Are you planning a vacation in the beautiful Topsail, North Carolina region? Many visitors to the area look to secure a private vacation rental property as opposed to staying at traditional hotels.
The charming communities of Hampstead, Surf City, Topsail Beach, North Topsail Beach, Holly Ridge and Sneads Ferry each offer a wide range of rental options for any group size and purpose of visit. Whether you’re looking for a cozy beachfront cottage for a romantic getaway, or a spacious home for a family reunion, local property owners are bound to have something to suit your needs.
With rental availability filling up quickly, now is always the time to start planning your Topsail vacation. From luxurious oceanfront properties to budget-friendly options, there’s something for everyone’s needs and budgets. And, with so many activities and local attractions in the area, you’ll never run out of things to do. Take a stroll on the beach, enjoy a round of golf, or explore the local seafood scene.
For those familiar with Topsail Island, you know what to expect when you vacation here. For those who haven’t witnessed the breathtaking beauty of the 26-mile-long barrier island on North Carolina’s Eastern shores, read on and consider what the area has to offer.
Understanding Topsail Island
While North Carolina’s Outer Banks is well known across the country, Topsail Island is another barrier island located a few hours to the south. At 26 miles in length, Topsail Island is comprised of three communities listed from North to South: North Topsail Beach, Surf City, and Topsail Beach.
While quite long, the island itself is very thin – ranging from 500 to 1,500 feet wide in various areas. With the Atlantic Ocean to the East, the island’s Western shores are made of the Intracoastal Waterway or ICWW.
This is an important consideration when reviewing Topsail Island rentals, since “waterfront” means something entirely different than “oceanfront.”
Vacation Rental Locations
Waterfront Vacation Rentals
Waterfront rental properties in the Topsail, North Carolina region that are adjacent to the Intracoastal Waterway offer a unique blend of serenity and adventure. These properties typically provide easy access to boating, fishing, and other water-based activities, and often feature private docks or boat ramps. Additionally, you’ll enjoy peaceful and beautiful views of the Intracoastal Waterway and its surrounding marshes and wetlands. It’s a perfect spot for those who love to explore the waterways, fishing, boating and kayaking.
Waterfront properties on the Western shore of the island have plenty to offer, especially if you’re looking for a little less commotion and ready access for boating and water sports. Each of the three communities on the island has neighborhoods with canals and boat launches meaning that if you’re here for a short time and renting, it’s entirely possible to trailer your boat a couple of minutes away or walk out to a canal-side dock adjacent to your rental property.
Oceanfront Vacation Rentals
On the other hand, oceanfront rental properties that are adjacent to the Atlantic Ocean offer the ultimate beachfront living. These properties typically provide direct access to the sand and surf and feature breathtaking views of the ocean. They’re perfect for those looking to spend most of their time on the beach, soaking up the sun, swimming, and relaxing. You’ll have easy access to the beach, close proximity to beach activities, and the sound and sights of the ocean can be enjoyed from the comfort of your own property.
Both waterfront and oceanfront properties in Topsail offer unique and valuable experiences. It really depends on what you’re looking for in your vacation. If you love the ocean and beach activities, oceanfront properties would be the best fit for you. And if you love water-based activities and beautiful views of the waterways, waterfront properties would be the right choice.
While you won’t have the ability to launch a boat from oceanfront property on Topsail Island, beach access is readily available. Most rentals have private decks and boardwalks over the island’s sand dunes for immediate access, or at the very least – paths that will lead you from door to shore.
Inland Vacation Rentals
Wedged in between those waterfront and oceanfront properties are some real hidden gems you may not want to miss. Many of the homes that do not offer direct water access have breathtaking views of the sunrise over the Atlantic to the East as well as sunsets over the Intracoastal to the West. And, since most of the road travel occurs down the single primary route of Highway 210 on the island’s northern end (which becomes Route 50 on the southern end) you can expect relative quiet and walks meandering through the quaint neighborhoods throughout the island.
The Topsail Vacation Rental Experience
Renting a vacation property can be a great way to experience Topsail Island, but there are some important considerations that vacationers should make in order to ensure that their rental experience is a good one.
Here are some things that vacationers should consider when planning their trip:
- Property amenities: Vacationers should make sure that the rental property has the amenities that they need, such as a fully equipped kitchen, air conditioning, and internet access. If the property does not have certain amenities that are important to you, you may need to bring or purchase those items once you have checked in.
- Bed linens and towels: Many vacation rental properties do not provide bed linens and towels, so vacationers should plan to bring or rent these items.
- Cleaning and maintenance: Vacationers should be aware that they will be responsible for cleaning and maintaining the property during their stay. This includes things like taking out the trash, doing the dishes and keeping the property clean.
- Check-in and check-out times: Vacationers should be aware of the check-in and check-out times for the property, and plan their travel accordingly.
