Topsail Area Day Trips That Bring Meaning To Your Memorial Day

Topsail Area Day Trips That Bring Meaning to Your Memorial Day

Memorial Day is almost here, and by the weekend you'll be celebrating the holiday with family friends. We hope you get to spend it with us here on Topsail Island nearby on North Carolina's stunningly gorgeous coastline. You've probably already read our Memorial Day Top 10 for Topsail Island, which is a great start to your Memorial Day holiday planning. Let's take it up another notch and bring some of the real meaning of the day into your time here and remember what Memorial Day is all about in the first place. 

You most likely know that Topsail Island itself is dripping with history. Be sure to take some time out to see what you can find out about the island and its past during your stay. It's played quite an intriguing role throughout the years. 
For this blog post, we're putting a spotlight on some of the best Topsail area day trips to be found off of the island and that bring meaning to your Memorial Day holiday. Mix a little learning and history in with your celebration this year, and you'll be a better person for it!

Here's our Memorial Day holiday trip list. You'll find that each of the destinations are no more than approximately an hour's drive from your Topsail vacation rental, some are even less. Easy day trips, for sure.  

Battleship North Carolina, Wilmington

Estimated drive time from Topsail Island: 40 minutes

Board the USS North Carolina and see what battleship life was all about. At the time of her commissioning on April 9, 1941, she was considered the world’s greatest sea weapon. Armed with nine 16-inch/45 caliber guns in three turrets and twenty 5-inch/38 caliber guns in ten twin mounts, the USS North Carolina proved a formidable weapons platform. Her wartime complement consisted of 144 commissioned officers and 2,195 enlisted men, including about 100 Marines. the battleship North Carolina served in every major naval offensive in the Pacific in World War II, earning 15 battle stars. A two-hour self-guided tour includes an orientation exhibit and portions of nine decks, including the crew’s quarters, the bridge, gun turrets, and radio and engine rooms.

Make a Memorial Day excursion to the battleship on Monday, May 30 for the annual Memorial Day Observance on the USS North Carolina. At 5:45p.m., people of all generations from across the state gather together on the deck of the battleship to pay their respects. This moving and meaningful ceremony features military guest speaker, RADM Christina Alvarado, Deputy Commander, Navy Medicine East, Congressman David Rouzer, an all-service Color Guard, a 21-gun salute by a Marine Corps Honor Guard, patriotic music performed by Duke Ladd Band, Taps, and a memorial wreath cast onto the waters. The Memorial Day Observance is open to the public and this is free event. What better way to honor the day?

Veteran saluting American flag

Cape Fear Museum, Wilmington

Estimated drive time from Topsail Island: 45 minutes

The Cape Fear Museum in Wilmington (not to be confused with the Museum of the Cape Fear) has an extensive Civil War collection featuring the Wilmington waterfront as it was in 1863 and a diorama of the Second Battle of Fort Fisher. Cape Fear Museum of History and Science is the oldest history museum in North Carolina. In March of 1898, the United Daughters of the Confederacy (UDC) first opened the Museum in one room on the second floor of the Wilmington Light Infantry’s (WLI) building. Since its founding, the museum has moved around the city. It was housed in two rooms in the County courthouse annex in the late 1920s, and then on the third floor of the Police Station building in the 1960s. Since 1970, it has been located at 814 Market Street, in what was a National Guard Armory building.

Originally, the institution was founded to preserve Confederate objects and Confederate memories of the Civil War. After the reopening in the 1930s, many new objects were collected, broadening the Museum’s holdings to include a wider range of historical items. Over the decades, the collection grew to represent regional, national, and international art, history, and science artifacts. In the late 1970s, Cape Fear Museum’s mission re-focused on the region’s history, science and cultures. Today, the Museum draws on a collection of more than 52,000 items to help us explore a wide range of topics and to tell balanced and inclusive local stories. Come and see for yourself why it's a local and visitor favorite!

