Great news! Summer’s still in full swing here in Onslow County and we have tons of ways to keep your kids entertained. Whether you’re visiting for a day or a week, you’ll want to include these local attractions on your bucket list. With our beautiful uncrowded beaches at North Topsail and Topsail Island, there’s no shortage of things to do on the beach. Pack up your umbrella and head to the water or spend a day walking along the shore as you hunt for sea glass and shells. You might even find shark’s teeth!
Parking is $25 per day, but there are free parking options available at our public beach accesses. If you’re staying for a longer time, beach rentals of all sizes are available on the waterfront and all over the island.
Just outside Surf City, animal lovers can enjoy the Karen Beasley Sea Turtle Rescue and Rehabilitation Center, where local volunteers and vet students rehabilitate sea turtles. The center offers tours throughout the week where you can learn more about their rehabilitation efforts and the sea turtle life cycle. General admission cost is $7, and tickets can be purchased in advance at seaturtlehospital.com. If you’re more interested in our critters on land, plan a visit for the Onslow County Environmental Education Center, about 15 minutes from the island. You’ll learn about animals’ native to Onslow County and the kids can get a photo with a preserved 12-foot alligator!
After a quiet day on the beach, swing by one of our local restaurants on Topsail Island or in Sneads Ferry. Get your hands on some traditional North Carolina BBQ at Smoky Tony’s, or drive to the Crooked Lotus to experience an upscale coastal tap room. North Topsail Beach offers some flavorful options like She Crab Soup at Ocean’s Edge Restaurant or classic burgers at Beach Bum’s Bar and Grill.
Did you bring your golf clubs with you? You can enjoy a day of golf just minutes from the beach at North Shore Country Club or take a drive and visit Rock Creek Golf course in Jacksonville. To practice your drive or playing a little mini golf, Swinging Things is the place to go. Located about 20 minutes outside Jacksonville, you’ll enjoy hours of fun at the large course, complete with a pavilion and batting cages.
If the forecast calls for rain, Onslow is home to countless family- friendly activities on the mainland. In Jacksonville, the kiddos can jump the day away indoors at Altitude Trampoline Park. This indoor trampoline park lets you bounce from each attraction and land into their cushy foam pits. Or challenge the whole family to a game of dodgeball. It’s up to you! Experience a little art by creating beautiful memories with a hand-painted pottery piece at The Accidental Artist on Gum Branch Road. Next door, you can top off your afternoon with a mega-shake at Yo’brez dessert bar for a sweet afternoon snack – they offer freakshakes (milkshakes decked out with toppings and snacks) specialty cones, dairy free ice cream and more.
If your little ones are big swimmers but tired of the sand, you can splash around in your hotel’s pool for an afternoon of fun. There’re also several free splash pads in the area – from Swansboro to Richlands. Did you bring your bikes or hiking shoes along? We have a rugged bike trail at Big Branch bike trail in Richlands, wooded walking trails at Jacksonville Commons, and plenty of playground spaces throughout the area. Jacksonville even has inclusive play spaces at Northeast Creek Park for children with special needs. It also has a disc golf course, splash pad, and boat launch. Visit the parks page on our website for a list of parks in the area.
Adventurous families and teens might enjoy a day spent on the water with challenging stand-up paddle boarding lessons. You can rent kayaks and explore the intercoastal waterway near Topsail with Paddle NC. Float or paddle along in the water and discover the highlights of the coast. You might even spot a dolphin or two You can visit Pogie’s in Swansboro for kayak lessons along the White Oak River and into the Intracoastal Waterway. After your kayaking trip, you can explore Bear Island by taking the ferry from Hammock’s Beach State Park and explore its many hiking trails. In Jacksonville, the New River welcomes boaters at the Riverwalk Marina with rentable boat slips, a pump station, and canoe/kayak launch.
Love to fish? Our friendly fishing charters are standing by to provide you with a day of fishing for flounder and other Atlantic fish. In Sneads Ferry, shrimp is king, and Reel Livin fishing charter brings the traditions of shrimping to life. After your fishing trip, enjoy some fresh local seafood by visiting one of our many fish markets or head to a restaurant and ask for the catch of the day!
Onslow County is ready to welcome you and your whole family with summer fun just in time for the final month of summer vacation. Whether you’re spending your days on our sunny beaches or hiking through our shady trails, we think you’ll find attractions that truly bring your family a little closer.
Story written by Kelsey Stiglitz