- Location: Consider the location of the property, and what activities and attractions you would like to be close to during your stay.
- Property rules: Be sure to review the property’s rules and regulations, such as those related to noise and parking, to ensure you comply with them.
- Insurance: Travel insurance is always a good idea, but it’s especially important when you’re renting a vacation property. This can provide protection in case of accidents or damage to the property.
By considering these factors and planning accordingly, vacationers can make the most of their rental experience and enjoy a great trip to Topsail Island.
Topsail Rental Agencies
Unless you have visited previously and know the property owners that you want to rent from, chances are that you’ll want to browse available rentals from one of the many agencies that manage properties on the island. While there are a handful of “for rent by owner” properties on the island, we’re assuming that, since you’re here, you’d prefer to do some scouting online first before booking your vacation rental.
Please note: We are not affiliated with any rental agency or property group. The information provided below has been compiled directly by the Topsail Guide publishers and is current as of January 17, 2023.
With more than 2,100 available properties across 8 rental property groups, there’s plenty to research. To help get you started, here is a list of agencies and inventory available as of January 2023. We’re listing these based on the number of properties each agency has listed on their site (from most to least) along with our thoughts and observations on each.
FlipKey from TripAdvisor
View Website – 639 Rental Properties
FlipKey Rentals for Topsail Vacations
- Wide variety of Topsail Island properties: FlipKey offers a wide variety of vacation rental properties on Topsail Island, including oceanfront and waterfront options. This makes it easy to find a property that suits your needs and preferences.
- User reviews: FlipKey’s user review system allows renters to read about the experiences of previous guests who have stayed in properties on Topsail Island. This can be helpful in finding properties that are well-maintained and have amenities that align with your needs.
- Secure online booking: FlipKey’s secure online booking process allows renters to book properties with confidence, knowing that their personal information is protected.
- Limited contact with property owner: Renters may have limited contact with the property owner when booking through FlipKey, which can make it more difficult to ask questions or make special requests about Topsail Island properties.
- Service fees: FlipKey charges a service fee to renters, which can add to the overall cost of renting a property on Topsail Island.
- Limited control over rental terms: FlipKey’s rental terms are set by the property owner, so renters may have limited control over things like check-in and check-out times, cancellation policies, and other details specific to Topsail Island properties.
It’s worth noting that while FlipKey can be a useful tool for finding and booking a vacation property on Topsail Island, it’s always a good idea to do your own research and consider different options to find the best rental property and terms for your needs.
Topsail Guide Opinion
On one hand, if you’re renting through FlipKey, which is part of the TripAdvisor network, you’re likely to gain access to stronger support during the booking and payment process for your rental. While we don’t have any first-hand experience renting with FlipKey, they have by far the largest overall volume of rentals on the island.
Online rental searches through FlipKey provide robust filtering options based on price, date, location, a number of bedrooms, and dozens of amenities. It appears property owners can list their rentals directly to FlipKey which is likely why there are so many listings to sort through. Unfortunately, since no two property owners are the same, we’ve noticed some inconsistencies in terms of what you will find on the property detail pages. Some have fuzzy or out-of-date photos and others appear to have descriptions that are either equally dated, or, little to no valuable information at all.
Finally, we’d note that while we would expect there to be strong support from FlipKey throughout the booking process, it’s unlikely that they’ll have access to local management resources or responsiveness should something not be up to your expectations.
View Website – 488 Rental Properties
Treasure Realty Rentals for Topsail Vacations
Treasure Realty is a vacation rental agency based in Surf City, North Carolina. They specialize in providing rental properties on Topsail Island and the surrounding area, including a large number of oceanfront and waterfront options.
Vacation rental agencies like Treasure Realty typically have a strong knowledge of the properties and the local area, and can often provide helpful advice and recommendations to potential renters.
- Local expertise: Treasure Realty is based on Topsail Island, so they have a strong knowledge of the local area and can provide valuable information and recommendations to renters.
- Personalized service: By working with a rental agency like Treasure Realty, renters can often receive more personalized service and attention than they would when booking through a larger vacation rental website.
- Wide range of properties: Treasure Realty offers a wide range of properties throughout the Topsail area, making it easy to find something that fits your needs and preferences.
- Limited selection: While Treasure Realty may have a wide range of properties, they are limited to their own inventory, so renters may not have access to as many properties as they would when searching through a larger vacation rental website.
- Service fees: Rental agencies like Treasure Realty may charge service fees, which can add to the overall cost of renting a property.
- Limited control over rental terms: Treasure Realty’s rental terms are set by the property owner, so renters may have limited control over things like check-in and check-out times, cancellation policies, and other details.
It’s important to keep in mind that each vacation rental agency has its own policies, procedures, and inventory, so it’s a good idea to do your own research and compare different options before making a decision.
