Frequently Asked Questions
Additional Safety Tips
What are some things I can do to be as safe as possible while swimming?
Please follow the steps below to ensure a safe and enjoyable experience at the beach.
What should I know about the weather?
The weather at the Outer Banks can be unpredictable. Storms and squalls come up quickly. Don't swim during thunderstorms. Lightning is extremely dangerous and does strike the beach! If you can hear thunder, seek shelter immediately, as lightning can strike up to 25 miles from an apparent storm. For current weather conditions contact the National Weather Service at 252-223-5737 or follow them.
What should I know about the hot temperatures?
A combination of high temperature and high humidity creates an even higher and possibly dangerous apparent temperature. With an air temperature of 90º Fahrenheit and a humidity of 80%, the apparent temperature is 113º Fahrenheit! Heat cramps, heat exhaustion, and heatstroke are possible during elevated apparent temperatures. Enjoy the beach, but limit your physical activity and exposure during days of high heat and humidity. Drink water often.
What should I keep in mind about the sun?
Besides the heat, the sun's ultraviolet radiation can cause skin burns, which can lead to skin cancer. Be sure to apply sunscreen liberally before heading outdoors and remember to reapply often throughout the day.
What should I know about digging in sand?
Sand is a very unstable medium and is prone to collapsing. When playing in the sand, never dig a hole too deep where you find your head below the sand. Holes also pose a significant threat to people and wildlife alike enjoying the beach, especially during low-light conditions. Be mindful of this and always fill in any holes you dig before you leave the beach.
Any "ouches" I should be aware of?
The seashore is beautiful, but often, on the beach and in the sound, you'll find dangerous debris. You may come across sharp objects such as broken seashells, crabs, cactus, and spurs. People add to that with glass, metal, fishhooks, and nails. Hot sand can burn unprotected feet. Think safety before leaving your vehicle. Protect your feet from these hazards.
What about bugs?
Mosquitoes, ticks, and other insects serve a purpose in the scheme of things. Nonetheless, they are nuisances and can make your trip an unpleasant one. Be prepared with insect repellent and netting for camping and other island-related activities. Be sure to check yourself for ticks after being outdoors.
Should I be concerned about snakes?
Cape Hatteras National Seashore is home to several venomous snakes: timber rattlesnakes, eastern diamondback rattlesnakes, Carolina pigmy rattlesnakes, copperheads, and cottonmouths. Be on the lookout for them and pay attention to the snake warning signs posted in areas of known snake habitat. Be safe and always keep your distance from all wildlife.
What do I need to know about jellyfish?
Jellyfish are present in the ocean waters. If stung by a jellyfish, seek first-aid if needed and pour vinegar on the wound to stop the stinging, but don't rub. Be safe and always keep your distance from all wildlife.
What do I need to know about sharks?
Sharks are a normal and important part of the natural surroundings we enjoy at Cape Hatteras National Seashore. However, the presence of these animals necessitates preparedness. Please follow the steps below to reduce the already extremely slim chance of encountering a shark.
Shark encounters are still extremely unlikely, but use of the above recommendations will further reduce the chances of injury, and allow you to more safely share the park with these spectacular animals. Be safe and always keep your distance from all wildlife.
Spending Time Here
What should I do if I encounter wildlife?
Leave wildlife alone and keep your distance. Do not feed or harass wildlife; for their safety and yours. If you are concerned about the welfare of the wildlife, contact our biologists at 252-216-6892 and leave detailed information about the wildlife and its location.
What are shorebirds?
Each spring and summer, scores of coastal birds find the beaches of Cape Hatteras National Seashore an ideal place to find mates, nest, and raise their young. Some of these shorebirds (plovers and American oystercatchers) prefer solitary nests.
Other shorebirds (black skimmers, terns, and pelicans) prefer to group their nests into large colonies, and hence are called colonial nesters.
Several species of shorebirds are considered threatened, endangered, or a species of concern at either the state and/or federal level. These include the piping plover, Wilson's plover, American oystercatcher, common tern, least tern, black skimmer, and red knot.
In an effort to protect and promote the recovery of these species, during the breeding season (March through September) the National Park Service sets up closures to provide safe havens for these bird species to nest in and raise their young. These closures can change on a daily basis during the season, based on the daily bird activity seen by National Park Service biologists.
Do sea turtles visit Cape Hatteras National Seashore?
From May through September, four types of sea turtles (loggerhead, green, leatherback, and Kemp's ridley) may crawl out of the ocean during the night and lay nests anywhere along the beach. These female sea turtles will deposit around 100 eggs in the nest.
The incubation period for the eggs is roughly 60 days, and the temperature of the sand during that period determines the sex of the hatchlings. Warmer sands produce more female sea turtles, while cooler sands produce more male sea turtles.
After the incubation is complete, the hatchlings will burrow out of the nest and make their way to the ocean by following the light from the stars and the moon reflected off the ocean's surface. The National Park Service searches the beaches every morning for new nests during the nesting season, and put up a small closure around every nest to help protect it.
Around 50 to 55 days after the nest is laid, an expanded closure is established that runs down to the waterline, providing a more protected path from the nest to the ocean for hatchlings. If you spot a sea turtle on the beach, please alert park biologists by calling 252-216-6892.
For a full list of park regulations, you can review the Superintendent's Compendium.