Sometimes you just want to get out of town for the day. But finding interesting places to visit that don’t require an overnight bag can be tricky from Topsail. Unless you are on a boat, the only options are away from or along the Atlantic. We found a couple places worth the gasoline. Here is an assortment of day trips that range in prices from free to reasonable, are all kid-friendly, and none too far from home.
A 2-hour drive from Topsail, Shackleford Banks is part of the Cape Lookout National Seashore and most famously known for the wild Banker horses that live there. Visitors can also kayak, bird watch, and visit the Cape Lookout Lighthouse. No bridges connect the Banks from the mainland, however. Contact a ferry service before you trek out or prepare to bring a boat.
Visitors of Carolina Beach State Park get to explore some of the strange wilderness of Eastern North Carolina. The 6-miles of easy hiking trails weave through the park past Venus fly traps and along Snows Cut and the Cape Fear River. An hour and a half south of Topsail, the park is free and has lots of picnic spots. And it’s close to Carolina Beach’s restaurants and shops if you forget to pack a picnic.
Home to the aquarium and a battle during the Civil War, there’s even a public beach and maritime forest to explore at Fort Fisher. Close to Carolina Beach State Park, Kure Beach, and Carolina Beach, there’s a lot accessible from Fort Fisher. And if you run through those attractions and it’s too early to head back, there’s also a ferry to Southport.
The 67-acres near Wrightsville Beach and Mayfair were once the grounds to extravagant estates. Today it is a public garden that is landscaped and maintained by the nonprofit Airlie Gardens Foundation. An entire day can easily be spent wandering the gardens or relaxing on the lawns. Airlie Gardens is only an hour drive away and host fun seasonal events to keep an eye out for.
Hammocks Beach State Park is about an hour north from Topsail and then Bear Island is a 15-minute ferry ride. That’s if the ferry is running. Let’s just say that Bear Island is a popular among canoers and kayakers. For good reason, though! Loggerhead turtles lay their eggs on Bear Island, it’s a favorite stop for migratory birds, and dolphins are always passing by.
Touring the Latimer House is to step back into the middle of the 19th c. Indeed, the house has much of the original furniture and décor from family who built the house. Tours of the home take visitors through the opulent rooms as well as the quarters lived in by enslaved people. The house is also home to archives invaluable to historians interested in trade and life in the region during Wilmington’s boom. Only an hour from Topsail in Wilmington, the Latimer House is centrally located downtown and within walking distance to all the shops and sights of downtown.
There are loads of fun and educational places in the area that cater to young minds. These museums range in distance, price, and activities but are guaranteed to prevent anyone from bemoaning boredom (except for maybe in the car).
- Fascinate-U (Fayetteville, NC)
- Wonder Works (Myrtle Beach, SC)
- Kidzu (Chapel Hill, NC)
- EdVenture (Myrtle Beach, SC)
Know of any other cool daytrip destinations? Let us know!