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The National Park Service preserves unimpaired the natural and cultural resources and values of the National Park System for the enjoyment, education, and inspiration of this and future generations. The Park Service cooperates with partners to extend the benefits of natural and cultural resource conservation and outdoor recreation throughout this country and the world. Explore general legislation and other laws relating to the National Park Service.


  • Cape Hatteras National Seashore was authorized by the United States Congress on August 17, 1937.

  • The park’s enabling legislation states that, “except for certain portions of the area, deemed to be especially adaptable for recreational uses, particularly swimming, boating, sailing, fishing, and other recreational activities of similar, nature, which shall be developed for such uses as needed, the said area shall be permanently reserved as a primitive wilderness and no development of the project or plan for the convenience of visitors shall be undertaken which would be incompatible with the preservation of the unique flora and fauna or the physiographic conditions now prevailing in this area…” Link to 1937 enabling legislation.

  • On June 29, 1940, the United States Congress amended the 1937 enabling legislation for Cape Hatteras National Seashore to permit hunting. The same amendment also changed the formal title of the park to “Cape Hatteras National Seashore Recreational Area,” in order to distinguish it from more traditional types of parks where all hunting was generally prohibited. Link to 1940 amendment.

  • Cape Hatteras National Seashore Recreational Area was officially established as the Nation’s first National Seashore by the United States Congress on January 12, 1953.

  • On April 24, 1958, at 11:30 am, a ceremony to dedicate Cape Hatteras National Seashore Recreational Area was held at the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, followed by a 2:30 pm ceremony at Coquina Beach. At the lighthouse ceremony a plaque was unveiled honoring the family of Henry Phipps (1839-1930) for the donation of 2700 acres of land. Read more about the ceremony.

  • Learn more about the creation and establishment of Cape Hatteras National Seashore Recreational Area.



The park encompasses 24,470 acres. Nearby Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge (managed by the Fish & Wildlife Service), within the park’s boundary, is 5,880 acres.


  • There is no park entrance fee at Cape Hatteras National Seashore.
  • View current fees for lighthouse climbing, off-road vehicle permits, and camping.


Cape Hatteras National Seashore offers a variety of recreational activities, including beach recreation (swimming, sunbathing, shell collecting, etc.); off-road vehicle use; fishing from the surf, boats, and piers; waterfowl hunting; lighthouse climbing; interpretive programs with a park ranger; camping; hiking; kayaking; watersports (surfing, windsurfing, kiteboarding, etc.); and wildlife viewing.


  • BIRDS - Staff from the park’s division of Resource Management monitor 11 of the 400 species of birds found on the Outer Banks. Protected shorebirds include nesting American Oystercatchers, Piping Plovers, Wilson’s Plovers, and Colonial Waterbirds. More information can be found in the park’s Shorebird Monitoring and Management annual report.
  • MAMMALS - The Atlantic Ocean off Cape Hatteras National Seashore is home to more than 17 species of marine mammals. The high diversity is due to the cold-water Labrador Current from the north converging with the warm waters of the Gulf Stream off Cape Point.
  • SEA TURTLES - Five species of protected sea turtles nest on the park’s beaches. Documented sea turtle species: Loggerhead, Green, Leatherback, Hawksbill, and Kemp’s ridley. More information can be found in the park’s Sea Turtle Monitoring and Management annual report.


  • LIGHTHOUSES - The park maintains the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, Bodie Island Lighthouse, and Ocracoke Lighthouse. The Cape Hatteras and Bodie Island Lighthouses are open for climbing from the third Friday in April through Columbus Day every year.
  • SHIPWRECKS - There are more than 60 documented shipwrecks within park boundaries.
  • The oldest item in the park’s cultural resources collection is a more than 36,000 year old walrus skull found by a visitor in 1990. It is one of the best preserved specimens of the Stone Age.


Calendar Year 2017

  • 2,433,703 visits (source:

  • 115,207 climbed our lighthouses

    • 26,053 at Bodie Island Lighthouse

    • 89,154 at Cape Hatteras Lighthouse

  • 29,559 overnight stays in campground

  • 40,979 off-road vehicle permit holders

    • 27,861 10-day permits

    • 13,118 annual permits



  • Avon Fishing Pier operated by Koru Village

  • Oregon Inlet Marina and charter boat fishing operated by Oregon Inlet Fishing Center.
  • 26 other commercial use authorizations for activities such as horseback rides, guided hunting, surf schools, and kayaking tours. See full listing of commercial operators.


Staffing for CY 2017 (total for Cape Hatteras NS, Fort Raleigh NHS, and Wright Brothers NMEM)
  • 79 Staff Year-Round
  • 88 Seasonal Staff During Summer
  • 355 Volunteers (22,966 hours)


Photography and Cape Hatteras go hand-in-hand. Miles of Atlantic Ocean coastline, sandy barrier islands, and the Pamlico and Roanoke Sounds all work in concert to provide environments ideal for capturing the stunning beauty of nature or the plethora of recreational opportunities enjoyed by visitors. The park has a large collection of public domain photos. View photo albums.

Last updated: November 6, 2018

Contact the Park

Mailing Address:

Cape Hatteras National Seashore
1401 National Park Drive

Manteo, NC 27954


(252) 473-2111

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