How to Have the Most Fun on the Intracoastal Waterway


One of the highlights of a Topsail, North Carolina beach vacation is being so close to the beautiful waters that surround our little barrier island. Nestled between the majestic Atlantic waters on the oceanside of the island and the tranquil soundside waters of the Intracoastal Waterway (ICW) on the other, Topsail Island is truly a water lover’s paradise offering the best of both worlds where you can experience amazing inland and off-shore adventures.

Today, we’re putting a spotlight on the inland water adventures that await you on the ICW.

Get to know the Intracoastal waters near Topsail.

Let’s get to know a little more about the lay of the land and local waters, so you can get better acquainted this little piece of paradise on the North Carolina coast.

A Quick Topsail Island Geography Lesson

Topsail Island is one island in a chain of barrier islands located along the North Carolina coast,  midway between the mainland cities of Jacksonville, NC to the north and Wilmington, NC to the south. Topsail Island itself is situated in both Onslow and Pender counties and is home to the three seaside towns of North Topsail Beach, Surf City, and Topsail Beach with each providing a unique ambiance all its own.

Offering 26-miles of expansive shoreline, pristine beaches and a quintessential beach vacation experience, Topsail Island has quickly become a popular vacation destination for couples, families and beach lovers from all over.

It’s no wonder that Topsail Beach has recently been voted Best Little Beach Town in the USA by TripAdvisor, the world’s largest online travel site. Little Topsail Island is making a big splash on the beach scene, which is no surprise to those who know it best. It’s certainly not a secret anymore!

The Location of the  Intracoastal Waterway (ICW or ICWW)

The northeastern edge of Topsail Island is where you’ll find the New River Inlet, and the southwestern edge lies in the Topsail Inlet. The island is separated from the mainland by a series of small sounds and channels that make up a portion of the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway.

The Intracoastal Waterway at-large is a 3,000-mile inland waterway along the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico coasts of the United States, running from Massachusetts southward along the Atlantic Seaboard and around the southern tip of Florida, then following the Gulf Coast to Texas. The ICW is made up of natural inlets, saltwater rivers, bays and sounds, as well as artificial canals,  providing a navigable route for boaters along its length without many of the hazards of the open ocean waters.

Where to Access the ICW During Your Topsail Vacation

There are three public boat ramps on Topsail Island. If you want your own, then be sure to choose a soundside Topsail vacation rental that comes with stunning views and  instant access to the ICW anytime you want it. (More on that later in this post!)

  • North Topsail Beach: There is a boat ramp at the end of Shrimp Lady Lane under the high-rise bridge. The ramp is free, and there is plenty of parking.
  • Surf City: Public boat ramps are located at Soundside Park on 517 Roland Avenue right near the bridge.
  • Topsail Beach: The south end of the island also has a boat ramp offering access to the Intracoastal. The ramp, also known as Buch Marina, is located on South Anderson Boulevard just past Town Hall in downtown Topsail Beach and is set up as a self-pay, self-use ramp. 



Plan your Intracoastal Waterway adventures.

Okay, your geography lesson is done and now it’s time for on-the-water fun! Your ICW adventures are only limited to your imagination because there are so many ways to enjoy the local soundside waters.

Cruising & Sightseeing

When it comes to cruising the local Topsail waters, we highly recommend The Belle of Topsail. It’s a 55-foot replica of an 1880’s turn of the century riverboat that cruises the scenic waters of the North Carolina Intracoastal waterway and sounds. Enjoy a lower salon or an open air deck on top with a terrific view of the island and the sounds. Experience the beauty of a North Carolina sunset from the waters aboard the scenic own riverboat. This peaceful, picturesque cruise along the waters of Topsail Island is the perfect ending to a hectic day, or it could be the beginning of an exciting night! Either way, it’s a quintessential Topsail cruising experience that’s guaranteed to please.

Topsail Tiki Tours is another local favorite. The Tiki Queen Paddlewheel takes you on a 2-hour nature and history tour along the Intracoastal Waterway and the back of Topsail Island. You’ll learn about the history of the island’s lookout towers, pirates and so much more. See the gorgeous waterway areas that only those with boats typically get to enjoy and along the way keep an eye out for Topsail Island’s spectacular wildlife including sea turtles, dolphins, ospreys and pelicans, just to name a few. They also offer sunset party cruises, shelling tours on a pontoon boat, and private charters.


If you brought your own boat to Topsail Island, then you can explore the local waters at your own pace and see the sights whenever you please. Savor the coastal beauty and make time to watch the breathtaking coastal sunset as it sinks slowly into the soundside horizon. Be sure to motor on over to the Breezeway Restaurant and Sears Landing where you can pull right up and dock for your dinner.

