Category Archives: Things To Do In Topsail NC

2017 Wells Fargo Championship Comes to Wilmington

 

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This is an opportunity that doesn’t come along every day – or year – or decade.  But it’s happening next year and you do not want to miss it!

Save the date immediately.  May 1-7, 2017.rory-wfc

The Wells Fargo Championship, a premier PGA tour event, it coming to Wilmington for 2017.  That’s right.  The tournament is normally held at the Quail Hollow Club in Charlotte.  But this one year, while Quail Hollow hosts the PGA Championship later in the year, PGA golf returns to Wilmington for the first time in four decades.wfc-golf-balls

The Wells Fargo Championship is one of the largest, most prestigious sporting events in the Southeast. Champions for Education, a non-profit organization, operates and manages the tournament and has donated over $18 million to local and regional charities since 2003. Now leading up to its 15th year, the tournament is intended as an annual tradition that will bring players and patrons back each year for an unforgettable golf experience.

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The 2017 Wells Fargo Championship will be located in Wilmington, NC at Eagle Point Golf Club. Eagle Point, which opened in 2000, was designed by Tom Fazio and is currently among the Top 100 Golf Digest courses in America. Fazio has overseen alterations and redesign of Quail Hollow Club for several years. While it is obviously in a different region of the state and on the coast, several TOUR players have played Eagle Point and believe it will be well received by the TOUR players. The club is just north of downtown Wilmington and Wrightsville Beach.

 

Here’s the really good news.  Eagle Point is located on the north side of Wilmington.  That means it is imminently practical to bring your best buds or the whole family to Topsail Island for your beach accommodations.  You can enjoy the tournament while the family enjoys the pot load of awesomeness that is Topsail.

 

It’s crazy!  The trip to the course will only be 20 to 25 miles from your beachside retreat.  You can literally be parking your car at the course in less than 30 minutes.  Sweet!

DIRECTIONS!!

click it!  I dare ya.

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You can secure some pretty fabulous vacation homes from 4 bedrooms all the way up to 10 bedrooms.  Treasure Realty rentals are plentiful and flexible.  All you need to do is figure out how many folks are coming, how many bedrooms you want, and click on this website to secure your accommodations.

Then click on this website to buy yourself some primo tickets to the tournament.

Actually, there is even still time to sign up as a volunteer. I did!  You will get to see the best of the best up close and personal.

https://wilmington.wellsfargochampionship.com/volunteers

If you have never been to a real PGA event, you owe it to yourself.  The month of May is spectacular at the beach and all the prices are so, so right!  Make your plans today.

Mike’s Farm – It’s Kind of a Must See Place Around Here

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by Donna Byrd

 

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Friday night I did something that I had been wanting to do for the last five years. I went to Mike’s Farm!

 

Yes. Every fall since we moved to Sneads Ferry, our friends and family ask us, “Have you been to Mike’s Farm?” Of course, I wondered, “Who is Mike? Does he invite everyone to visit his farm? I don’t think I know him.”

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“Oh, No, no, no! It’s not that kind of farm,” they said. ” It’s a farm that lets families visit. It’s great year round, but in the fall and at Christmas time we like to go and take the kids. There are hayrides, animals to pet, a beautiful gift shop and the restaurant! The food is southern cuisine and it’s amazing! Such a great family place- you guys have got to go!”

 

Why it took us so long to go, I’ll never know but I’m glad we finally went! Everything folks said about it was true! It was fantastic!

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Before going, I did a little bit of information searching on Mike’s Farm. It claimed to be a family-oriented business and that Agritourism was its specialty. I looked that word up and it means, according to Wikipedia, “any agriculturally based operation or activity that brings visitors to a farm or ranch.”  Hmmm… A new word. A new place. A new adventure for us all!

 

Bill decided to get off work a few hours early Friday afternoon. We knew it would take about forty minutes to drive from Sneads Ferry to our destination in the country, outside of Jacksonville. I always love when I can say, “I’m going to a place in the country.” I know that when I get to that place, there will be a front porch somewhere and somebody will be rocking on it.  There’s a good chance I will hear our Carolina country language spoken in a way that takes me back to my childhood roots. These Carolinians will know what a “mess of beans” are. They will understand where something is when it’s “over yonder somewhere” and I know I will hear someone make the comment, “Bless her heart” at least three times. I was going to feel like I was amongst my people and “fit right in.”

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The restaurant opened at 4:30 and observed country people’s eating habits.  Folks in the country don’t eat supper late because they get up with the chickens.  Plus, Bill and I wanted to have plenty of time to eat and experience the cool things the farm had to offer before it closed at 8:00 p.m. Our expectations were high and we couldn’t wait to get there.

 

Everyone at Bill’s work told him, “Now don’t eat too much today. You’ve got to save your appetite for that country meal you’re having tonight. They serve it “family style.” Needless to say, we were so hungry when we got there, we headed straight for the line that was forming outside the restaurant. All the other activities would have to wait!img_3777-large

 

Now, if you’re from the south you know what a “family-style” restaurant is. The servers already have your farm style table set just like you’d be sitting down at the table for a meal in your home. Then, they bring out generous sized serving bowls steaming hot and heaped high with the things you remember eating at Grandma’s house.

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At Mike’s Farm, each table gets fried chicken, pork loin roast and gravy, mashed potatoes, mac and cheese, green beans, sweet corn, and a bucket of homemade country ham biscuits! There’s sweet tea or Pepsi to wash it all down and a variety of desserts that will have you speaking in tongues (even if you’re not Pentecostal!) and the best part about it is (drum roll please….)  It’s ALL YOU CAN EAT!

