Travel Destinations

Topsail Island, NC

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October 2021
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By
Richard
Kern

Located north of Wilmington and just south of the New River Inlet on North Carolina's scalloped southern coast, Topsail Island remains a well-kept secret among locals. You can't blame them. This kind of laid-back charm is hard to come by, with many nearby beaches awash in tourists and traffic.[caption id="attachment_324119" align="alignright" width="300"]

Couple on Topsail Beach - destination - marinalife

Couple on Topsail Beach | Onslow County Tourism[/caption]Part of the reason Topsail has avoided the fate of busy neighboring islands is that tourists and developers didn't have access to it until the late 1940s when the U.S. government and military moved out.Prior to World War II, you could only reach Topsail Island by boat, and even if you did you'd only find a few beach shacks and fishing camps. At the beginning of the war, the U.S. Army built Camp Davis at Holly Ridge on the mainland and took possession of the 26-mile island to use as a training area, erecting facilities and buildings in what is now Surf City. Soon Topsail Island was home to several anti-aircraft batteries, and its population mushroomed. In 1940, Holly Ridge had 28 residents; just three years later that figure grew to 110,000.[caption id="attachment_324120" align="alignleft" width="406"]

People Kayaking - destination - marinalife

People Kayaking | Onslow County Tourism[/caption]After the war, the U.S. Navy moved in and established the U.S. Naval Ordnance Test Facilities at Topsail Island for its top-secret Operation Bumblebee project developing ramjet missiles. The program only lasted about a year and a half before the facility was shut down. However, it did bring a few key improvements: a bridge from the mainland, new roads, a dredged waterway and fresh water piped onto the island.Today you'll find scant evidence of that storied past: the former missile assembly building at Channel Blvd. and Flake Ave. now houses a museum, the missile launch pad is used as a patio for Jolly Roger Oceanfront Inn and a few concrete missile tracking towers are still scattered around the island.In addition to endless stretches of beach and maritime forests, Topsail Island is home to three seaside towns: North Topsail Beach, Surf City and Topsail Beach. Of the three, Surf City is the largest, with a permanent population of about 3,500.[caption id="attachment_324121" align="alignright" width="300"]

Surf Fishermen - destination - marinalife

Surf Fishermen | Needpix.com[/caption]Here you find the Karen Beasley Sea Turtle Rescue & Rehabilitation Center, a focal point of the island's conservation efforts to protect and oversee the hatching of loggerhead sea turtle eggs. Visitors are always welcome.Other popular activities include strolling the Surf City Ocean Pier, taking a spin at Topsail Beach Roller Skating Rink (above the post office), picnicking at Town Park in North Topsail Beach, kayaking in the Sound and Banks Channel, enjoying spectacular sunsets at Serenity Point, chowing down on fresh seafood, or just hanging out on Topsail's miles of breathtaking beach. Whatever you choose to do, the island's small-town vibe and endless sands are a balm for the soul.

WHERE TO DOCK

Topsail Island Marina844-486-7724Located two blocks from the beach in the heart of Surf City, this family-owned marina has 15 slips, a floating dock and an 80-foot fuel dock, as well as showers, laundry, pump out and more.Harbour Village Marina910-270-4017Located in Hampstead, on the mainland side of the ICW just opposite Topsail, HVM has 192 slips for vessels up to 110 feet, fuel, pump out, showers, grills, electric hook ups and free Wi-Fi.New River Marina910-327-2106Just off the northern tip of Topsail Island in Sneads Ferry, New River Marina offers 13 slips, as well as a fuel dock, restrooms, a ship's store and Internet access.

WHERE TO DINE

Beach Bums Grill & Bar910-328-1044It's the place to go in North Topsail to Eat, Drink and Have Some Fun! Eat: po' boys, wings, shrimp tacos, seafood baskets and sandwiches. Drink: more than 30 beers or try a Bummy Mary or Frozen Pineapple Bumarita. Fun: pool table, live entertainment.Beach Shop & Grill910-328-6501What began as a soda shop in 1952 has grown into a rustic, Lowcountry bistro at the south end of Topsail Island. Southern and local favorites such as crab cakes, shrimp and grits, pork chops and Krispy Kreme bread pudding are paired with an extensive wine list.Cora's Isle-End Deli910-541-2007This Topsail Beach favorite, named after the establishment's resident greyhound, serves salads, wraps and sandwiches everything from grilled pastrami and Swiss to a shrimp and sausage po' boy.Low Tide Steakhouse & Sandbar910-803-0738Looking for turf after all that surf? Low Tide's got you covered with a New York strip, bone-in pork chop brined in sweet tea or a 24-oz. ribeye. Like a cocktail first? Visit the Sandbar with more than 40 bourbons.Shaka Taco910-616-3118Just a block from the beach in Surf City, Shaka Taco prides itself on freshness. Order at the window and enjoy your tacos, nachos and quesadillas on the deck, patio or beach. Also available: Mexican lagers, seasonal beers, wine and cider.Splash by the Sea910-328-3044Located inside the Villa Capriani resort in North Topsail, this casual American eatery serves seafood and grilled fare, salads, pizzas and shareable plates with an oceanfront view. Check out the crab bisque, tuna nachos or the Splash Steam Pot, their must-try version of a Lowcountry boil.

