The beach is one of the few places in the world that makes me want to stay put and not spend any time exploring away. I’d like to just wake up every morning, get dressed in my swimsuit, get the kids suited up and lathered with sunblock, pack a cooler and then just lounge in the sun. Meanwhile, the kids can make snow angels in the sand, dig for sand crabs, chase little fish in the shallow water, ride the waves to the shore, swim beyond the breaking. Of course we’ll need to take a little break at lunch to wash the sand from our fingers (need to keep the sand out of the PB&J “sand-wiches”) and then head right back out.
Topsail Island, North Carolina
For almost all five days, we spent almost all of our time on the beach when we visited Topsail Island, North Carolina, just south of the outer banks. It’s a full day drive for us from Indianapolis (over 12 hours) and sometimes we break it up in two days.
My husband is anything but one of those beach types. You know, the kind that just lay out in the sun reading and listening to music. I could do that, but not him. But, he spends his time swimming with the kids, dragging them out to sea in a little inflatable raft boat, building sand castles and burying them in the sand. At night, whenwe’re all bathed and in our pajamas, he takes them back down to the ocean to chase giant ghost crabs in the sand.
There are a lot of things to do in Topsail and nearby areas, but we just don’t know why you’d want to leave the beach.
Where to Stay
We rented a beach house through Treasure Island Realty. My husband’s family has rented through them for decades and found some homes that they really love and they return there every time. This year we were in a house that was new to us. The home was beautiful, the view was amazing, but be prepared for slow response time when issues arrive in the home. This is a very large rental company with so many homes rented out during their peak season — it could take days for repairs to be made when necessary.
There are also more and more hotels popping up, but it’s hard to beat staying in a beach front or near beach front property.
Sand Dollar Island, Beaufort
All winter I dreamt of Sand Dollar Island. During a travel show in Ohio, one of the owners of a company that ferries people to the island had painted amazing pictures in my head of this island with wild horses and sand dollars strewn across the sand as far as you could see. It wasn’t exactly as I had imagined it in my head, but it was a great day trip. Reserve in advance, pack a lunch and plenty of water and sunblock and head for the island. This 90 minute car ride is worth it. Be warned 2 hours on the island goes very, very quickly.
Shopping in Topsail
My husband recalls when he was a kid, he and his cousins would get to go shopping for beach chachkies during one of the days of their family vacations. They’d buy shell necklaces, flip flops, silly sunglasses, shark teeth earrings and whatnot. There are many fun places to shop in Topsail. There’s a store with a shark mouth opening, a Wings Beachwear and our favorite stop, Topsail Island Trading Company.
At the Topsail Island Trading Company, you can try your share of over 100 flavors of fudge. You won’t find a better way to spend your souvenir money.
Sea Turtle Rescue & Rehabilitation Center
The Karen Beasley Sea Turtle Rescue and Rehabilitation Center is a popular spot for families to visit, especially when the beach weather turns stormy for a bit. Visitors can visit a sick bay for turtles who are in treatment as well as a therapy pool for turtles who are being rehabilitated. The observation ramp in Sea Turtle Bay is a special place because these turtles have been rehabilitated and are awaiting their turn to return to sea. Admission is $3-$5 per person.
We wanted to take our kids out on a pier and we found one while exploring and driving along the coast. Our exploration brought us to the Seaview Pier. It’s an old fishing pier in North Topsail Beach. Admission was $1 per person and we thought it was totally worth it. The pier was stroller friendly and took us right out above the ocean. My kids were astonished. There were friendly fishermen everywhere and they even let us see their catch!
USS North Carolina Battleship
The Battleship North Carolina is an authentically restored World War II battleship, a National Historic Landmark, a museum, and a memorial honoring the 11,000 North Carolinians of all branches of service who gave their lives in World War II. Enjoy a tour of the ships 9 levels! This is a self guided tour that takes about 2 hours. Open 365 days a year. Admission $6-$14 per person. Guided tours are available for an additional fee.
I know that as my kids grow up, they’ll probably want to visit more parts of the island, meet friends their age, do other activities — and when those days come, we’ll add to this list. But for now, we’re going to spend every moment we can on the beach!
Things to do at the Beach with Little Kids
Look for Treasure
Dig in the Sand
Float on a boat or raft
Surf or Body Board
Write or Draw in the Sand
Build a Sand Castle or Get Buried
Sort Shells or Sea Glass