 

Our dining experience was wonderful. The friendly waitress loaded our table with food until it felt like Thanksgiving. We agreed with everyone. It was delicious and we proved it by eating almost every bit of the food that was brought to our table.. Feeling a bit too full and knowing we had much to see and do before the farm closed, we got up from our table and went back outside.

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By then, it was just a little after 6:00. People were having their pictures taken by colorful baskets of mums and big, fat pumpkins. Some were picking out pumpkins to take home with them. Kids and parents were lining up to get on the next hayride. The trailer was covered in hay and pulled by a tractor. I don’t know how many treks around the farm the tractor-trailer made, but I’m sure everyone who wanted to experience a hayride had their chance before closing time.

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We noticed that the wind had started to kick up a bit and that dark clouds were forming overhead. Oh no! Not rain! I looked over by the barn where the line was for the hayride. I don’t think one person was running for cover. These excited families visiting the farm weren’t going to let a little rain ruin their hayride! Bill and I, however, took cover in the gift shop and bakery. We took plenty of pictures to share this little wonderland with you!

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In most of the gift shop it’s Christmas year round and believe me, it’s charming and magical.  The rest of the inventory changes with the seasons.  I believe I read that after the farm quit growing tobacco, it became a Christmas tree farm. Sometime after that, it opened the gift shop and later the restaurant.

 

The bakery was on the other end of the gift shop. It had wonderful cakes, sweet treats and custom creations. Those who have eaten it’s goodies claim it’s the best bakery in Onslow County! You could watch the bakers conjure up their delights while having a cup of coffee or hot cider in their quaint little cafe.img_3784-large

 

We hated to leave the enchanted gift shop, but big, fat raindrops were beginning to fall on the farm. Bill and I dashed back to our car but were careful not to squish the cake box that contained the bakery’s famous ten-layer chocolate cake. We decided we would have to take a little bit of the farm back home with us!

 

 

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If you can’t make it to Mike’s Farm for their autumn events, they say Christmas on the farm is magical! I plan to catch their Christmas show. Go to their website for coming events.

http://www.mikesfarm.com

 

Mike’s Farm is located at:

1600 Haw Branch Road, Beulaville, NC 28518

910-324-3422

800-820-3276

 

PS… Here are a few hints/suggestions for ya’.

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Number 1. If you have boots, wear them. I went dressy/casual and had on sandals because it was still warm. However, almost all of the women and children had on their cowboy boots. After all, yes, it is a farm!

 

Number 2. Get there before the restaurant opens. It opens at 4:30. They do not take reservations. We got there about ten minutes early and the parking lot was rather full and a line was forming at the restaurant door. We hurried to get in line and had about a twenty-five-minute wait, which wasn’t bad because there were happy, excited and hungry men, women and children waiting with us. That was when I noticed I was overdressed!

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Number 3.  While someone in your party holds your place in line, others of you may get tickets for the hayride, buy pretty, fat pumpkins and take a few photo ops at the picturesque bales of hay, colorful mums and pumpkin displays offered around the farm. The harvest scenes are beautiful, colorful and make gorgeous pictures.

 

Number 4. If you eat too much, you may feel like taking a nap rather than giving the kids the adventure they are expecting. Oh well…it’s only a warning and I don’t expect you to pay any attention to this tip.

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Number 5. Don’t fill up on the ham biscuits. There’s more food coming!

 

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Duplin Winery

 

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by Donna Byrd

 

Clink. Clink. Cheers! I have a great idea for all of you wine enthusiasts who visit us here on Topsail Island and I know you will be delighted to hear that the South’s largest winery is located only fifty miles from Surf City! Yes! If you’d like to take a day trip to Duplin Winery, you can hop in the car and be there in an hour or so.

Located iimg_3440-largen Rose Hill, right off of Interstate 40, the Duplin Winery, owned and operated by the Fussell family, has been making sweet muscadine wines since the early 1970’s. Their story began with making wine the old fashioned way: the whole family would come together during the harvest season and stomp out the grapes, bottle the wine and load up the bottles on a hog trailer for distribution.
Times have changed a bit since then but not the secret family recipes! The sweet taste of the South is found in each and every bottle and its popularity has become renowned. Last year they sold over four million bottles of “cool, sweet and easy” Duplin wimg_3443-largeines!

Friday night, my husband and I were treated to a special dinner and country music show hosted by the winery.  It was Bill’s birthday and we knew we were in for a treat the moment we walked onto the winery’s charming front porch with the beautiful autumn display by the door.  If the porch was this inviting, the inside had to be captivating as well!

It was!  We went through the door and right into the gift shop, filled with wine-themed gifts and pretty things inspired by the sea. There weimg_3445-largere also fine women’s accessories, boutique clothing and some gorgeous jewelry on display.  Believe it or not, there was even a glass counter filled with all kinds of homemade fudge! It should be illegal to sell wine, fudge, cute things for the house and pretty clothes in the same store! What woman could resist the temptation to splurge on it all?

I especially liked the displays of Duplin wine inspired jellies and jams, barbecue sauces, muscadine salsas, relishes and dressings offered in the gift shop. img_3441-large img_3442-largeThe gourmet crackers, baked right there in the winery, were set out for sampling many of the tasty offerings. I felt like I was in a “Harry and David” gourmet store and I loved it!

After doing a bit of shopping, we met up with our hosts and friends.  Eric, a Duplin Winery employee and his wife Luanne are close friends of ours from Bill’s high school days.  They were at the beautiful bar where several patrons were engaged in a wine tasting. I watched as knowledgeable servers poured servings from an array of beautifully bottled reds, whites and blush wines, all the while telling funny stories and sharing a bit of the winery’s history. The whole vibe was fun and casual and we decided we’d have to come back for a proper tour of the winery to see how this delicious wine was made!img_3419-1-large

We could actually take a whole morning, tour the winery, have a wine tasting and then lunch at The Bistro, right there at the Duplin Winery in Rose Hill. This restaurant boasts of delicious local, North Carolina creative dishes mingled with the flavors of Duplin’s finest wines. It’s open for lunches from 11:00 – 3:00 p.m. They also do private affairs, such as birthday and anniversary parties – even family reunions.img_3436-large Eric told us that there was a beautiful wedding chapel on the property too. Couples can get married there or in the vineyards and the restaurant/winery can cater and host the festivities!