Topsail Guide Opinion
In terms of local agencies, Treasure Realty has an impressive number of rentals available. We’ve also seen them advertising locally for years in the greater Topsail area, and their unique signs are eye-catching and difficult to forget.
While we don’t have any firsthand rental experience with Treasure Realty, we discovered less-than-stellar reviews of their agency on more reputable websites including an average of 1.5 of 5 Stars on Yelp with 55 reviews and a particularly scathing review on TripAdvisor.
With that said, we’ve spoken to many folks who have had amazing experiences with Treasure Realty. We also like that they have two office locations near the island, which suggests that if you need help booking a rental – or fixing a problem with a rental you’ve already secured – you’ll have a more hands-on approach and local knowledge working to your benefit.
View Website – 285 Rental Properties
Ward Realty Rentals for Topsail Vacations
Ward Realty is another vacation rental agency also based out of Surf City, North Carolina. Ward Realty specializes in providing rental properties on Topsail Island, including oceanfront and waterfront options – but also has some inventory in the area for properties that are not located on the island itself.
In our experience, Ward Realty has a strong reputation and its signs are visibility listed on many of the rental properties visible while driving around the island. With a rich history and experience in serving Topsail vacationers, the staff at Ward Realty can often provide helpful advice and recommendations to potential renters prior to booking.
Here are some potential pros and cons of using Ward Realty for finding a vacation rental property in the Topsail area:
- Local knowledge: Ward Realty is based on Topsail Island, so they have a strong understanding of the local area and can offer valuable information and recommendations to renters.
- Customized service: Working with a rental agency like Ward Realty, renters can often receive more personalized service and attention than they would when booking through a larger vacation rental website.
- Wide variety of properties: Ward Realty offers a wide range of properties on Topsail Island, making it easy to find something that fits your needs and preferences.
- Limited selection: Ward Realty may have a wide range of properties, but they are limited to their own inventory, so renters may not have access to as many properties as they would when searching through a larger vacation rental website.
- Additional costs: Rental agencies like Ward Realty may charge service fees, which can add to the overall cost of renting a property.
- Limited control over rental terms: Ward Realty’s rental terms are set by the agency, so renters may have limited control over things like check-in and check-out times, cancellation policies, and other details.
Again – it’s important to keep in mind that each vacation rental agency has its own policies, procedures, and inventory, so it’s a good idea to do your own research and compare different options before making a decision.
Topsail Guide Opinion
We were surprised that Ward Realty’s site only shows 285 properties because, in our time living in the area, we see their little red-and-white signs everywhere.
Friends and family of ours have also rented through Ward Realty, and so far, we haven’t heard of a single complaint.
Ward Realty also maintains a large office immediately adjacent to the Surf City Bridge on the island side. During busier summer months, traffic exiting the island can back up quite a bit, so if you’re renting through Ward Realty, there’s an advantage to having island-side support from a locally managed property group.
Over on their website, you can expect to find plenty of search features to help you navigate their nearly 300 different properties available for rent… and if you’re interested in a permanent home on the island, Ward Realty may be able to help you there, too – as they also serve as a sales agent for several properties on the island, too.
View Website – 277 Rental Properties
Topsail Guide Opinion: Despite having lived in the area for several years, Carolina Retreats wasn’t as well known to our family when we began researching local rental options for Topsail Guide. One reason this may be the case is that Carolina Retreats not only represents properties on Topsail Island but also other beachfront locations in the greater Wilmington area including Carolina Beach, Kure Beach, Oak Island, and Wrightsville Beach. When it comes to Topsail area rentals, Carolina Retreats appears to go by another name: Topsail Realty.
With plenty of properties available to review though, we found the Carolina Retreats website to be easy to use so long as you select “Topsail Island” as your featured destination from their homepage. Otherwise, navigating properties by name can quickly become confusing.
Carolina Retreats has earned strong results on Google from reviewers though amassing more than 160 reviews with an average rating of 4.7 out of 5 stars. Based on our time using their website, we found that they seem to have the most inventory on Topsail Island’s southern end, with most properties being located in the town of Topsail Beach.
View Website – 66 Rental Properties
Despite having a noticeably smaller amount of rental inventory, Access Realty is a familiar name for us. Earning strong reviews on Google and third-party review sites, Access Realty features rental accommodations as well as homes for sale in the same way that Ward Realty does. Their site is very clean and professional looking – and while that isn’t necessarily a reflection of their business, we enjoyed using their site more than others since you can easily spend hours clicking through possible options for your vacation.
As pet owners, we also appreciated that Access Realty prominently mentions their pet policies (which vary by property) immediately on their homepage, with callouts to local grooming, dog park, boarding, and veterinarian services. Their commitment to vacationers doesn’t stop with pets, either. One of the highlights of their site is an excellent “Things to Do” resource page which includes everything from local restaurants, grocery stores, nightlife, shopping, child care, watersports rentals, and more.