Guided Ecotours

Paddle your way along the island on a Topsail Ecotour either on a kayak or a stand-up paddleboard. Paddle NC offers personalized guided tours for all  ages and abilities on the calm, flat waters of the sound. Their tours leave from the sound side of Topsail’s Beach Access #2. The launch area is easy to use, and surrounding water is sheltered from wind and boat traffic for an relaxing, stress-free paddling adventure.

You can also take a guided ecotour by boat with an experienced local captain who can show you around and get you comfortable on the water. Topsail Boat Rentals and Lost Treasure Eco Tours are two great options.


Fishing and Topsail Island go hand-in-hand. Spring and Fall are optimal fishing times but you can drop a line anytime you’re here. It’s especially easy to do when you choose a soundside Topsail rental with its own dock.

Alternatively, Soundside Park in Surf City offers public piers for your fishing pleasure. It’s also a great place for crabbing, too. Just don’t forget your NC fishing license!

Kayaking, Paddleboarding/SUP Rentals 

The ICW waters just beckon for you to get out and explore them. Kayaking, paddleboarding and stand-up paddleboarding are best experienced on the calm soundside waters off Topsail Island.

If you didn’t bring your own water equipment, we have some awesome local sports outfitters that will take care of everything you need for your paddling adventures. 50 South Surf Shop and Herrings Outdoor Sports are two places to rent kayaks, paddleboards, find guided tours and more.

Jet Ski Rentals

Jet skiing is a fun and exhilarating on-the-water activity. A&B Saltwater Adventures can make your Topsail Island vacation extraordinary with the ride of a lifetime on their Yamaha jet skis (they also offer pontoons, our SUP boards and kayaks). Located at Bush Marina, A&B Saltwater Adventures is a family owned and operated business with more than 20 years of experience on the water. Explore Topsail Island from the beautiful waterways and see it for yourself.




Soundfront Topsail rentals offer the best access.

So with all of the ICW fun and adventure available to you on Topsail Island, now is the time to find the perfect rental for you and your family. Soundfront and soundside Topsail rentals are the way to go if you want ICW access that’s right outside your doorstep.

Need some help? Here are three Topsail rentals right on the Intracoastal Waterway that come equipped for adventure.

Heron House  

(equipped with private boat dock and canoe)

Heron House sits proudly on the sound with large sweeping views of the Intracoastal Waterway in the Village of Stump Sound. The home provides a private dock, two large garages, five total bedrooms, (four of which contain private baths) very large sound front decks on the top and bottom floors, cozy backyard, canoes and much more. Heron House sits on a very private lot, just a few yards away from the community tennis courts and the small boat launch.

Sounds Right

(equipped with private boat dock, 2 kayaks and a paddleboard)

Sounds Right is comfortable and spacious with breath taking sunsets over the ICWW. You will love relaxing on the partially covered back deck while you watch the boats leisurely cruise by. Perfectly situated in the quiet family friendly community of the Village of Stump Sound which features a beach access, community pool, tennis courts and small craft launch. Take a short stroll past the fire pit to the private dock, which allows you to bring your boat and leave it right at your back door. There are also two kayaks and a paddleboard for your use during your stay.

Waterway Hideaway

(equipped with private dock on deep water ICW, canoes and kayaks)

Tucked back in the quiet community of Chadwick Shores, this home sits directly on the sound front with wonderful views of Topsail Island and the ICWW. Privacy, seclusion, plenty of space and direct access to the sound are just a few of the things you will find at Waterway Hideaway. Guests are welcome to use the canoes and kayak at the home. Have a boat? Bring it! This home is perfect for you. With its own private dock, you can fish until your heart’s content. A large raised deck at the end of the dock allows for sweeping views of the sound as well.


More About the NC Intracoastal Waterway…

Do you want to learn more more about an Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway adventure along the North Carolina Coast?


Have you had an Intracoastal Waterway adventure around Topsail Island? We want to hear about it! Our comment section is always open. 

Top 4 Reasons to Spend Labor Day on Topsail Island

Top 4 Reasons to Spend Labor Day on Topsail Island


Labor Day weekend is the (unofficial) final “hurrah” of summertime. School has started and schedules are full again, but we are given one last chance to kick back and relax with an extra day off. So why not spend Labor Day at the beach?


Here are our Top 4 Reasons to Spend Labor Day on Topsail Island:

Last Chance for a Summer Vacation Get-Away

1. Last Chance for a Summer Vacation Get-Away

This holiday provides most of us a three day long weekend. The last “time off” we get during the warm summer months before the colder air rolls through. Why not take one last trip to your favorite beach and soak up as much vitamin C (or Vitamin Sea, as we like to call it!) while you still can? Not sure where to visit? Learn about the three different towns that make up all of Topsail Island to decide which is best for your vacation.

Head to the Beach for Amazing Weather & Temps!

