The undeveloped islands of Cape Lookout National Seashore offer pristine examples of barrier island ecology while the historic lighthouse and villages provide a glimpse into the lives of the people who have called these islands home. A field trip to the park can be an excellent way to connect classes to these subjects. However, the remote nature of the park means that class trips require advanced planning. The following information is designed to aid teachers and school administrators in their preparation for school trips to the park.
Tips for Planning a Field Trip
Plan to bring one adult (teacher or chaperone) for every nine students.
The Harkers Island Visitor Center is accessible to wheelchairs, as is the Soundside Nature Trail (almost a mile round-trip), located just behind the visitor center. ‘Ribbon of Sand’, the park’s film which is available for viewing at the visitor center, is open-captioned with the captions appearing on a reader board beneath the screen. The film's audio description and soundtrack are broadcast for use with assistive listening devices. These devices, with either a headphone speaker or an induction loop, are available upon request at the visitor center information desk.
The barrier islands are only accessible by private ferry. Passengers often need to climb up and down ladders or step off the boat into shallow water. There may also be limitations to the size and type of wheelchairs that can be transported. Please contact Island Express Ferry Service ((252) 728-7433, via email: www.islandexpressferryservices.com ) for more information.
Many groups underestimate the travel time necessary for bussing to the ferry port / visitor centers. Give yourself at least a half hour more than you think you need for travel. Directions to the visitor centers and information on visiting the barrier islands can be found on the Park Directions page.
If you are using a GPS unit or navigational app, use this address for the Harkers Island Visitor Center’s main parking lot:
1800 Island Road
Please arrive at the ferry at least half an hour before your scheduled departure time to allow for use of the restrooms before boarding the ferry. The ferries leave promptly as scheduled. When it’s time for you to return from the islands, please be at your departure point at least fifteen minutes before your scheduled pick-up time. Ferry rides can take approximately 20-minutes to go from the mainland to the park, and vice-versa.
Whether you are participating in a ranger led program, or seeking to bring your class over to a Cape Lookout National Seashore location to conduct your own lessons, we ask that you fill out a program request form, as we might be able to make the ferry arrangements for you.Depending on available funding, and if you meet the requirements, we may be able to help your educational group with the cost of transportation, even if you intend to lead a self guided program.
Lunches and Snacks
All food and drinks will have to be brought with you. There are limited food options in the park.
We suggest scheduling your stay so that you eat in the picnic areas located near the visitor centers. Food items, and coolers will need to be carried from the ferry dock to where you plan to eat.
Cape Lookout National Seashore is a Trash Free Park. There are no garbage cans or trash-pick up on the islands. Please plan ahead and bring the appropriate amount of trash bags needed to clean-up and take trash back to the mainland for recycling and disposal.Do not feed the wildlife (including the sea gulls). Besides being against park rules, A Fed animal is a Dead animal as they eventually lose their fear of humans.
Suggested Packing List for Students
Other Activities to Consider
On Harkers Island
In the Lighthouse area
In Portsmouth Village
On Shackleford Banks