We were becoming more impressed with the winery as we watched a group come out of a wine tasting sitting. They were all in search of the wines they had preferred at the tasting. I noticed stacks of cases of wine lined against the wall and those in the group made a bee line towards their favorite choices. The cases of wine were disappearing fast! But, I’m sure there were plenty of cases in the warehouse to replace them!img_3425-1-large

It was time for our dinner show and we made our way to the large dining room. On the way, we walked out into a beautiful courtyard with a fountain. It was so lovely I could have spent my evening there, taking in the warm September night and the harvest moon that shone brightly overhead, but I knew we had a wonderful dinner and entertainment awaiting us.img_3457-large

We walked into a magical room, filled with beautifully laid tables and surrounded by thousands of twinkling lights. We sat at our table and a server took our drink order (wine of course was offered) and brought it out promptly. As we sipped our wine, lovely salads were brought to us, with dressings exotically flavored with Duplin wines. A lovely entree appeared directly before us as our salads were finished and taken away. I don’t know, or maybe I was just very hungry, but I think it was the best meal I had enjoyed in months! img_3453-largeI ate everything on my plate, including the yeast roll! It was almost embarrassing! Bill ate everything on his plate too! It was THAT good!

Dessert was fabulous! They have an award winning dessert chef and we had a slice of her cheesecake drizzled in raspberry sauce. I think it had wine in it. As a matter of fact, I think wine was the secret ingredient in all the food that made it so magical! We were eating enchanted food and promised ourselves that we would come back another time if it meant we would get to eat the magic food at The Bistro, too!img_3455-large

The country music show was so much fun and professionally done as well! Wonderful singers along with great musicians (some of them Country Music Hall of Fame caliber) entertained us for at least an hour and a half. Top country hits from the 1950’s, ’60’s and 70’s tickled our ears and made us tap our feet. Some of the songs may have been sad, but everyone was smiling as we traveled down country music’s memory lane.img_3460-large

All too soon, the show was over. It was one of the most enjoyable nights that I had experienced in months. We were told that throughout the year there are other special events and shows, like Murder Mystery shows and The Country Christmas Show. Many of these dinner shows sell out fast, just as our country music show had sold out. I just looked up the dates for the Christmas Show. It’s offers several show times in November and December. By the way, the menu will be amazing – yes even magical!img_3444-large

You can find out everything you need to know about the Duplin Winery, the Bistro Restaurant and the fun dinner shows at https://www.duplinwinery.com/

The Fussell family and the staff would love to meet you! Come by and spend some time with them! It’s worth the drive over from Topsail!

 

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My Topsail Island Date Night Secret

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By Donna Byrd

Alright, all of you moms and dads, aunts, uncles, and grandparents who are vacationing on Topsail Island! You’ve probably spent the last few days doing everything in your power to ensure that your children are having a blast at the beach. Believe me, I’m certain the little darlings are building up enough beach memories to last a lifetime!