Fort Fisher State Historic Site & Museum, Kure Beach 

Estimated drive time from Topsail Island: 1 hour

Until the last few months of the Civil War, Fort Fisher kept North Carolina's port of Wilmington open to blockade-runners supplying necessary goods to Confederate armies inland. By 1865, the supply line through Wilmington was the last remaining supply route open to Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia. When Ft. Fisher fell after a massive Federal amphibious assault on January 15, 1865, its defeat helped seal the fate of the Confederacy. 

You are invited to tour the remains of the fort's land face featuring an impressive reconstruction of a 32-pounder seacoast gun at Shepherd's Battery. Shaded by gnarled live oaks, a scenic trail leads tourists from the visitor center past the gigantic earthworks and around to the rear of the fort. Guided tours and wayside exhibits provide historical orientation. Other exhibits include items recovered from sunken blockade runners.  

Military and Memorial Day

Fort Anderson, Winnabow


Estimated drive time from Topsail Island: 1 hour

A major pre-Revolutionary port on North Carolina's Cape Fear River, Brunswick was razed by British troops in 1776 and never rebuilt. After decades of calm, the site once again entered the forefront of history in a national storm, the Civil War. In 1861 the Confederate States of America decided to build a large fort at the site atop an old village site as part of the river defense of Wilmington. The Cape Fear was an essential route for supplies moving by rail from Wilmington to Petersburg and Richmond for General Lee's army before the fall of the Confederacy. 

You'll enjoy the serene riverside setting, colonial and Civil War history, and colorful exhibits that give you a glimpse into life as it was during that time. Colonial foundations dot the present-day tour trail, which crosses the earthworks of the Confederate fort.   

Moores Creek National Battlefield, Currie

Estimated drive time from Topsail Island: 1 hour


Moores Creek National Battlefield is 20 miles northwest of Wilmington near the town of Currie. This 87-acre site was the scene of a brief but decisive Revolutionary War battle Feb. 27, 1776.

Loyalists were unaware of what they would encounter as they charged across a partially dismantled Moores Creek Bridge on February 27, 1776. Just beyond the bridge nearly 1,000 North Carolina patriots waited quietly with cannons and muskets poised to fire. This dramatic victory ended British rule in the colony forever. Victory by the colonists prevented the Loyalists from controlling North Carolina and helped block a British campaign to conquer the Southern Colonies.

Aside from the history, the national battlefield also offers an ideal setting for birdwatching, fishing and picnicking. 

 Cemetery stone engraved with In Grateful Memory

Wilmington National Cemetery 

Estimated drive time from Topsail Island: 40 minutes
Wilmington National Cemetery was established in 1867 and includes more than 2,000 Civil War graves, approximately 1300 of which are unknown. An estimated that 557 African American Union soldiers were laid to rest here, their stones identifying them as "U.S.C.T.” or "U.S. Col. Inf.” Most of the original interments were remains removed from the Wilmington City Cemetery, Fort Fisher, Fort Johnson and the surrounding area.
Wilmington National Cemetery was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1997 and doesn't have any monuments or memorials on-site. 

Oakdale Cemetery, Wilmington 

Estimated drive time from Topsail Island: 40 minutes
Oakdale Cemetery contains the graves of the movers and shakers of the Wilmington, North Carolina area. The eloquent epitaphs and symbolic funerary art tell stories of those who lie beneath and bring them to life for the living.

The graves represent veterans from all wars and all branches of service, politicians, mayors, congressmen, artists, architects, writers, developers, merchants, planters, fraternal order members, insurance men, exporters, immigrants, victims of Yellow Fever epidemics, wives, mothers, infants and children, and a female Confederate spy.Oakdale Cemetery is free and open to the public with daily hours from 8a.m. to 5p.m.

How's that for a meaningful Memorial Day holiday itinerary? That's a lot of day trips, which means you'll just have to come back again and again to Topsail to visit and explore them all.

What's your favorite way to bring meaning to the Memorial Day holiday?


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