6 Things to Do on Topsail Island, East Pender During Winter
When Mother Nature brings chilly weather to Topsail Island in the winter, you won’t see many people in bathing suits relaxing on lounge chairs watching their kids build sand castles.
But there’s still plenty of fun when it’s not tourist season.
“People love to go beachside for shells and shark teeth,” said Tammy Proctor, tourism manager for Pender County. “It’s very popular out of season. We laugh because we think it’s cold, but if you’re in the northeast right now, waiting for a snow storm, we look like heaven.”
The Tourism Department gets a lot of inquiries from people who haven’t been to Topsail in the spring and summer. Proctor said it sent 600 visitor guides and plans to send more when the next batch is printed.
“We’re just having a hard time keeping up because the demand has been so great,” Proctor said. “It’s a good problem to have. We’re certainly not complaining about it.”
Proctor expects to see Topsail Island busy in March, but in the meantime there’s plenty to do.
A Saturday afternoon with local history
Located in Topsail Beach, the Missiles and More Museum allows visitors to learn about the history of Topsail Island and its association with military history through exhibits such as Operation Bumblebee. This was the US Navy’s secret guided missile test program on the island, operated from 1946 to 1948.
Some of the others include exhibits for WASP (Women Air Force Service Pilots), pirates, and Camp Davis, an anti-aircraft training facility during World War II.
The Missiles and More Museum is located in the historic Assembly Building, 720 Channel Blvd., Topsail Beach. It is open from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturdays, with last entry at 2:15 p.m.
For more information, visit www.missilesandmoremuseum.org.
Help sea turtles find their way home
The Karen Beasley Sea Turtle Rescue and Rehabilitation Center (KBSTRRC), a non-profit organization in Surf City, is looking for volunteers. One of the missions is to rescue, rehabilitate and release sick and injured sea turtles.
Kathy Zagzebski, executive director of KBSTRRC, said the organization is looking for people to serve as tour guides when the center reopens in March. There are a few openings for animal care, but these positions are filling up quickly.
Zagzebski asks the public to be friends with sea turtles by calling the center at 910-329-0222 if they encounter a stranded sea turtle.
“Our volunteers will come out and rescue the turtle and bring it back to our hospital,” Zagzebski said. “It’s the cold season, and basically the water is too cold for the turtles right now. Most of them swam south through the winter, but some of them are still lingering and become hypothermic.”
Nearly 30 turtles are resting in the hospital.
“We’ll see what the rest of the winter has in store for us,” Zagzebski said. “We welcome people as we open in March.”
For more information on volunteer opportunities, visit www.seaturtlehospital.org
From the mountain to the Topsail
A segment of North Carolina’s Mountains-to-Sea Trail (MST) crosses Topsail Island and provides hiking and exercise opportunities. The entire 1,175 mile trail stretches from the Great Smokey Mountains to the Outer Banks.
The 15th 90 mile segment of MST from Holly Shelter Game Land to Stella passes through Surf City and 8 miles of beach on Topsail Island. In addition to allowing hikers to learn more about local history, Proctor said the winter season is a pleasant time for many hikers.
“People like to hike this segment at this time of year because you don’t get a lot of heat,” Proctor said.
For more information, visit https://mountainstoseatrail.org/segment/15.
Visit the ‘Cove’
With the Wilmington area serving as a filming location for movies and TV shows, tourism officials encourage visitors to visit some of the sites. One of them is Dawson’s Creek, which was filmed at the south end of Topsail Beach.
According to the Pender Tourism Department, the producers donated money to KBSTRRC.
Officials are also encouraging others to visit locations in Burlaw where productions such as Date with an Angel, Freedom Song and The Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood.
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To show creativity
A variety of arts events and classes are available throughout the season.
One of them is a sunrise painting class by Art of Eden. It will be hosted by A Taste of Sunrise Coffee House from 1-3 p.m. on Saturday, January 22 at 14669 US 17 in Hampstead.
For the acrylic on canvas project, all materials will be provided. For more information on registration and ticket prices, visit www.artofeden.net
Board and Brush of Surf City also offers classes for visitors to complete wood and textile decorating projects. Throughout the year, the studio organizes workshops, family evenings, parties and camps for children.
The next gathering, a mini sign workshop, is scheduled for 1-4 p.m. on Sunday, January 23. For more information, visit https://boardandbrush.com/surfcity
Additional lists of artistic groups are available at www.visitpender.com.
Live like a local
When people visit the area, she said people appreciate the local flavor and want to know what it’s like to be a resident.
“When people come, even if it’s for a week or a weekend, they want to live like a local,” Proctor said. “We encourage people to check out the Facebook page and see what’s happening locally. It’s more of an art studio having an opening or something. People appreciate the local flavor.”
Proctor said there are plenty of restaurants and places to shop to get that feeling on Topsail Island and other places in Pender County, which includes sites like Moores National Historic Battlefield. Creek in Currie, the site of the first Revolutionary War Patriot victory in the state. Many advertisements are available on www.visitpender.com and www.topsailchamber.org.
Journalist Chase Jordan can be reached at [email protected]