But now it’s your turn! You have a baby sitter in place so you and your honey can have a date night. It’s time to kick back and have a quiet dinner where you can actually hear the background music, have a wonderful glass of wine, look deeply into one another’s eyes and….OK…You get the drift. But the question you ask is: “Where can we go? What can we do?”IMG_2756 (Large)
Well, at the risk of the entire population of adults on the island showing up on my date night at my favorite places, I’m willing to share my most guarded secret with you. I’m sure others have figured out this fun combination of places to go, but because you don’t live here and don’t know, AND because I”m a fun-loving and unselfish person, I’ll tell you. I want everyone to experience this fun, romantic evening.
To begin with, this evening outing is in Topsail Beach, on the south end of the island. If you’re staying in North Topsail, it may take you twenty -five minutes to get there, if you’re staying in Surf City, fifteen minutes. IMG_2928 (Large)Your first stop will be Quarter Moon Book and Gifts. It’s actually, next to The Gift Basket, which is on the corner.
Now, you may be wondering, “What’s romantic about a bookstore or gift shop? Do you expect us to read sonnets and love poems to each other? What’s dreamy about a gift shop?” Well, that delightful shop turns into more than books and gifts at night. It has a wine and coffee bar, not to mention a cozy and comfy couch and chair grouping at the back of the shop.IMG_2777 (Large)
I don’t know about you guys, but surrounding myself with my favorite things: books, wine and coffee in a smart atmosphere is like slipping into something “a little more comfortable.” Even better, if the weather’s nice, you can sit on the front patio, a sunny, happy place by day, but an intimate, romantic place by moonlight. On Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights, there is live music from 8:00 – 11:00. Who’s ready to go?
Bill and I went to the Quarter Moon Wine Bar around 6:00 p.m. last Thursday night. It was our 37th Wedding Anniversary! We ordered a chilled bottle of white wine and because it was still so warm outside, opted to sit on the soft, green velvet couch deep inside the shop and sipped away as we dreamed and talked of our future. The shop was pretty quiet that time of day and for some reason, we dreamed in whispers and imagined ourselves living out our dreams.IMG_2913 (Large)
Now here is the second part of our fabulous date night combination! Before Bill ordered our wine at Quarter Moon, he slipped over across the street, to the Beach Shop and Grill, a wonderful restaurant that serves a marvelous breakfast and lunch but at night turns into a sophisticated dining room!  He gave our name to the hostess and she gave him one of those restaurant beepers that light up and buzz when it’s your turn to be seated. He had it in his hand as we sipped our wine at at Quarter Moon and after a while (I’m not sure how long because we were having such a wonderful time at the lovely wine bar, ) our buzzer summoned us for our romantic dinner.
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We held hands as we crossed over the street to The Beach Shop and Grill.  It’s in a beautifully old established building with a beach shop on one side and the restaurant on the other. The inside walls are pine paneled and give you the old fashioned “cottagey” feeling the moment you walk into it’s doors. But don’t let that fool you! It’s feels as sophisticated as an “old school” country club that specializes in seafood and steaks. We were seated and given menus. They had excellent Rose’ wines for $25.00 a bottle.
There was no way we could turn down that deal and they brought us out an ice bucket and chilled our wine down a bit. We ordered different entrees on the menu so that we could share a bit if we wanted to. Bill ordered pasta with seafood, a concoction of mussels, clams, shrimp and the star of the dish, a lovely piece of  tuna covered in a herbed, light tomato sauce. It was beautiful and so delicious. I ordered the Delmonico steak with blue cheese crumbles and herbed butter.  It was served with sweet potato fries and braised brussel sprouts. IMG_2857 (Large)IMG_2860 (Large)
I’ve had this dish three times at the Beach Shop and Grill and it is my favorite! Usually, we stay away from deserts, but it was our anniversary! We splurged and got the Krispy Kreme bread pudding drenched in a wonderful sauce.IMG_2894 (Large) As usual, the meal was excellent and  made our anniversary even more special!
After our leisurely dinner, we paid our bill and decided that since the night was so beautiful and considerably cooler, we’d sit out on their patio for a while. We met some great folks from Pennsylvania and chatted with them for a while. They were vacationing but while on the island, were looking for a vacation home to buy! IMG_2917 (Large)That was convenient for them and us since Bill works for Treasure Realty. Maybe he could help them find the perfect home!
After our new friends were called to dinner, we were in no hurry, so we meandered back over to the Quarter Moon Book and Gift Shop. By then, there was a guy singing with his guitar out on the patio, entertaining everyone. We sat out under the moon at Quarter Moon. It was quite the romantic evening.
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Now, I’ve shared with you my “go to” date night secret. I let the cat out of the bag and now I’m sure all of folks will now be
heading down to Topsail Beach for the perfect romantic dinner. I would if I were you. Yes…get that baby sitter and make your plans now! It’s time for you adults to make some memories of your own!

The Quarter Moon Books and Gift Store is located at:

708 South Anderson Blvd., Topsail Beach, NC     910-328-4969

The Beach Shop and Grill is located at:
701 South Anderson Blvd., Topsail Beach NC      910-328-6501      http://beachshopandgrill.com/
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The Breezeway Restaurant: Where Topsail Beach Memories are Made

IMG_2604 (Large)by Donna Byrd

 

When I was growing up, my family spent one magical week at the beach each summer. All week long, we’d spend those golden days on the beach, collecting shells, making sandcastles and body surfing in the warm Atlantic Ocean. Around 5:00 we’d collect our towels and beach toys and make the long four block trek back to the beach cottage, hungry as little bears.

About half a block away, if the wind was blowing in our directions, we’d smell our supper cooking. My mom and aunts, classic southern cooks, would be creating their masterpiece meals for us in the little cottage kitchen. Every night we’d have the best dishes the south had to offer: fried chicken, meatloaf, pot roasts, mashed potatoes, fried pork chops, okra, fresh butter beans, homemade ice cream and cobblers.IMG_2637 (Large)

We loved everything that was set before us and relished each bite. But one night a week was set aside for the highlight of the vacation: eating dinner out at a family seafood restaurant. That night, my mom and aunts left the seafood meal up to the professional cooks. It made for some of my best childhood memories.

This weekend, my dad and my brother both spent their birthdays here in Sneads Ferry with me. They wanted to relax all day in low slung chairs with their feet dangling in the warm ocean water and that night, they wanted to eat seafood in a restaurant that made them feel as if they were truly at the beach. I knew exactly where to take them: The Breezeway Restaurant.IMG_0481 (Large)

Located in Topsail Beach on the south end of the island, The Breezeway Restaurant is right on the Topsail Sound. Almost every seat in the dining area has a spectacular view of the water. Huge picture windows flank the back and side walls of the building and offer the diner the best sunset and boating views on the island.

We arrived a little before sunset and were able to catch the orange-red globe of fire drop into the water as we stood on the little pier by the boat slips behind the restaurant. It was a nature show worthy of applause and mixed with the smells of fried seafood and salt IMG_2602 (Large)marshes, we were led back to memories of family dinners at the beach.

The hostess came outside to tell us our table was ready. We made our way through the crowded, noisy dining room, passing happy, sun kissed vacationers that had huge plates of shrimp and flounder laid before them. It was a room full of contentedness!

There were eight of us and we were seated at a large, roomy table. I looked around the room and realized we were surrounded by beauty. Evening was settling in on the water and the pink and salmon glow left by the sunset was mirrored on the still water. IMG_2612 (Large)From time to time, a slow, pontoon boat would pass by, filled with people taking in the twilight sights of Topsail Sound. They would wave to the folks on the dock.

A friendly server named Glenda, took our order. We asked her about the history of the restaurant. She told us that The Breezeway Inn and Cafe had opened in 1949, after War War II.  It was housed in the “Project Bumblebee” barracks and mess hall. The servicemen from local Camp Davis in Holly Ridge, loved the seafood and spread the word. After a few decades,  as Topsail Island was developed and populated, The Breezeway Inn and Cafe buildings were replaced. IMG_2623 (Large)In 1972, the Inn and The Breezeway Restaurant moved into the buildings that are now there.