2. Head to the Beach for Amazing Weather & Temps!

Late August/Early September weather is a local’s favorite time of the year. Water is warm, air is comfortably hot with a breeze, and the sand has cooled off enough to walk around barefoot… Perfection.

Save Money with More Affordable Vacation Rental Prices

3. Save Money with More Affordable Vacation Rental Prices

Labor Day weekend means you are out of Peak Rental Season! Prices drop down to Mid Season rates and you no longer have the requirement for a full week stay. That means you pay less and only have to stay for the weekend (unless of course you plan to stay longer…you’ll end up wanting to!)Browse through our available vacation rental homes here.

Enjoy the Final Summer Events and Activities

4. Enjoy the Final Summer Events and Activities

From watching Movies in the Park to listening to the Sounds of Summer Concert Series to a fun round of Nighttime Golf at Castle Bay Country Club,  join in on the last of the local Summer events our area offers! Plus, fishing and boating are great this time of year too!


No matter which reason you choose, you will be sure to have a blast on Topsail Island during your long holiday weekend.


Tell us in the comments how you plan to spend your extra time off!

Top 4 Reasons to Spend Labor Day on Topsail Island

Perfectly Cool Treats You Need on a Hot Summer Day

Perfectly Cool Treats You Need on a Hot Summer Day

Hot summer days call for cool, refreshing treats to munch on wherever you may be—on the beach, in your Topsail beach rental, or on the go. Today we’ve rounded up some of the easiest and tastiest foods to munch on this summer whether you’re at home or on vacation. These recipes are sure to please and there’s something for everyone and every palate. Best of all, they can all be made right in your Topsail vacation rental kitchen. Here are our favorite cool summer snacks and the recipes you need to make them.

Cool Homemade Dips

Cool Homemade Dips

Skip the store-bought dips and opt for a more delicious—and more healthy— version of your favorites. These yummy dips are packed with nutrient-dense ingredients that are filling while being kind to your waistline.

Serve them with raw veggie sticks (carrot, celery and even broccoli and cauliflower all work well), or cut up a wholemeal tortilla/slice of flatbread into ‘chips’ and lightly toast under the broiler for 5 minutes for a healthy alternative to the potato and corn variety.

Take a peek at these 7 delicious low fat dips and whip up a few this summer.

Cool Cucumber Slice Sandwiches

Cool Cucumber Slice Sandwiches

There’s nothing like the crisp coolness of a fresh cucumber. And summertime always offers up an abundance of these tasty, healthy snacks whether you have them in your own garden, buy them at the local farmers’ market, or pick some up at the grocery store.

So how about a cool, crisp cucumber sandwich?

Who needs bread when you can use slices of cuke. Brilliant, really. These snack-sized sandwiches can be filled with your favorite lunch meat and cheese and are sure to be a family favorite. Just remember that if you plan to make these little darlings ahead of time, to keep all of the elements separate until you’re ready to eat them so they don’t get soggy. The crunch is very necessary!

You don’t really need a recipe for this one, but here’s more about how best to make and enjoy these Sliced Cucumber Sandwiches.

Personal Veggie & Dip Cups

Personal Veggie & Dip Cups

Veggies and dip are nothing new, but novelty is the key ingredient here. Instead of a huge platter of raw vegetables with a community bowl of dip, try something a little different—personalized veggie and dip cups.

Kid-friendly crudite means that your family will be getting their fill of fresh vegetables without the fuss. Choose their favorite dip and a few of their most loved veggies (and sneak in a few new or unfamiliar ones) and put it all in a small, single-serving size cup. You can be fancy and choose glass or keep it simple and choose to use disposable ones (which is obviously the best choice for a beach snack).

You just might be amazed at how much your kids eat all thanks to the novelty of how it’s presented to them. Parenting win!

You can read more about these Personal Veggie & Dip Cups and how to make your own quick dip here, too.

Pioneer Woman’s Frozen Fruit Cups

Pioneer Woman’s Frozen Fruit Cups

The Pioneer Woman never steers you wrong! So it’s not surprise that her take on fruit cups is an absolute crowd pleaser. Everyone loves fruit cups anyway, but go ahead and take them up to another level of coolness (literally and figuratively) by serving them frozen.

They make a perfectly cool snack, a healthy summertime dessert, and even a refreshing breakfast alternative that is boldly colorful and wildly fun to eat.

You can find the Pioneer Woman’s Frozen Fruit Cup Recipe right here.

Frozen Fruit

Frozen Fruit

You know what they say: the simplest things are often the best things in life. This simple snack is cold, crunchy, satisfying and healthy. All you really need is fruit and a freezer, so it doesn’t get much easier than that.  The fruit lasts longer this way, too, and makes a quick, portable snack for your beach days or any day you’re on the go.

The technique is pretty straightforward.

