Local folklore tells the story that the name, Topsail (pronounced Tops’l), originated during the 1700s when pirate ships roamed the coastal waters. It was said that pirates hid their ships in the channel behind the island and waited for passing merchant ships loaded with goods. The pirates would attack the merchants and take the cargo. The merchants soon figured out where they were hiding and began to watch the tops of the pirate's sails showing over the dunes-hence the name Topsail Island. During World War II, the Navy took over the island and began a joint venture with Johns Hopkins University that was known as Operation Bumblebee. The waterway was dredged, roads were built and freshwater was piped onto the island. Operation Bumblebee was the beginning of the space program for the US Government. An arsenal center for the assembly and storage of rockets was built on the sound side of the island and launching pads were constructed on the oceanfront. The town of Topsail Beach was incorporated in 1963 and there are still original military structures there. In fact, some of the concrete observation towers have been converted into private residences and places of business. Of course, there are also many new homes on the island ranging in size from small bungalows to several story high homes, some on the ocean side, and some on the sound. Many of the homes that are not waterfront are water view. This area is a very popular beach to visit or live in. There are many amenities available and plenty of things to do and see. It is a 26-mile long barrier island, with Topsail Beach being the smallest of the three communities located there. North Topsail Beach occupies the northernmost section and Surf City is the largest town and is right in the center. Topsail Island does have a marina so it is easy to access the water and there is a fishing pier. The schools for this island are Topsail Elementary, Topsail Middle, and Topsail High (confirm before purchasing).
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