Old Topsail Pictures

Topsail Island is a barrier island north of Wilmington that offers some of the most scenic and least populated beaches along coastal North Carolina. With its maritime forests and wide beaches with cooling ocean breezes, Topsail Island, measuring 26 miles long and 500 to 1,500 feet wide, has a charm not often encountered in other areas.

Geographically, Topsail is the next barrier island of any size north of Wrightsville Beach. It lies off the shore of both Pender and Onslow counties south of Jacksonville. The island is split between the two counties, with the northern half, which includes the town of North Topsail Beach, in Onslow County, and the southern half, which includes the towns of Surf City and Topsail Beach, in Pender County.

Island history dates back to prehistoric times, but the first written records of the island are from the 1500s when early explorers described the abundant seafood beds. Not much was written about the island for some time after that, but according to legend, two prominent pirates, Blackbeard and Stede Bonnet, buried treasure hereabouts, and visitors with metal detectors keep looking for it.  


How did Topsail Island get its name? Legend has it that many moons ago, pirates used to hang out in the sound between the island and the mainland. When they spied a likely prospect to plunder, they’d race out and do their pirate thing to the hapless merchant ship. Eventually the merchantmen figured this out, so when they saw the top sails of a ship behind the island, they figured it was a pirate. Whether that helped them to avoid the pirates or not, who knows? But it’s a cool legend. By the way, only visitors pronounce the name Top-sail; it’s properly Top’sl.

These days, very few pirates are lurking behind the island, which makes for considerably less piracy. On the other hand, the island itself has become a much more jolly place, what with civilization and development having made the island a far more pleasant place to live and visit

History of Topsail

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The son of a tobacco farmer in Nash county, namely Charles Venson Medlin decided he would go to college, and he was then hired by the Norfolk ship yard as an electrical engineer. One fateful night he wrecked on a bridge and drove a 4 x 4 through his leg and was not able to work in the shipyard anymore. While most folks would have just laid down and said "To heck with it all" Charlie was a fighter and would not let them take his leg off. He ended up with a fairly functional leg but did have to wear a tall shoe for the rest of his life. He then returned to Nash County and opened a Country store where he sold the essentials needed for everyday life. Just after the war in 1952 he packed up his wife and 3 year old son "Doug" and moved to Surf City where he opened Coastal Ice Company. He sold ice and seafood then in 1958 he opened Medlin's Grocery where he sold ice, seafood, and groceries. It remained Medlin's until in 1981 when his son Doug remodeled the store and opened East Coast Discount. There Doug sold groceries, fishing tackle and seafood. The old store was showing its age and in 1999 the old store was demolished and a brand new building was erected. The store then became East Cost Sports. At East Coast we are committed to outstanding personal service. If you have any questions, please don't hesitate to contact one of our knowledgeable staff members through the e-mail or by the phone numbers posted on this site. We look forward to serving your Sporting Good needs.

East Coast History