While many of Topsail Island’s treasures are apparent as soon as you cross the bridge into Surf City, there are those that are tucked away from the mainland and hidden just out of sight. Kayaks and boats provide more than just an opportunity for a day of thrills in the water – they are also a great way to get up close and personal with the history and nature surrounding this island home.
Evidence of some of the region’s oldest residents can be found on Permuda Island, a 1.5-mile sliver of land that sits in the uniquely picturesque Stump Sound, located just adjacent to North Topsail Beach. Archaeological evidence here dates back to about 300
BC amidst the Holocene and Pleistocene sands that make up the island. Thick deposits of shell refuse in the waters surrounding the
island led the NC Coastal Reserve and National Estuarine Research Reserve, which preserves the space, to conclude that the site
possesses the potential for learning new information about the aboriginals who previously resided along the southern coast. Piles
of mollusk shells are found along the island, believed to have been deposited by Native Americans, who may have used the site to access a wide variety of shellfish on the land, including oysters, clams, scallops, crabs and whelks.
First deeded in the mid-1700s, the former farmland in the central part of the island is now covered in dog fennel, goldenrods,
broomsedge and asters, while the waters around the island are used as nursery grounds for a variety of species. A great spot for bird
watching, the protected estuary is home to egrets, herons, black skimmers, sandpipers, painted buntings, willetts and more. What may be most eye catching, however, are the clusters of stunted trees and shrubs, hence the name Stump Sound. Naturists will recognize yaupon, silverling, live oak, red cedar and others amidst what once may have been a bountiful maritime forest.
Permuda was previously connected to Topsail Island by a causeway. Part of the NC Coastal Reserve’s ongoing work was to remove the remnants of the causeway and restore the salt marsh and natural hydrology to improve the water quality around the island and
Stump Sound, which have long been a haven for shellfish beds. Today, the island is reachable only by boat or kayak and is
managed by the NC Coastal Reserve, which protects more than 41,000 acres of estuaries, including Buxton Woods, Currituck Banks and the Rachel Carson Reserve. Guests should be reminded that the reserve is a protected space. Nothing can be removed from the island, and visitors should plan to remove all items they bring with them, including trash, in order to aid in its ongoing preservation.
To learn more about the site, visit www.nccoastalreserve.net.