Glenda went on to tell us that the restaurant has been owned and operated by the William Cherry family since 1971. The entire staff is like one big family. Glenda said that she worked in the restaurant as a teenager, but then grew up and moved on. She worked in the corporate business world, retiring three years ago. We couldn’t believe (and neither could she) that she came back to serve at The Breezeway and work for Mr. Cherry. She loves the family she’s made there and is happy serving up seafood for hungry vacationers and locals. I love employees that are dedicated to serving others!

What makes The Breezeway Restaurant so good that people return season after season? IMG_0496 (Large)Well, other than the friendly, helpful staff it has to be the fresh, local seafood that’s cooked to order! The wonderful seafood comes straight from eastern North Carolina waters, right out of our “backyard!”
The hush puppies are fried up, golden brown, with a slight sweetness that tastes almost like a dessert.  You can actually buy the mix right there in the restaurant if you’d like to take some home with you. Watch out! They can be habit forming!

Our dinner arrived, piping hot and fresh! IMG_2629 (Large)My brother got the She Crab Soup because it was his birthday and that was his favorite!
He also loved his lightly battered, crispy on the outside, tender on the inside, scallops.
The rest of us had combination seafood platters; shrimp, flounder, oysters…yum, yum, good! Glenda kept the baskets of hush puppies coming, even after we were too full to eat anything else.IMG_0497 (Large)

To top off the evening, the waitstaff brought out (as a surprise) slices of Key Lime Pie, complete with lighted candles as they sang “Happy Birthday.” The whole restaurant joined in the celebration, singing and clapping.
A group of bridesmaids were behind us, having their own little party. There was a fun spirit afoot and we felt blessed that the staff made such a big deal over our family and birthday boys!IMG_2649 (Large)

Later that evening, after we all arrived home, my brother told me, “Donna, thanks for taking us to The Breezeway. It felt like we were at the beach!”  That, my friends, is the best compliment a restaurant on Topsail Island can get!

The Breezeway Restaurant is located 6.2 miles south of the Surf City stoplight at:

634 Channel Blvd.

Topsail Beach, NC 28445

910-328-4302

http://www.thebreezewayrestaurant.com/

During the Summer, it’s open everyday at 5:00 p.m.

Thursday through Monday nights: Spring and Fall.

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Surf City’s Soundside Park – Happy Fourth!

IMG_0409 (Large)by Donna Byrd

I was in Surf City yesterday and happened to go back onto the mainland by way of the swing bridge. As we crossed over, I looked over to my left side and saw Soundside Park,
totally dressed up for it’s July Fourth CelebrationIMG_0413 (Large). Red, white and blue bunting lined the railing of the wooden boardwalk that ran throughout the park, looking so festive that I had Bill turn the car around and go back. I wanted to take a walk by the Intracoastal Waterway when the park looked its best.

As many times as I have driven by the Soundside Park, I have never been there. We parked the car and got out, standing there trying to decide which way to go first. It was huge and beautiful! There are playgrounds, grassy areas, picnic tables, old gnarled oaks, fishing piers, viewing decks, and the boardwalk that surrounds the sound’s edge.IMG_0401 (Large)
It has a public boat access too.  While we were there we saw a few boats head out into the
intracoastal waters and even a few kayakers, lazily paddling around the edges near the boardwalk. There’s a large amphitheater which I read was available for weddings and events. As a matter of fact, you can also rent out the picnic shelters, too.

Bill and I began our walk by going to where the boardwalk started – out in the marshes near Crabby Mikes and the Surf City water tower. IMG_2471 (Large)We couldn’t believe how expansive it was. I came home and looked it up on the at Surf City town website. IMG_0416 (1) (Large)The town of Surf City gave the footage for each segment of the walkway and it totals 5,280 feet: one mile! What an awesome natural walkway for exercise or meditation!

Soundside Park has been around as long as the swing bridge, which was built in 1955 to connect Topsail Island with the mainland. Through the years, the park has grown and become the gorgeous gem of Surf City.

Actually, there is something always happening at Soundside Park. This summer they have free concerts and movie nights (drive-in style) on the weekends for the family. Check out the website here for more information.

This weekend, promises to be the best yet because a big celebration is planned for the Fourth of July. It starts with Snake Malone and the Black Cat Bone on Friday night, July 1st from 6:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m. IMG_0412 (Large)The Independence Day Celebration begins on Sunday, July 3rd at 6:00 p.m. with the Mark Roberts Band. Fireworks will follow afterward at dark-thirty – around 9:00 p.m. They ask that you walk or carpool because there’s not enough parking space to accommodate the crowds that seem to grow each year. Also, it would be best, if coming from the mainland, that you come from the direction of the high rise bridge in North Topsail so that the traffic will not be as congested.IMG_0403 (Large)

Bring your blankets and lawn chairs early, to mark your spot. Some folks even anchor their boats out in the water to watch the show.

There’s going to be a lot of people celebrating our nation’s independence and freedom and I plan to be there watching the magical fireworks, with the awe of a little child! Come and join me for the fun!

 

Pender Pines Gardening Center: The Happiest Place on Earth – Part One

 

IMG_1542 (Large)

By Donna Byrd

I’ve heard people say that the happiest place on earth is Disney World. I know, I get it. Magic Kingdom and all.  I’ll tell you about a magical kingdom.  Since I’ve become a bit of a more, I suppose I could say, “middle aged” woman with grown children, I’ve found a new happy place. My place of bliss is dirty and overrun with plants and vines growing everywhere. It’s a place where my dreams begin and the magic of nature takes over. Yes, Pender Pines Garden Center is the happiest place on earth: the real, “Magic Kingdom” to me.  For those of us who love to put our hands into the rich, loamy soil and create magic, Pender Pines Garden Center is just down the road on Hwy 17, waiting for us to come and experience our “Zen garden” moment.

