There are many great areas across the coastal regions of North Carolina, and I had the pleasure of spending an extended time in North Topsail Beach. North Topsail (top - sil) Beach comprises the northern section of 26-mile Topsail Island which is located between Wilmington and Jacksonville. You enter onto the barrier island via the middle section named Surf City, with the southern-most area named just Topsail.
We stayed here in March which I would say is one of the ideal times to go. It was cool in the morning but warmed in the afternoon. There were times where I'd be on the deck looking down the beach in both directions and not seeing a single person as far as I could see. It picked up on the weekends, but was alone on weekdays.
If you do proper scouting for any photography, you will notice that it sits just in the right spot where you can watch the sunrise over the ocean. If you get a house on the beach you can likely watch it from the deck. This also allowed us to be sitting on the couch and watch for Dolphins. That's just awesome!
There are a few piers that I recommend to visit. The one that you are likely to see most photographed is the Surf City pier.
Surf City PierCanon 5D Mark III, 33mm, 20s @ f11, using Lee Big Stopper ND filter
I also found where the abandoned pier is located and visited at sunset.
Sunset at the Old Ocean City PierCanon 5D Mark III, 24mm, 53s @ f10, using Lee Big Stopper ND filter
The beach was nice and wide, and the wind created some beautiful patterns in the sand that kept me busy.
Lonely on the DunesCanon 5D Mark III, 16mm, 1/50 @ f11
For sunset you're going to have to go to the sound side of the island. Unless you have a house facing the sound, you'll have to go to Surf City for access.
Final Light on the SoundCanon 5D Mark III, 105mm, 1/30 @ f9
It was really interesting to watch the behavior of the gulls and other birds throughout the day. Every night without fail, they would all huddle together in loose groups and face the setting sun almost like trying to soak up every last ray of warmth. Maybe they were just admiring the view. Get out your longer zoom as they don't let you get too close, something 200mm or greater would be best.
The GatheringCanon 5D Mark III, 280mm, 1/320 @ f7.1
By April temperatures were on the rise as well as the number of people on the beach so it was time to head home. We had a wonderful time and would recommend it to anyone.
Waters Bay SunsetCanon 5D Mark III, 105mm, 0.4s @ f20, Lee GND + Singh-Ray 3-stop Reverse GND Keep these tips in mind when doing beach / ocean photography: