Posted on 9/23/2019

Simple Ways to Enjoy Topsail Island On a Budget

You choose Topsail Island because it’s off the beaten path. The island is revered for its small town feel, unlike some of the more commercialized beach destinations along the east coast.

This means it’s easy to get the most out of your beach vacation on a very small budget! Obviously, the beach itself is a freebie (even the sand you smuggle back in your swim suit is free!) but here are some other ways to enjoy this lovely corner of the earth without spending a fortune.

Missiles & More Museum

This FREE little museum (a nice indoor option) will impress the family history buff, but the kids will enjoy it, too.  

Find information about Operation Bumblebee (a top-secret Navy program), Women Air Force Service Pilots, Pirates, Topsail Island history and facts, a beautiful collection of seashells, and even a children’s area (with a fossil and shark tooth dig). 

You will get so much more out of your vacation to Topsail Island after you visit this museum. 

logo for Topsail Island Missiles and More Museum | Ward Realty


  • April 30th through Mid May, Monday through Friday, 2 to 5 p.m.
  • Memorial Day Weekend through Labor Day weekend, Monday through Saturday, 2 to 5 p.m. 
  • After Labor Day weekend through mid October, Monday through Friday, 2 to 5 p.m.


  • Free, but donations gladly accepted.


  • Historical Assembly Building 
  • 720 Channel Blvd.,Topsail Beach, N.C. 28460
  • 910-328-8663

Peer off a Pier

Catch a fish (or just the sunrise) off one of Topsail Island’s famous piers! A “spectator pass” is just $1.00 per person – enjoy a walk out into the ocean without getting your feet wet. Keep your eyes peeled for dolphins, sea turtles and more. Fishing passes are also available (pole rentals, too!), and the piers are fully lit for night fishing and exploring. Cleaning stations and bait are on-site, as well as food, ice cream and souvenirs. 

The Karen Beasley Sea Turtle Hospital

This non-profit is staffed by volunteers and costs next to nothing to visit, but you will learn all about these fascinating creatures that are so important to North Carolina. Inside there is a rehabilitation hospital, huge turtle tanks, an observation deck, and don't forget to get your photo taken in front of the beautiful “Oceans of Memories”  mural. You can expect a short wait outside (bring an umbrella for shade!). Don't forget to stop in the gift shop. Their items are well-priced (plus, all proceeds go directly to turtle rescue). 


  • Open daily from 12-4, except CLOSED on Sundays & Wednesdays. 

ADMISSION (plus tax):

  • $3 Children (12 and under)
  • $4 Seniors & Military
  • $5 General Admission (13 and up)


  • 302 Tortuga Ln, Surf City, NC 28445
  • 910-329-0222

Sports Rentals

Rent a kayak, paddleboard, surfboard, fishing equipment or a bike at a number of locations on the island, and for much less than you might expect. 

For example, you can rent a bike or a surfboard for just $10 for three hours at the 50 South Surf Shop. It’s definitely worth trying out something new during your beach vacation. 

50 South Surf Shop bike rentals | Ward Realty

For a little more money you can rent a Jet Ski or motorboat… still in the budget if you save in other ways (this blog will help you with that). 

Parks & Events

Soundside Park in Surf City is the perfect place to hit the playground, go for a walk, do some crabbing, launch a kayak, watch the sunset or enjoy a (sand-free) picnic. Check out all these fabulous reviews.  Soundside also offers free movies and concerts in the park. Follow the Topsail Chamber of Commerce on Facebook for the schedule of events!

Soundside Park is located at 517 Roland Ave, Surf City, NC.  

Here are some other pages to follow for events and festivals:

Go Rollerskating

Reconnect with your inner child (or your actual child!) and go rollerskating at Topsail Beach Skating Rink. Everyone needs a break from the sun (or rain) and skating is fun for the whole family. If you haven’t seen your four year old or your spouse on skates lately, try it. You’ll see what we mean. 


  • The rink's hours vary seasonally, so make sure you check their website or Facebook page (or call) to make sure they are open. Generally, they are open from 7-10 pm from March to Labor Day, and certain hours on the off-season. 


  • Admission is just $7.00 and includes your skate rental. 


  • 714 S. Anderson Blvd., Topsail Beach, NC
  • (910) 330-7891

Shark tooth hunting

Topsail Island is becoming seriously famous for being a shark tooth and seashell paradise! 

Especially rich in bounty after a storm, you are going to find some pretty awesome treasures on our 26 miles of beach. 

The best part? It's free and can be done any time of the day, any time of the year! 

shark teeth found on the beach | Ward Realty

Will YOU find the next rare Megalodon tooth? Follow Tom's Teeth on Facebook for his constant updates on super cool finds, right here on Topsail Island. If you find one, make sure you let him know so he can share with his fans! 

In addition to shark teeth, round out your seashell collection with specimens like the whelk, scotch bonnet, auger shell, clams, scallops, and even sand dollars. Read all about this and more in our blog, How to Find Shark Teeth, Seashells, Fossils and More on Topsail Island

Free community classes and camps

Ecological Marine Adventures offers classes for both kids and adults in addition to summer camps covering a variety of topics. The purpose of their camps is to "encourage children to explore the outdoors, go on adventures, and most importantly, to love and take care of the ocean."

Learn more about the free community classes offered at Ecological Marine Adventures. No registration is required!·      

Vacation during the off season  

You can save money on your vacation by booking your rental during the off season. That basically means any time except for summer. Yes, we get it ... it's hard to get time away once school and sports get started again! But did you know that several of our Topsail Island rentals will let you reserve just a few days at a time? Try to grab one on a three day weekend, or play hooky from school and work. We won't tell on you! 

Give us a call at 910-328-3221 or email

Enjoy your rental! 

Lastly, you made a smart choice by using a vacation rental. Hotels simply can’t offer you the convenience of stocking your own kitchen with your favorite breakfast & lunch items, including coffee you can brew yourself and not pay $3.00 out in town. Cooking a meal in your rental will also save you big bucks, plus it can be fun to raid the local grocery store for vacation-worthy snacks and drinks! Most rentals are also stocked with games and puzzles, or possibly air hockey and ping-pong. These simple activities are perfect for laughing and bonding with family and friends! 

find more (cheap and easy) things to do on our blog. 

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