Located between Surf City and Hampstead, a few miles south of Lowes Home Improvement Store, this wonderful establishment is worth the visit even if you aren’t a gardener. From the moment I turn into the parking lot, my eyes are pleasantly assaulted with banks of cheerful flowers in every color, happy whirligigs in neon pinks, greens and oranges, twirling in the breeze and cobalt blue pots, shining in the bright, coastal sun. My heart does a little flip flop when I glance over to the left and see a good sized pond with a fountain, complete with ducks and a pier with a gazebo.IMG_1478 (1) (Large)

After getting out of my car, the first thing I do is grab a flower cart to pull behind me as I walk and think. I head for the sidewalk that meanders around the pond. It is bordered by several varieties of roses, loaded with blooms, about to burst into clouds of soft, summer lipstick colors.   I pick out some pink Knock-Out roses to go by the sides of my porch steps and put them on my cart. Then, I notice the Weeping Willows that lean toward the water and the orange and gold Koi  as big as my forearm that wait for the customers by the little pier, hoping they’ve bought them a handful of fish food from the “gum ball” styled machine located in the gazebo. All of a sudden, I envision a pond in my yard with a fountain, ducks and Koi. I wonder how long it takes them to grow so big!IMG_1464 (Large)

After I’ve walked around the pond, I spy, with my little eye, some hydrangeas. I decide to get the Pinkie Winkies because their blooms begin greenish-white and turn pink, lasting until the fall. The label on the pot makes them seem so easy to grow and they’ll look great by my back fence. I take three of them and decide this gardening stuff is going to be easier than I thought!

I stop by the annual display. There are rows and rows of red, pink and white geraniums, purple petunias, orange and yellow marigolds, blue daze and pentas, bold zinnias, purple, pink, coral, white and red impatiens, sun loving vincas and coleus, the colorful, leafy plants that remind me of a garden I once tended when I lived in Florida. IMG_1501 (Large)If I don’t want to buy them and plant them, I can look up and see hanging baskets of combinations of these flowers, already done for me! Imagine that! No reason not to have flowers in my yard, on my deck or back porch. I’ll take the easy way out!

There are garden fixtures peeking out between the potted plants. Oval shaped rocks with happy, painted animal and owl faces smile up at me and all of a sudden, I want that happy rock to have a special place in my garden of annuals. I pick it up and put it in a place where it can’t roll off the cart.IMG_1499 (Large)

By now, my cart is pretty much full. I wonder how I’m going to get it all home and suddenly, I see some daylilies, hostas and other perennials up against a green house. I have to walk by and check out these gorgeous babies.  Seeing the society garlic,  I think, “Hey, this would look great mixed in with some yellow daylilies. If I throw  some pretty little balloon flowers in for the borders and and plant some tall, proud purple liatris toward the back,  I’d have a lovely flower bed. Who knew I could plan a whole garden in a short visit to Pender Pines Garden Center?IMG_1498 (Large)

I squeeze in the extra plants and all of a sudden, the sounds of an squawking,exotic bird come from the hot house. Now, this is when things get very interesting! I begin to see that Pender Pines Gardening Center is more than the “Magic Kingdom.” It’s the “Animal Kingdom” too!

(Please continue to read the following blog, Pender Pines Garden Center: The Happiest Place on Earth, Part 2. There was just so much to tell about! Just scroll down a bit and you will find it. Thanks!)

Pender Pines Garden Center is located at:IMG_1540 (Large)

20949 US Hwy. 17 North

Hampstead, NC 28443

910-270-2706

http://www.penderpines.com/

 

Twice as Nice Flea Market and More – it Really Is!

IMG_1247by Donna Byrd

Ok, all you guys and gals out there who can’t pass up a good flea market! Have I got good news for you! One of North Carolina’s top ten flea markets is just a hop, skip and jump from the Topsail Island area. Yes, Twice As Nice Flea Market and More is located on Hwy. 17 North, between Jacksonville and Sneads Ferry and it would be fair to say, “It is Yuuuuge!”

You can’t miss it. I pulled into the parking lot of the monstrous, beige colored building on Sunday afternoon. The place was so busy I could hardly find a parking spot. All types of cars and trucks (some pulling long, covered trailers) were lined up neatly, waiting for their owners to load them up with bargains and treasures they had found on the inside.IMG_1253

I entered the door that had the words, “Flea Market” printed above it in red. I shook my head as I thought of how powerful those two little words were. To bargain hunters like me, they were like water to the thirsty, food to the hungry and crack to the… well, you get the point. Once seen from the road, those words lure us in like flies to honey. We. Cannot. Resist.

The largest indoor flea market in coastal Carolina, Twice As Nice Flea Market, boasts over 100 vendors. It opened on February 1st, two years ago and has since been a favorite place to frequent for those seeking special treasures in southeastern North Carolina and those visiting our lovely coastal communities.IMG_1254

I was almost overwhelmed by the amount of “stuff” that greeted me when I walked through the door. Aisle after aisle, one vendor’s booth after another, I was happily assaulted by antiques, repurposed furniture and knick knacks, vintage clothes, suitcases, shoes, hats, pictures, cameras, dishes, glassware, ceramics and pottery, jewelry, linens and lace. There was also a good smattering of new things: candles, lotions, sea decorations (a lot of mermaid things) and baby diapers. Wait…did I say diapers? Yes I did!

I was able to meet the manager, Jill Guzzetti, and she said that new and old treasures come in daily, the merchandise turning over quickly.  She pointed out that prices range from probably $.25 to $500. IMG_1283So literally, there’s something affordable for everyone. Their unofficial slogan is “If we don’t have it, you don’t need it!” I must admit, there is much truth to that statement!