Sea Coast Rentals
View Website – 53 Rental Properties
Much like Carolina Retreats, Sea Coast Rentals appears to serve more than just the Topsail Island area for rental accommodations.
Their site is a little more difficult to navigate in places as we found it to be rather busy and cluttered. One of the more awkward issues there is that within their site’s navigational menus, there are different results for “Surf City” and “Topsail Island,” despite the fact that all of their Surf City listings are actually on Topsail Island.
Overlooking that, their property listings pages are very detailed overall with lots of clarity on what is and what is not included on an individual rental basis.
Island Real Estate by Cathy Medlin
View Website – 51 Rental Properties
Rounding out our list of Topsail Island rental agencies to consider using is Island Real Estate by Cathy Medlin. While the Island Real Estate website isn’t as appealing to the eye as some others on this list, there are plenty of easy-to-navigate options ranging from sorting short-term rentals to long-term rentals, sales, and local resources. We also found it helpful to have rental agreements immediately available on the site prior to entering the booking process – which is always helpful in terms of providing peace of mind when you’ve made a decision on where to stay while on the island.
What to Expect on Your Topsail Island Vacation
Here at Topsail Guide, we’re a family with plenty of kids in the house – and we were drawn to relocate to the area because of the approachable and relatively quiet nature of the island, even during busier summer months. When we sat down to write this content we enjoyed a laugh as we found quite a few reviews of the area as “boring” and without any nightlife.
To that point, you should know (before you stay or book), that if you’re looking for late nights, clubs and wild times – Topsail Island may not be your ideal destination. The area itself is relatively quiet in that way.
If you’re looking for endless beaches to relax, soak in the sun and slow down a bit while enjoying time spent with the friends and family you went on vacation with (or meet while you’re here), Topsail Island has plenty to offer. There are plenty of local dining options from casual to upscale, and finding souvenirs or buying up last-minute beach necessities is incredibly easy throughout the area. From boating, fishing, surfing, and exploring – Topsail Island has plenty to offer!
Topsail Beach Rentals - Frequently Asked Questions
Where can I find vacation rentals on Topsail Island?
Vacation rentals are abundant on Topsail Island and throughout the greater Topsail area. While VRBO, Airbnb and FlipKey (from TripAdvisor) are good sources, local real estate management properties are recommended as they provide local management offices, assistance when you need them, etc. Reputable options based on our research include Treasure Realty, Ward Realty, Carolina Retreats, Access Realty, Sea Coast Rentals, and Island Real Estate by Cathy Medlin.
Are there pet friendly Topsail Island rentals?
Yes! Most the sites linked to from this guide include filtering options when you're researching available properties that include filters for properties that are pet friendly. While the filtering helps identify available results for your dates, we strongly encourage that you read rental agreements and even listing descriptions in their entirety as there are often surcharges or deposits associated with pets staying at rental properties, often for increased cleaning costs or to help cover potential damages. Several listings that are "pet friendly"may also have breed restrictions as well, so it's worth reading those details carefully.
Are Topsail Beach rentals and Topsail Island rentals the same?
No, they are not. Topsail Island itself is a region inclusive of three distinct communities: The Town of Topsail Beach, The Town of Surf City and The Town of North Topsail Beach. Topsail Beach, when used as the city or township in a particular listing, refers to the southern end of Topsail Island.
What is the check-in and check-out time for the property?
Check-in and check-out times vary depending on the property, so vacationers should check with the property owner or rental agency for specific times. Typically, check-in is around 4:00 PM and check-out is around 10:00 AM.
Are bed linens and towels provided?
This varies depending on the property, so vacationers should check with the property owner or rental agency. Some properties provide linens and towels, while others do not. We encourage you to ask at the time of booking so that you can pack accordingly and are not surprised.
Is there a minimum stay requirement?
This varies depending on the property and the time of year, so vacationers should check with the property owner or rental agency. Some properties have a minimum stay requirement, while others do not.
Are there any restrictions on smoking or pets?
Restrictions vary depending on the property, so vacationers should check with the property owner or rental agency. Some properties have restrictions on smoking or pets, while others do not.
What is the cancellation policy?
Cancellation policies vary depending on the property and the time of year, so vacationers should check with the property owner or rental agency for specific cancellation policies.
What is the maximum occupancy for the property?
The maximum occupancy for a property varies depending on the property, so vacationers should check with the property owner or rental agency for specific numbers. Many online booking and reservation sites, including those managed by local realty offices include this information in the property profile.
How do I obtain the key or access code for the property?
Instructions for obtaining the key or access code for a rental property will be provided by the property owner or rental agency in advance of your visit.
Are there any discounts for long term rentals?
Some properties offer discounts for long-term rentals, so vacationers should check with the property owner or rental agency for specific information.