Frequently Asked Questions

Where Are The Trash Cans?

There are no trash cans or trash pickup service on Shackleford Banks, Core Banks, or in Portsmouth Village. Please take back with you to the mainland for disposal all of the "empties" from your lunch or camping trip. Small trash bags are available from dispensers to assist you. Help us keep the beaches clean.

Where Can We Picnic?

You may picnic anywhere in the park. Picnic tables and shade shelters are available at Shell Point on Harkers Island and near the ferry landing at the lighthouse.

Are There Changing Rooms And Showers?

There are no changing rooms or showers on Shackleford Banks or in Portsmouth Village. A cold water rinse-off station is available during daylight hours at the Light Station Visitor Center from April to November. The cabin operations at Great Island on South Core Banks and Long Point on North Core Banks provide public hot water shower facilities.

Are There Toilet Facilities?

Toilet facilities are limited on the islands. Composting-style toilets are located at Wades Shore and near the dock on the west end of Shackleford Banks, and around mile 43 on South Core Banks. Another set is located near Portsmouth Village on North Core Banks. Flush-style toilets are available during the day at the Harkers Island Visitor Center, at the Light Station Visitor Center and on the boardwalk near the ocean beach, and in the Portsmouth Visitor Center. The cabin operations at Great Island on South Core Banks and Long Point on North Core Banks also have public flush-style toilets for day use.

Is There A Concession Stand Or Drinking Fountains?

Small bottles of water are sold in the bookstore at the Light Station Visitor Center, no other food or drink is available for sale. A hand pump for drinking water is also provided near mile 43 on South Core Banks from March through November. This water is treated with iodine for your safety.

Am I Allowed To Drive On The Beach?

There are no improved roads on Core Banks. All driving takes place on the open beach or on designated sand trails only. Driving is not allowed on Shackleford Banks. For a hassle-free driving experience, follow these driving tips.

Is Fishing Allowed At The Seashore?

In a word, yes. But be aware that fishing regulations including seasons, size limits and licensing requirements are set by the North Carolina Division of Marine Fisheries. A complete set of the current rules is available on their website.

Learn more about fishing...

Is There An Option To Camp?

There are no campgrounds at Cape Lookout National Seashore. Primitive camping on the islands is available. There are also cabins for rent on the islands.
Learn more about Lodging...

May We Build A Campfire?

A campstove is best for cooking at your campsite as campfires are permitted only on the open beach below the high tide line (i.e. not on the dunes, or in the trees). Plan on bringing wood for your fire, as there is very little available on the Banks. Only dead and down wood (driftwood) may be collected for firewood. Do not use the wood from shipwreck timbers or cut any standing dead trees, specifically on Shackleford Banks. Put out fires with water, not sand. Sand allows air to reach the fire, and it will continue to smolder.

Why Can't We Cut Down Dead Trees?

On Shackleford Banks in the dune and swale areas in the middle of the island stand the dead trees of the "ghost forest." These trees were killed by storms during the 1890's and buried beneath moving sand dunes. They are now being exposed once again. Please help us preserve this historic piece of natural history by not cutting down the ghost forest.

What About My Personal Watercraft?

Jet skis or personal watercraft (PWC) must be operated at least 150 feet away from the sound-side shore of Shackleford Banks, North and South Core Banks and Shell Point on Harkers Island. North Carolina riding rules also apply to the operations of PWCs on sound waters. PWCs may land at 10 sound-side locations within Cape Lookout National Seashore. Before riding out to the banks, check the rules and locations of these access points.

What About Kayaking?

There are several launch areas on the mainland as well as on Harkers Island and on Ocracoke. Due to the changeable conditions of the open waters of the sound, this is not an area for novice paddlers. Winds may reach 15 knots creating waves up to two feet. The tidal current is 3-4 knots in the channels. With the tide and wind in your favor, it will take approximately an hour to paddle across the two to three miles of open sound water to reach the Lighthouse from Harkers Island. For your safety, be sure to file a float plan before paddling.

May We Shoot Off Fireworks?

No. Fireworks are not allowed in any National Park Service area, including the beaches of Shackleford Banks, Core Banks and Shell Point.

May I Hunt For Hidden Treasure With My Metal Detector?

No. Because of the vast wealth of historic artifacts within national parks, metal detectors are prohibited in all areas, including the beaches of Shackleford Banks, Core Banks or Shell Point. In fact, all items found on the beach, with the exception of shells and driftwood, are protected by law and may not be removed from the beach. Please do not disturb any shipwrecks that may wash up or be uncovered by the ocean.

Any Other Questions?

For more information, you may contact a ranger: call 252-728-2250 or stop by the Harkers Island Visitor Center.

Last updated: February 1, 2017

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Mailing Address:

131 Charles St
Harkers Island, NC 28531


252 728-2250

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