Walking through the flea market, I spent a wonderful Sunday afternoon by myself. After all, everything in there seemed to have been a part of my life at one time or another.IMG_1263

There was an old telephone table like the one that once stood in my grandmother’s hallway. A fat bouquet of garden tools graced the corner of one booth and surely could have been the ones from my grandfather’s shed.

Vintage vinyl album covers from bands I grew up with in the 1970’s were stacked in baskets. I flipped through them, smiling at the memory of my best friend and I at a few concerts.  Toys were scattered throughout the store and many seemed to be like those my children had played with when they were little. There was Winnie the Pooh and Tigger too!IMG_1277

I saw some old Pfaltzgraft Yorktowne dinnerware plates displayed on a shelf and remembered that some friends of ours had that exact china pattern. We had eaten well off of those plates and shared some good times!  However, my best find was an old blue and white wedding ring quilt exactly like the one a friend bought us as a gift, years ago, of course.  After hundreds of washings it had worn out and sadly, I had thrown it away. I wondered if I should buy that old quilt folded there in the basket, for old time’s sake. Decisions, decisions! Be careful when you’re shopping at a flea market and begin to feel like you’re visiting your old life. You may buy everything you see,  if you’re sentimental like me.IMG_1264

The next time you’re visiting Topsail Island and need a break from the sun or if it’s raining and you need something fun to do, it’s worth the short ride to Twice as Nice Flea Market. Or, if you’re riding up Hwy 17 and see the red letters, “Flea Market” on a huge, beige building and your hearts starts palpitating and your car begins to turn all by itself into the parking lot, just remembered you’ve been warned: bargains are on the inside and come with plenty of nostalgia!

Twice As Nice Flea Market is located on 3060 Wilmington Hwy.IMG_1285

Jacksonville, NC 28540

910-346-1725

Open 7 days a week except Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter

Mon – Fri 10:00 – 6:00

Sat   –      10:00 – 5:00

Sun  –      12:00 – 5:00


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Twice As Nice Flea Market takes debit and credit cards ($10 minimum,) and cash. They don’t take checks.

The Gift Basket – Topsail Beach – Perfection!

IMG_1220by Donna Byrd

I found myself down in Topsail Beach, on the south end of Topsail Island yesterday, in search of a birthday gift for my sister-in-law, Kelly. Although my “go to” shop for gifts on the island is usually The Topsail Island Trading Company in Surf City, I decided I’d give its sister store, The Gift Basket a visit. Located in the oldest Topsail community, I love its charming, quaint vibe and decided that although it was a few extra miles down the island, it would be well worth the drive.IMG_1222

The moment I walked through the door of the two storied blue “little shop around the corner,” I felt myself relax. Every nook, cranny and available foot of space on the floors, walls and under the counters was occupied by something exquisite and delightful. Time seemed to slow down and every object seemed to call my name, saying, “Donna, look at me!”

And look I did! The sun shone through the glassware placed in the windows, causing the room to sparkle and glow. IMG_1201Low laughter from a few customers at the jewelry counter sounded like music and suddenly, I was caught up in the shop’s magic, entering into my own little “shopping world.” There’s nothing like the spell of beach charm to block out the cruel realities of this world. What a perfect diversion on this windy, winter’s day at the beach.

The store’s cheerful owner, Kristen Fleischhauer, happened to be standing behind the counter. I introduced myself and told her I was looking for a gift but that I also would like to write a blog about her special shop. I wanted our vacationers to know about this lovely place and get to experience it like I had. She was more than happy to tell me about it.

Since 1973, The Gift Basket has been one IMG_1195of Topsail Island’s favorite shopping spots. It was the first store on the island to sell fine sterling silver and 14K gold jewelry.  Along with that type of jewelry, Kristin motioned toward the other displays around the room, showing jewelry made by southern artisans out of sea glass, natural stones and lovely gems that were one-of-a-kind, quality pieces.

Of course, The Gift Basket had much more than jewelry. Kristen also pointed out to me the beautiful line of nautical and tide clocks plus some other precision weather instruments behind her on the wall. I was struck by their beautiful, classical design and knew that they would grace any home by or near the water.

Kristen invited me to take a look around IMG_1200the entire store. Not only were there several rooms downstairs to explore, there were some upstairs too! I never knew that!  She said there was such a wide variety of things to choose from you could find anything from a fifty cent wind up toy to a three or four thousand dollar necklace. I took off exploring.

Downstairs, there was of course, the jewelry, gifts for the home and Topsail Island wall art. There was an area with good quality tee shirts, beach hats and sandals for adults and children. I was happy to find a little area of North Carolina food products and some novelty collegiate items for your favorite North Carolina sports teams.

Upstairs IMG_1203was uncharted territory for me. The first space I came across was a Christmas room, filled with beach themed tree ornaments and decorations. I always love a beach shop with a year round Christmas corner. It was perfect!

I stepped through a door and entered the garden room. It was filled with seasonal flags for front porches or wherever a flag could be displayed. There were smaller ones for gardens and walkways. A large display of wind chimes hung from a rack in the corner and some painted garden stones and small statues graced a side table. A few glass bottled chimes and bird feeders hung in the window dividing sunlight like a prism. I think this was my favorite room. It reminded me that spring was around the corner.IMG_1211

The next room was large and filled with ladies wear and accessories. There were shirts, tops and capris made with materials of natural fibers.  I guess it was what I’d call quality resort wear. I loved the selection. There was also a rack of very comfortable looking sleepwear. To me, the merit of a shop is based on the beauty and practicality of its sleepwear. I don’t know. That’s just me, but The Gift Basket received a merit badge from me at that moment!IMG_1216

Colorful, light scarves were displayed as well as handbags. I realized I’d have to come back for another look when I had time to actually try a few things on. Oh my, I didn’t realize this little shop had so much in it!

