• Cape Lookout Lighthouse from Barden Inlet

    Cape Lookout

    National Seashore North Carolina

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  • Change in Harkers Island Visitor Center Hours

    The Harkers Island Visitor Center is open Sunday through Saturday from 9:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m.

  • Morehead City Harbor Dredged Material Management Plan

    Cape Lookout National Seashore is a cooperating agency in the Morehead City Harbor Integrated Dredged Material Management Plan being developed by the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers. The full plan draft can be downloaded from the following link. More »

Self Guided

Whether your class is studying barrier island geology, marine ecology, or maritime history, Cape Lookout National Seashore can provide excellent field trip opportunities.

If you prefer to plan a self-guided field trip to Cape Lookout National Seashore, the ideas below will give you a good start. Park staff can help educational group leaders plan trips as well. Some planning materials are available upon request. For more information, contact the park.

Students doing an experiment testing barrier island development

Students doing an experiment testing the impact of development on barrier islands.

Curriculum Materials

Cape Lookout also offers several sets of curriculum materials designed to be used in conjunction with a class visit to the park or a park ranger visit to the classroom. These guides offer pre-visit, on-site, and post-visit activities and are available for download on the Curriculum Materials webpage.

Junior Ranger Adventures

The Junior Ranger Adventures program uses interactive activity booklets to introduce kids to various aspects of the natural and cultural history of the park.

There are five booklets in the series: Experience Cape Lookout, Saltwater Explorer, Island Investigator, Rescue Ranger, and Village Detective. The first booklet serves as a general introduction and is designed for kids in 1st through 8th grade. Booklets two through five are designed for grades 5 to 8 and require the use of activity kits, backpacks for small groups or totes for larger groups. More information on these booklets can be found on the Junior Ranger Adventures webpage.

For more information on the Junior Ranger Adventures program or to reserve a tote, call (252-728-2250) or e-mail us.

Traveling Trunks

While these materials are designed for use in a classroom, some activities are suitable for use at the Harkers Island Visitor Center. More information on this program can be found on the Traveling Trunk webpage. To reserve a trunk, call (252-728-2250) or e-mail us.

Scheduled Ranger Programs

Rangers and volunteers give programs in the lighthouse area, in Portsmouth Village, and in other parts of the park. It is not necessary to sign up for scheduled programs, but it may help us prepare if we know you are bringing a large group.

For information on requesting special programs, visit the Ranger Guided Field Trip webpage.

willow pond trail

Willow Pond Trail

Other Activities

On Harkers Island

  • Visit the Harkers Island Visitor Center and watch the park film Ribbon of Sand.
  • Explore the Soundside Loop (4/5 mile) and Willow Pond (1/3 mile) trails behind the visitor center.
  • Visit the Core Sound Waterfowl Museum and Heritage Center, located next to the visitor center, to learn about maritime history and traditions such as decoy carving, boat building, and commercial fishing.

In the Lighthouse area

  • Visit the Keepers' Quarters Museum and discover life on Core Banks in the 1800 and 1900s.
  • Attend a scheduled ranger program to learn more about the natural and cultural history of the park.
  • Explore the mud flats at low tide.
  • Search for and identify common seashells and compare their structure and life history. (Remember: if you find a shell with an animal inside, leave it where you found it.)
  • Take a private truck tour of the Cape point or the historic Cape Lookout Village. (Check with the tour operator for pricing and availability.)
  • Examine the various habitat zones of a barrier island and identify some of the plants and animals that live in each.

In Portsmouth Village

  • Take a free guided tour of Portsmouth Village.
  • Visit the Theodore and Annie Salter House and Visitor Center, the Post Office, the School, and the Portsmouth Life-Saving Station to learn about the lives of villagers and surf heroes.
  • Explore the mud flats at low tide.
  • Search for and identify common seashells and compare their structure and life history. (Remember: if you find a shell with an animal inside, leave it where you found it.)

In other parts of the park

  • Search for wild horses on Shackleford Banks. Please remember that these are wild animals. Use these tips for watching wild horses to keep your class safe.
  • Explore the natural maritime forest on Shackleford Banks, the man-made forest on South Core Banks, or thicket areas on any of the islands and identify adaptive traits which help plants survive in this harsh environment.
  • Find and identify common seashells and compare their structure and life history. inside.)
  • Explore the mud flats at low tide.
  • Look for signs of animals and identify the creature that made them.

Did You Know?

Least Tern Diving

Least terns are highly protective of their nests. They have been known to swarm and attack people or animals that get too close to their eggs or chicks. Cape Lookout National Seashore More...