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Camden, Maine
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True boaters say the real Maine coast doesn’t start until you reach Penobscot Bay. This is “Down East” from Kennebunkport and Portland. The dramatic stretch of coastline from Camden to Mount Desert Island sparkles with granite shores, dotted with archipelagos of pine-tree covered islands and mountains cascading into the sea. This region offers some of the best cruising ground in the world.

Camden is a magical little seaside town in the heart of Maine’s mid-coast. It’s historic but hip. “Where the Mountains Meet the Sea” is their moniker, as Camden Hills and 780-foot Mount Battie stretch down toward the bustling waterfront where this 1769 New England village sits, creating a postcard scene.

Camden is super foot-traffic friendly, starting at Harbor Park and the beautiful brick Public Library that graces the top of the bay by the Town Docks. Enjoy a picnic on the sprawling park lawn; there’s often a craft festival or free concert at the outdoor amphitheater. From the waterfront, stroll the quaint sidewalks leading to cafés, boutiques, craft stores and art galleries, pubs, and surprisingly trendy restaurants.

You can hike, bike or drive the toll road up Mount Battie in Camden Hill State Park, which encompasses 5,500 acres and 30 miles of trails. Your reward is spectacular panoramic views of the harbor and Penobscot Bay below.

Eaton Point, at the eastern entrance to the harbor, is home to a new Lyman-Morse yacht facility. Camden remains a working harbor with lobster fishermen, boat builders, ferries and tall-masted schooners taking folks out for scenic sails.

Camden hosts festivals throughout the summer season of jazz, film and its trademark Windjammers. In winter, the U.S. National Tobogganing Champion-ships are held at Camden’s namesake Snow Bowl – our country’s only ski area with views of the Atlantic.

Camden is an ideal boater’s gateway with all the services and shops you need in walking distance from the waterfront. Excursions from this protected harbor are countless and legendary. A quick cruise brings you to quiet Lasell Island for a sunset anchorage. Farther on you reach Maine’s Maritime Academy home in beautiful Castine, and the rustic islands of North Haven, Vinalhaven and Deer Isle. Ultimately you can cruise north and east through beautiful Merchants Row, or the more protected Eggemoggin Reach, to Mount Desert Island, home to famed Acadia National Park, Northeast, Southwest and Bar Harbors.

WHERE TO DOCK

Camden Public Landing
Town Docks
207-691-4314

Contact the harbormaster for overnight slips, limited but in town, and moorings throughout the harbor.

Lyman-Morse at
Wayfarer Marine
207-236-7108

Across the harbor on Camden’s east shores, this revamped marina is a half-mile walk to town, with new docks and a marina facility, home of Lyman-Morse Boatyard and 30 slips plus moorings.

WHERE TO DINE

40 Paper
207-230-0111

Relish artful cuisine locally sourced from farmers, fishermen and “foragers.” In an historic wool mill in downtown Camden, it’s comfy but chic. Savor octopus, lamb, mussels, salmon and more with fresh produce and creative sides. Save room for dessert made from scratch.

Peter Otts on the Water
207-236-4032

Get your chowder and Maine lobster fix from Chef Peter. This classic setting overlooking the harbor is a Camden staple you “ott” not miss. Open for lunch or dinner.

Franny’s Bistro
207-230-8199

With a neighborhood feel, Franny’s serves up lobster fritters, crab cakes, shrimp dumplings and land-lubber faves, too. A fun menu in a cozy setting.

Bagel Café
207-236–2661

For fresh-brewed morning coffee and daily “boiled then baked” bagels or breakfast sammies served all day.

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Jamestown, Rhode Island
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Located on Conanicut Island, Gould Island and Dutch Island, Jamestown welcomes boaters to Narragansett Bay.  Its southernmost point is on Gould Island and marked by Beavertail Lighthouse and State Park. The northernmost point is marked by Conanicut Island Lighthouse.  While Conanicut Island is the second largest island on Narragansett Bay, it is near the western mainland in Kingston, and Newport lies to the east on Aquidneck Island.  Hop on the Jamestown Newport Ferry to get the lay of the land and sea.

Jamestown was settled early in colonial history and was named for James, Duke of York, who became King James II in 1685.  By 1710, many of Jamestown’s current roads were already in place and a lot of its early architecture is well preserved. Soak up some local history at the Jamestown Fire Memorial Museum, Beavertail Lighthouse Museum and Park, Jamestown Windmill, Watson Farm, Conanicut Island Sanctuary, Fort Wetherill State Park, and the Jamestown Settlement museum.

The main town, shops and restaurants are located on the eastern shore of Conanicut Island.  But even from the western side, Dutch Harbor and other attractions are easily accessed with a one-mile walk.