The last room upstairs was dedicated to children. I suppose that the fifty cent wind up toy was in there, along with kites, old fashioned games I had played when I was little and new ones that I had never seen or heard of. It was a room that adults would love because it contained everything that would make a child happy at the beach. It was insurance for a good time even on a rainy day.

I slowly made my way back down the stairs. I still had to choose a gift for Kelly. When I first came into The Gift Basket I had spotted something I thought she might fancy; some “Featherlite Jewelry” from Greensboro native, artist and designer, Jay Schiavone. They were funky earrings and made from recycled materials. Also, I spotted a lovely, red cookbook entitled, “Taste of Fellowship” from recipes given from  the good folks of the Emma Anderson Memorial Chapel located down the street from The Gift Basket. Kelly collected church cookbooks and this was so well done, how could she not love it?IMG_1204

I paid for my purchases and Kristin asked if I’d like them gift wrapped. Of course I did and it was worth the wait. The package was as lovely and as special as the gift inside.

The Gift Basket is a classy, quality shop with magical qualities.  I recommend you drop by for a visit next time you are on our lovely island. You’ll be charmed and delighted, I guarantee!

The Gift Basket is located at 702 S. Anderson Blvd., Topsail Beach, NC 28445

910-328-7111

https://www.facebook.com/The-Gift-Basket-156196724447007/

Christmas Shopping on Topsail Island: There’s Something for Everyone – Part 1

by Donna Byrd

Whether you are visiting our fair, little island of Topsail during the Christmas holidays or are lucky enough to call it your home, I have wonderful news! I’ve done a bit of snooping around and found that Topsail Island has plenty of top-notch retail establishments to visit for your Christmas holiday shopping pleasure! IMG_2993 Who wants to get in their car and travel more than thirty or fifty minutes away to Jacksonville or Wilmington when you can just ride down the island road and find a diversity of fine, quality gifts right under your nose? Not me! I’ve decided to do all my holiday shopping right on the island! I’m already imagining my adult children and granddaughters opening their gifts on Christmas morning. Their eyes will light up when they see their “island” treasures!

I’d like to present to you a list of places I visited this week that offer a little something for everyone. I’ve written this blog in two parts because there were more shops than I thought there’d be and there was so much to say about each of them. Please consider shopping on our fair island! I’m sure you can complete your Christmas shopping list right here at home! Thanks for keeping it local and shopping on Topsail!

 

Herring’s Outdoor Sports

701 N. New River Drive, Surf City, NC 28445IMG_2889

910-328-4141

www.herringoutdoorsports.com

I have driven by this store for five years and always admired its curbside appeal but I actually stopped in Saturday. I knew that it was a kayak outfitters store and that it offered guided tours and rentals but it had so much more to offer! Not only was there kayak supplies but there was also fishing gear, bait and tackle, outdoors apparel for men, women and children, sandals and shoes, hats, kites, wallets, handbags and various and sundry gifts that anyone would love. I also noticed Yeti coolers and products. My son Cody has been eyeing anything “Yeti!”

 

Surfside Sportswear and Gifts

314 N. New River Drive, Surf City, NC  28445IMG_2896

910-328-4141

www.surfsidesportweargifts.com

I love this island shop and frequent it often.  Last year, I purchased a few spiffy outfits to wear to some of my son’s wedding events. Not only did I get some beautiful clothes but I also chose some nice pieces of jewelry to complement my attire from their abundant jewelry selection. Surfside Sportswear and Gifts also offers shoes, swimwear, hats, souvenir tee shirts and sweatshirts, quilts and decorative pillows, lamps, rugs, Christmas cards and ornaments and other gifts. The staff is friendly and so helpful. The store is large and you’ll love the lovely sound of windchimes that greet you when you open the door!

 

Topsail Island Trading CompanyIMG_2900

201 N. New River Drive, Surf City, NC 28445

910-328-1905

10:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. Monday – Saturday

https://www.facebook.com/TheTradingCompany/

One of my favorite shops on the island, Topsail Island Trading Company is a feast for the eyes and taste buds! The minute you walk into the store, the colorful displays of gifts, fine jewelry, resort wear, books, kitchen ware, nautical weather and tide instruments delight you. You’re not sure what to look at first and then you notice the fudge counter on the right side of the shop. You gravitate towards it and the friendly staff offers you a taste of any of the varieties you wish to try and there are dozens of luscious flavors! It’s hard not to walk out with a little treasure box filled with sweet goodness! The best thing, is you can order it online and mail it anywhere! It’s the perfect gift for the person who has everything. Who doesn’t like fudge?

 

Southern EmporiumIMG_2913

208 N. River Dr. Ste. J, Surf City, NC 28445

910-541-0138

www.southernemporium.com

I have a friend whose parting words to me are always, “Stay Classy.”  That’s not very hard to do if I shop regularly and fill my home with the southern-styled, upscale,  beautiful things from The Southern Emporium. This charming shop is worth a visit and is dripping with little treasures! The owner, Susan M. Smith, made me feel right at home the minute I entered her door. IMG_2910I was pleasantly surprised at the abundance of all her beautiful things: silver, glassware, recycled aluminum diningware and many types of home decor, baby items, jewelry, and even a bit of women’s clothing. All of those things are hard to say in one breath and in one sentence, but it’s true! It contains each and everyone of these goodies! The merchandise was displayed beautifully and the prices were great. To any of my friends who may be wondering what to get me for Christmas, just get me a little something from the classy, Southern Emporium. I’m sure I will love it!

 

Part II of this special list of shops is coming up next! Ladies and Gentlemen rev up your engines…It’s time to shop!