  • If you’re using grapes, just pull them off the vine. If you’re using watermelon, pineapple or any other larger sized fruit, cut them into bite sized pieces. If you’re using berries, well, you don’t have to do much of anything other than rinse them.
  • Pop them in a zip-top bag with enough space so the fruit can lay in a single layer.
  • Throw the bag in the freezer, flattening it out so the fruit doesn’t stick to each other in a clump.
  • Freeze for 2 hours, or more.

You’re welcome! We were reminded of how simply delicious and totally refreshing frozen fruit can be from this Frozen Grapes snack idea.

Minty Cucumber Water

Minty Cucumber Water

It’s summertime so that means you should be drinking a lot of water anyway to stay hydrated on these hot, sunny beach days. Instead of plain old water, though, we recommend that you flavor it up a bit and make it even more refreshing—and much more flavorful.

Minty Cucumber Water is just what you need to keep cool and hydrated all summer long. Finely slice a small cucumber and add to a large jug of iced water or sparkling water. Add 1/2 cup of finely chopped mint leaves. The delicate flavor of cucumber seeps in, offering a refreshing alternative to plain water.

Frozen Yogurt Drops

Frozen Yogurt Drops

Maybe you’re old enough to remember those candy dots that came on sheets of wax paper, or maybe you’re not. Either way, these yogurt drops are reminiscent of that classic favorite, but happen to be a lot healthier. They definitely make for a fun beach vacation snack.

The kids are going to love eating these—and can help you make them, too.

All you need to do for these Frozen Yogurt Drops is mix together a cup of your favorite Greek yogurt with 2 tbsp honey. Divide between 3 bowls and add a different food coloring to each. Pour into a zip lock bag and snip a corner off. Pipe little drops of yogurt onto a lined baking tray and freeze until firm. Store in zip locks bags and store in the freezer to nibble on as required. Easy, fabulous, kid-friendly and family-approved!

Yogurt and Granola Trifle

Yogurt and Granola Trifle

Is it a breakfast or is it a dessert? We’ll leave it up to you to decide! It can go either way in our opinion, and it also makes a perfectly acceptable after-beach snack to help you cool down after a hot day on the sand.

In a small trifle bowl (that’s recommended, but you can even do it in individual servings if you prefer) layer the fruit, granola and yogurt in two layers, starting with the fruit on the bottom then granola followed by yogurt. Chill for fifteen minutes or up to a few hours, and then serve.

You can make your own granola pretty easily or just buy some readymade for convenience. Either way, you’ll want to try this Yogurt and Granola Trifle Recipe this summer.

Frozen Candy Bars

Frozen Candy Bars

Sure you’ve eaten candy bars. Who hasn’t? But have you ever tried a frozen candy bar? Well, you should. It’s a satisfying summer treat that only requires you to buy your favorite candy bar and put it in the freezer. The result is a cold, crunchy snack that is a nice juxtaposition to the usual chewy satisfaction of a room-temperature candy bar.

So go ahead and try it and see how you like it. If you’re interested, there are opinions on which candy bars are better eaten frozen.

No-Bake Cookie Dough Pops

No-Bake Cookie Dough Pops

Cookie dough on a stick? Oh yeah! We’re in! You also had us at “no bake”.

These cookie dough pops are a fun and tasty no-bake summer snack. They’re perfect for a vacation treat, for parties and other special occasions—and they make a fabulous addition to kids’ lunch boxes. The cookie dough is made with no eggs, so it’s perfectly safe to eat.

The pictured cookie dough pops above were coated with milk chocolate, white chocolate, and peanut butter candy melt coatings. Use your favorite coating flavors and colors, or use almond bark. Decorate the pops with sprinkles, more mini chocolate chips, finely chopped nuts, or colored sugars. The options are endless, really.

The additional non-food items you’ll need are pretty minimal:

  • 18 to 20 lollipop sticks
  • 1 square or round piece of styrofoam (for drying the lollipops)
You can find the complete No-Bake Cookie Dough Pops Recipe here.

Frozen Lemonade Pie

Frozen Lemonade Pie

What’s better than summertime lemonade? Frozen lemonade pie, of course.

This simple summertime lemonade pie is made with a 3-ingredient filling (yes, only three!) and a graham cracker crust. This version is made with sweetened condensed milk, but you can also make it with ice cream.

All you need to do is beat together the lemonade and condensed milk, fold in whipped topping, spread the mixture in the graham cracker pie crust, then cover and freeze. Take the pie out of the freezer about 15 minutes before serving time and you’re good to go. Super yum!

You can find the Refreshing Frozen Lemonade Pie Recipe here.


So, who’s hungry? And what are you making first? We hope you enjoy these cool treats! Let us know your favorite. 

Perfectly Cool Treats You Need on a Hot Summer Day