WHERE TO DOCK

Conanicut Marina
401-423-5820

This full-service marina has a ships store/chandlery, gift shop, extensive dockage and a large mooring field.  It’s located in the heart of town overlooking Newport and the Pell Bridge, but bring your fishing poles for the kids.

Dutch Harbor Boat Yard
401-423-0630

Located on the west passage of Narragansett Bay, this small, local marina has good moorings, launch service and facilities.  At times, the harbor can be rolly from a SW wind up the West Passage.  The holding ground is excellent for anchoring, but the dinghy dock is by seasonal permit only.

Safe Harbor Jamestown Boatyard
401-423-0600

Jamestown Boatyard is renowned for excellent workmanship on all types of boats.  It also has a large mooring field and is in a beautiful location on the East Passage.

WHERE TO DINE

Slice of Heaven
401-423-9866

This family-owned café and bakery with an outdoor patio is an ideal spot for breakfast and lunch, especially if you’re looking for tasty gluten-free and vegetarian options.

J22 Tap & Table
401-423-3709

This lively, year-round restaurant specializes in classic American cuisine and local seafood dishes such as New England clam chowder, lobster tail and seared yellowfin tuna while accommodating meat eaters with wings, burgers and steak tacos.

Village Hearth Bakery & Café
401-423-9282

Take a seat inside this rustic eatery or outside on the patio to enjoy wood-fired bread, pizzas and pastries with a cool beer or wine.  To start your day with a smile, order a cup of the eco-friendly coffee.

Bay Voyage Restaurant
401-560-7979

Inside the Wyndham Bay Voyage Inn, this casual dining establishment presents a seasonal menu of American cuisine standards and seafood with fresh ingredients and a stellar view of Narragansett Bay.

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Explore the Spirited Lakefront of Burlington, VT
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A vibrant, compact city hugging the eastern shoreline of Lake Champlain, Burlington abounds in scenic beauty, four-season recreation, a college town vibe, arts and culture, and a quirky character all its own.

Burlington - destinations - marinalife
Burlington Church Street | Michelle Raponi on Pixabay

Eclectic shops named Anjou & the Little Pear or Common Deer, and restaurants called Zabby & Elf 's Stone Soup or The Skinny Pancake dot the urban landscape. A local artist's satirical comment on the bureaucracy of urban planning called File Under So. Co., Waiting for..., consists of 38 filing cabinets welded together to a 40-foot height. Birds frequently nest in the upper chambers.

History buffs stroll through the Ethan Allen Homestead Museum or the Fleming Museum of Art's multi-era artifact collection while hikers trek the 12.5-mile path at Burlington Waterfront Park, which offers bicycle, rollerblade and kayak rentals. In season, the path connects to the Lake Champlain Islands via bike ferry.

burlington - destinations - marinalife
Burlington Bike Path | Michelle Raponi on Pixabay

Since the 1800s, the Old North End has been the city's melting pot, and global cuisine from Nepalese dumplings to the African Market can be found here today. Between munches, stroll over to historic Elmwood Cemetery, whose residents include Revolutionary War soldiers. Hear their stories and perhaps have a chance encounter with a local spirit on a Queen City Ghostwalk Tour. Liquid spirits rule when the internationally famous, regionally beloved and hidden gem breweries line up for the annual Vermont Brewers Festival. Year round, enjoy homemade bratwurst and drafts at Zero Gravity Craft Beer. At acclaimed Foam Brewers, the patio faces Lake Champlain waterfront and the Adirondack Mountains. Hop on the Sip of Burlington Brew Tour for a dozen tastings and the sights of this dynamic, energetic city.

Where to Dock

Burlington Community Boathouse Marina

802-865-3377

This full-service marina is the centerpiece of a growing waterfront. Amenities include 105 slips up to 65 feet, Splash Café and a fantastic sunset over the Adirondacks.

Burlington Harbor Marina

802-540-6869

With 160 slips (60 transient slips up to 80 feet), this new marina's tranquil harbor setting is convenient to downtown amenities and recreational activities.

Where to Dine

Honey Road

802-497-2145

Savor sophisticated Mediterranean small plates, cocktails and creative desserts in a comfy tavern setting.

burlington - destinations - marinalife
Burlington Church Street | Needpix

The Farmhouse Tap & Grill

802-859-0888

This farm-to-table gastropub dishes up local burgers, charcuterie and innovative specials. Sip on local brews in the beer garden.

RíRá

802-860-9401

According to Irish playwright Brendan Behan, The most important things to do in the world are to get something to eat, something to drink and somebody to love you. RíRá fuses classic Irish with pub grub to satisfy the first two.

Leunig's Bistro & Café

802-863-3759

Step inside the lush garden courtyard to watch fresh local fruit, vegetables, meat and seafood transform into classic French dishes. Come enjoy a romantic evening meal.

Hen of the Wood

802-540-0534

Enjoy a true Vermont dining experience in a romantic, rustic atmosphere adjacent to the Hotel Vermont.

Read More

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