospital in the state, the Karen Beasley Sea Turtle Rehabilitation and Rescue Center.


The island supports only 425 year-round residents. During tourist season, the population rises to 8,500. This influx sustains the many hotels, restaurants and gift shops in the community. Visit Topsail online at www.topsailbeach.org.

Article Written By Sara John

Sara John is a professional writer and copy editor living in Des Moines, IA. She has worked professionally for seven years, and written articles for the Long Beach Press-Telegram, as well as other local publications. She is a graduate of Grand View University and holds a B.A. in journalism.

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