Surf City, NC is home to Topsail Island’s only traffic light. From this light, heading north on Highway 50, Soundside Park is to the left near the swing bridge and, to the right, Surf City’s oceanfront Welcome Center is adjacent to the Surf City Ocean Pier. Fanning out in all directions, all adjoining real estate that is not underwater, are restaurants and shops of multiple descriptions, seafood and pizza and burgers, beach wear, art work and souvenirs. This is the hub of commerce, but it is typically low-key as tends to be the case with all downtown districts from Kitty Hawk and Nags Head on the Outer Banks down through Emerald Isle just to the north of Topsail Island, on the Crystal Coast.
No better place can be found to watch the hourly opening of the swing bridge and passing boat traffic than Soundside Park, with its picnic tables and playground equipment. Loitering is encouraged along a boardwalk that curves around the water’s edge and offers a spot or two conducive to leaning over the railing and dropping in a fishing line.
On the ocean side adjacent to the fishing pier, Surf City’s Welcome Center is a community recreation center with banquet facilities and classes ranging from ballroom dancing to boating. You can stock up on travel brochures and local publications and ask all sorts of questions while taking in a great view of crashing surf, ocean anglers and kids of all ages playing in the waves.
Topsail Island’s first ocean pier was built in 1948 and was completely wiped out by a hurricane in 1996. Other hurricanes took a bite out of it here and there, and it was entirely rebuilt in 1997, at 937 feet long with two fish cleaning stations and lighting on the pier and in the parking lot for night fishing. The pier also has some great spots for wives and children to wait it out, including a grill, a screened dining area, a gift shop and a game room. And by the way, anyone over age 16 needs a fishing permit.
This is actually one of three piers on the island, one in each town. Show up at this one in your expensive sneakers to participate in Surf City’s Surf and Turf Super Sprint Triathlon in mid-May. Participants begin with a 750-meter swim, followed by one lap of the four-mile bike course, a two-mile run, another lap of the bike course, ending with a one-mile run. Or, come in a wacky costume for the Dolphin Dip Extravaganza, a New Year’s plunge into the frigid ocean waters. The Christmas Parade is usually held the first week of December, a small but heartwarming affair, and by that time everybody in town has decked their halls with boughs of holly.
Surf City is also home to Topsail Charter Fishing, a veritable fleet of boats offering half-day, 3/4-day and full-day excursions where you can try out everything from clamming, crabbing, tubing on the soundside to catching tuna and dolphin in the gulf stream. Choose from 12 different boats and 12 different captains, or bring your own boat and hire a captain.