I just got home from an amazing week down south. I won't say it was like a "normal" vacation...We had a lot of COVID related issues to consider, but it turned out to be the perfect destination for this crazy time. None of us had ever been there before but, I am happy to report that it was a fun, clean, beautiful, very family oriented destination.
I think the easiest way to organize the trip report would be to do so by day. I flew from WI to TN (where my family lives) on a Delta flight, and I was extremely pleased with my experience. They did an exceptional job with cleanliness and with COVID protocols. I was also extremely satisfied with my experience in the Minneapolis airport. Unfortunately, I cannot say the same for the Atlanta airport where I connected. It was dirty and many people were not compliant with masks and social distancing. I was very relieved to only spend an hour there on my way down and even less time on my connection back home. While there, I tried to keep my distance and never remove my mask.
We decided to divide our trip from TN to NC in half. We drove 4 hours through many small towns and country roads and stayed the night at a Hampton Inn in Laurinburg, NC. Overall, our trip there went very smoothly, and we stuck to takeout and food we had packed in the car. Because we were on mostly smaller roads, not interstates, we did have to stop at some gas stations to use the bathroom. Although masks were mandated by the NC governor in all public spaces, we did not see good mask compliance in many businesses on our way down. Our family always wore them and kept several bottles of hand sanitizer in the car to use constantly. We also kept a bag of cleaning supplies and used them to clean our hotel rooms even more thoroughly.
After our brief stop in Laurinburg, we drove the rest of the way to the NC coast. It was an easy, smooth ride. On our way to our hotel, we stopped at a rental place to pickup an umbrella we wanted for the week. I would highly recommend this business, Sweet Dreams Linen & Rentals. They were very helpful and professional. Also, I had forgotten HOW HOT it is in the deep south in the summer. That umbrella saved us from getting scorched by the sun. For only $40 for a WHOLE week, it was money well spent. The umbrella was also easy to set up and carry.
As we drove over the bridge and onto Topsail Island, which has different sections, we were staying in Surf City...I was so happy to see how clean it was. There was also plenty of dining and grocery options. I felt relieved to see how nice everything looked. Our room still had a little while to be ready, so we ate lunch right near the pier at a yummy little spot called Daddy Mac's. They were serving Sunday brunch, but I was ready for fish tacos!
I can honestly say, beginning with Daddy Mac's and carrying on throughout the rest of the week, the dining places in Topsail were doing an EXCELLENT job with cleanliness and with COVID protocols. All places were at 50 percent capacity, staff was masked, and we were well spaced. We ate 3/4 dinners outdoors and had great experiences. After lunch, our room was ready. I went into great detail on my Instagram account about how we had to change our destination for this trip a week and a half out. We had originally planned on going to North Myrtle in SC, but COVID was raging. We were lucky to find a place on such short notice in the much less commercialized Topsail in NC, but we did find accommodations at The Island Inn, a small, retro style family inn right across the street from the ocean.
We were able to snag two rooms, and we were so thankful! The inn was clean, yet pretty basic. Overall we were happy with our experience, but we were pretty cramped. This is an older hotel and space is limited. If we go to Topsail again, we plan on renting one of the many gorgeous homes. We would have loved to be right on the ocean and not have to haul stuff across the street, but again, beggars can't be choosers, and we were pleased with what we got. I would recommend the inn for couples or for folks who plan on not being in the room often. It did have a great location and was in walking distance to many fun shops and eateries.
Our first afternoon, we got settled and then headed out to the beach. We were lucky with great weather every day. Our first night, we decided to have a casual dinner at nearby Island Delights. This retro style restaurant is like a 1950s style burger joint. We sat outside at a picnic table. My burger and fries were good, but others in our group had mixed reviews about their food, including the ice cream. The service was good, but we weren't overall thrilled with our meal, so we probably wouldn't eat there again. We were glad we sat outside, because we noticed it getting pretty crowded inside by the time we left.
Each day after, we ate breakfast and lunch in our rooms to save money and limit how much we were out and about. My sister and I went to the local Publix the first night, and we loved it. It was spacious and clean and had everything we needed, including lots of bottled water to take down to the beach.
From the second day until the day we left, I would start my day with a walk on the beach. Our room did not have the kind of coffee we all wanted or the equipment to make it, so I researched nearby coffee shops and found one 2 blocks away! I loved walking there every morning to get coffee. It was one of my favorite spots on the island. Finding local places is the best and Topsail has TONS of winners! I would highly recommend the Daily Grind for all your coffee needs and try the "Island Bliss" a delicious coconut vanilla latte.
During the day, we just enjoyed the GORGEOUS clean beach--walking, sunning, reading, swimming, shelling, etc. We would go in to eat lunch and reapply sunscreen and then stay out until time to clean up for supper.
There are public access boardwalks all over the island, but there was one located right across from our hotel. The sand dunes below are a bit steep, especially if you have your arms full or have limited mobility; however they are kept that way for the animals and natural setting to remain in tact, so I support that.
Our second night at Topsail, we went to a restaurant that turned out to be my favorite of the trip. I love any old school or retro style eatery, hence my love of supper clubs in WI, and this one did NOT disappoint. We tried the Breezeway, which was located on the sound area of the island. It was quaint, charming, and your quintessential old school seafood house. They are also known for their hush puppies-a southern delicacy I greatly miss in the north. I got fried shrimp and key lime pie. It was AMAZING. This was by far my favorite meal of the trip.
Midway through our trip, we decided to go pick up donuts for breakfast. We had heard rumors that the CANNOT miss doughnut place on the island was The Fractured Prune. Again, this place did not disappoint. They made HOT and FRESH donuts for each customer. They had extremely unique flavors and did a fried style doughnut--like you would get at a county fair--and they were so tasty. We tried an orange roll, a cinnamon roll, french toast, and chocolate glaze with Bavarian cream flavor.
Our second night, we went to Splash by the Sea, a beautiful ocean side restaurant located in a luxury condo unit in the less populated portion of the island. We sat outdoors and enjoyed the ocean view, great service, and good seafood. It was a beautiful evening to be outside.
Our final night in Topsail, we enjoyed another yummy seafood place, Sears Landing. We love seafood, so we always try to eat as much of it as we can when we can get it fresh. My family and I also agreed that we didn't scratch the surface on Topsail. There are ALL sorts of other options tucked away throughout the island that I would love to explore when I return...and YES I would definitely return!
All in all, I had an excellent experience on Topsail Island. I would highly recommend it for families and for travel during COVID. If you want to learn more about this fabulous destination, check out their local tourism site here.
Travel is tricky right now, but this spot served us well. Next time, the only changes I would make would be to stay in a more spacious house and to stay longer to enjoy all the island has to offer! As always, message or contact me through the form on the blog if you have any questions about a vacation here.