8 Fun Facts You Never Knew About Topsail Island

8 Fun Facts You Never Knew About Topsail Island

Topsail Island is a unique and interesting place to visit. We have a vibrant local community with a rich history. This week we take a few minutes to show you just a few (well, eight to be exact) fun things that you may not know about Topsail island. 

Learn the lingo

Did you know there is a right and a wrong way to pronounce Topsail? There is actually very little information about the origin of the correct pronunciation. However, if you want to sound like a local, here’s the correct way to pronounce Topsail. First you need to drop the "sail" sound in the name. When you do this you end up with a "Tops'l" almost making the sail sound like "sill". There you are, but where did the name originally come from? Funny you should ask. 

An Island at War

Located approximately 10 miles inland, Holly Ridge was home to Camp Davis. Camp Davis was a training base for several anti-aircraft artillery units. During the war the first access was created to the island. Soldiers built a floating bridge, (now the site of the swing bridge) allowing the troops access to the island. Topsail Island was soon home to several anti-aircraft artillery batteries. These coastal defenses were primarily used to help train soldiers and defend the coast. Soldiers and sailors also trained with barrage balloon training, seacoast defense, and anti-aircraft artillery. 

Discover the Island's Native Inhabitants

For centuries Topsail Island was an uninhabited island covered with thick coastal forests and coastal plains.  For the local Native Americans it was an ideal place to hunt, fish, or allow livestock to graze. Unlike today, where we all covet oceanfront property, Native Americans feared the unpredictable weather of the coast. Topsail Island had no permanent settlements at that time. Settlements would only come much later in the Island's history. The most frequent Native Americans to visit Topsail Island were the Tuscarora, also known as "the hemp people".

We had WASPs

No, we aren't talking about the stinging insects. During World War II, with a shortage of male pilots, the United States started the Women Air-force Service Pilots (WASP). An all volunteer force of women pilots, they were the first women to fly and operate military aircraft, and they provided an invaluable service to the country. One of the WASP training bases was located at Fort Davis. Arriving on July 24, 1943, these fearless, all volunteer female pilots flew important radar deception missions over the coast and Topsail Island. Two women based in Camp Davis died during their service in the local area.

We had a secret missile program on the island

Immediately after World War II, Topsail Island was taken over by the United States Navy. A top-secret missile program was created on Topsail Island. Called Operation Bumblebee, it was here on Topsail Island that the United States Navy successfully used "ram jet" technology, a technology which laid the foundation for many of today's modern missiles. If you look carefully you can still see some towers used during Operation Bumblebee. Many of the towers were converted to unique uses and even residences.  A fun thing to do is to take a bike ride to all the tower locations. One structure left by the Navy was later turned into the Missiles and More Museum, which is a great place to visit during your Topsail Island Vacation.

We love our Sea Turtles

Did you know that Topsail Island is an annual destination for the rare and majestic Atlantic sea turtles. Each year, dozens of these beautiful creatures return to Topsail Island to lay their eggs. These incredible turtles are guided to the exact same beaches each year. Depending on when you visit you just might get to see sea turtles hatching, called a 'boil." If you want to learn more about sea turtles check out the website of the Karen Beasley  Sea Turtle Rescue and Rehabilitation Center

Pirates and a name

From around 1630 to 1720, the North Carolina coast was famous, but not for our beaches. Instead, the area was a popular stomping ground for local pirates. Legend has it that famous pirates like Blackbeard trolled the local waters looking for unsuspecting ships to pillage. Some say the name Topsail derives from the pirates hiding their ships behind the local islands leaving only their "Topsails" showing from the sea. Fact or fiction, we'll let you decide. but you should know that Blackbeard's ship, the Queen Anne's Revenge, was found not far from Topsail Island in nearby Beaufort, NC. 

A destination was born

With peace coming to the states and the end of the secret missile program in 1948, it was time for change on the island. Business leaders came in and purchased much of the island and began commercial developments. The first area to be developed was the area now known as Surf City. Being closest to the swing bridge and the main artery to the island, it was only logical this would be where the commercial life of Topsail Island began. 

Over the years, Topsail Island retained a small town feel where you knew your neighbors, and visitors were seen as guests. This tradition continues today. During your visit you'll note the number of mom and pop shops and the lack of national chains, all adding to the quiet charm. 

With so much natural beauty and coastal waters, the environment is one of Topsail Island's best kept secrets (and most protected asset). Maybe more so than any other barrier island in North Carolina, Topsail Island has protected these beautiful ecosystems, ensuring their survivability and enjoyment for years to come. 

If you want to discover more about Topsail Island there is one sure fire way to discover all the island has to offer. Give us a call at 910-328-3400 or click the button below to see all of our great vacation homes. There is still plenty of time to have a wonderful Topsail Island vacation. 

8 Fun Facts You Never Knew About Topsail Island

Come discover Topsail Island in 2021

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