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New visitors or those unfamiliar with the local history may think that Topsail is just a cute name for a sleepy seaside island. Local legend, however, details a much darker and more exciting past that includes deception, looting, and one of the most famous pirates in history–Blackbeard. Edward Thatch (Teach), more infamously known as the pirate Blackbeard, died in 1718 in North Carolina. On that day, a formidable and fearsome career in piracy came to a gruesome end.
Though he died on that day, his legend had only just begun. Even three hundred years after Blackbeard`s death, local lore persists in the notion that the name of the island is derived from local merchants watching out for the topsails of pirate ships that hid out near the island. Legend even says Blackbeard`s treasure is somewhere on the island, waiting to be discovered. Whether these legends are true or not, there are still verified historical facts of Blackbeard`s piracy near Topsail Island. We`ll go over some of the history of Blackbeard, as well as the most interesting and fun things to do on Topsail Island that have to do with both the history and legend of the pirate, plus the top vacation rentals company on the island, so you can get started planning your next adventure.
Born around 1680, not much is known about Blackbeard`s early beginnings. It is believed that he began his career as a privateer for England in the War of the Spanish Succession. Not long after his stint as a privateer, he quickly made a name for himself as a pirate. After overtaking a French ship, Blackbeard converted it into the flagship vessel he`s become most known for, Queen Anne`s Revenge.
Though he spent a short time pirating in the Caribbean, he made his way up to North Carolina. Once there, he cultivated an intimidating and fearsome reputation that was made up of both fact and fiction. His frightening appearance instilled a sense of order and solidified his power among his crew and the ships that he captured. Stories of his alleged violent acts and brutal behavior spread along the coast far and wide. His exploits were often talked about, and he became one of the most well-known pirates in the news at that time. It is rumored that Blackbeard and his crew would hide out and wait for merchant ships to pass by Topsail Island. There they would plunder ships on the colonial trade route.
When Blackbeard and his crew attempted to enter Beaufort Inlet, Queen Anne`s Revenge was grounded and abandoned. Blackbeard took a smaller crew and most of his plunder with him and continued along the North Carolina coast. In the mid-1990s, the sunken Queen Anne`s Revenge was discovered and identified off the coast.
Less than a year after grounding his flagship vessel, Blackbeard`s luck ran out. The Virginia governor Alexander Spotswood sent an armed ship led by Royal Navy Lieutenant Robert Maynard to end Blackbeard`s reign of fear along the coast. After a fierce and bloody battle in which many of Blackbeard`s crew were killed, Maynard killed Blackbeard.
At the south end of Topsail Island, local legends say that a hole is the site of Blackbeard`s treasure. Nicknamed the "gold hole," treasure hunters have come and gone without any public admission of finding gold. Nevertheless, the legend persists and makes this an iconic local spot. You can learn more about the history of Blackbeard, pirates in the area, and the gold hole at the Missiles and More Museum. You can also learn more about the island`s history at the museum by taking in other available exhibits about WASP, Operation Bumblebee, and others.
Museums may not be your thing, especially if you`d rather spend a sunny June day outside enjoying all the beautiful nature that the island has to offer. There are plenty of other things to do on Topsail Island, where you can learn the history of pirates in the area and local legends. If you would prefer a scenic nature tour while you learn about pirate history, then one of the local Tiki Tours will teach you more about the history of the island while you relax on a boat and enjoy the beautiful waterways. As you learn more about the history of Blackbeard and Topsail Island, keep your eyes peeled for all the local wildlife, including sea turtles and dolphins.
If you`re planning a trip with kids, you might be looking for fun and interesting activities for the whole family. Young kids may not appreciate the museum and boat tour as much as adults and older children might, so you might like to find an activity with more interaction. Shipwreck Point Miniature Golf is a family-friendly activity to consider. Kids enjoy its pirate-themed park, and it`s a fun way to spend an afternoon with the family.
Another local legend has to do with Blackbeard`s ghost. Though Rich`s inlet (located near the southern part of the island) is now shallow, back in Blackbeard`s time, it was quite a wide and deep inlet that allowed large ships to pass through its waters. Local lore says that when you are boating past the inlet if you keep a close watch on your radar, you might notice a blimp that starts near the coast. But when you look back to check it out, there`s nothing there. As you move past the blimp, it moves out of the inlet and begins to follow you. People say it`s the ghost of Blackbeard and his ship over three hundred years after his death, still tracking the boats that come into the area.
Though obviously an unproven legend, many locals claim to have seen this ghost ship. If you want to seek a ghostly encounter with Blackbeard`s ghost ship on your next vacation, then you can spend an afternoon on a rental boat exploring the area. Even if you don`t get tracked by a ghost pirate ship (disappointing, for sure), you can still spend an afternoon enjoying the beautiful waters on the boat fishing or just relaxing in the sun.
While the history of Topsail Island and its brush with piracy is fascinating, many visitors come in the summer to enjoy the outdoors. A beautiful coastal oasis with plenty of warm-weather things to do, Topsail Island has activities like swimming, sunbathing, boating, surfing, and fishing, to name a few. Whether you are after a vacation that incorporates a lot of history and learning, if you want a vacation that explores the local lore and legends, or if you just want to spend time in the beautiful outdoors, there are many interesting activities for you and your family to enjoy. Book one of the vacation rentals on the island, and start planning all the activities that interest you.
If you are looking for a historic coastal island with eclectic shops, restaurants, and activities, then Topsail Island is a great destination for your next vacation. At Lewis Realty and Associates, we offer vacation rentals in all three townships–Topsail Beach, Surf City, and North Topsail Beach. With decades of experience, we provide a large selection of vacation rentals with the best rates and superior customer service, so you can focus on creating the best memories from your vacation on Topsail Island.