Cape Lookout National Seashore's Winter Activities and Operating Hours

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Date: December 17, 2014
Contact: Wouter Ketel, 252-728-2250, ext. 3014

HARKERS ISLAND, NC A beach is a marvelous place to get away from it all and explore on those beautiful, crisp days during the winter. Dress for the weather and come out to see what you've been missing! All activities are free of charge unless noted otherwise below. For more information on these and other activities, call the National Park Service at 252-728-2250, extension 3001.

On the barrier islands

The winter beach is full of surprises! The stronger waves of winter bring in many sea treasures making beachcombing a winter delight. The clear blues of the winter sky and sea are picture perfect. You might even get to see a whale as it passes along the coast. Passenger ferry service to the islands is available every day (weather permitting) from the ferry gateway locations in Beaufort and Harkers Island. Call the ferry at 252-728-7433 or visit for their scheduled times and fees.

Beaufort, NC

The National Park Service's Beaufort Visitor Information Center to Shackleford Banks is located at 701 Front Street in Beaufort, North Carolina, and is open Monday through Sunday, 8:30 a.m. –5:00 p.m. all year. Holiday hours: closed Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day and New Year's Day.

Harkers Island, NC

The National Park Service Visitor Center and the Ferry Gateway to Cape Lookout Lighthouse and Shackleford Banks is located at 1800 Island Road, Harkers Island, North Carolina, and is open Monday through Sunday, 9:00 a.m. –5:00 p.m. all year. Holiday hours: closed Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day and New Year's Day. Nature trails and picnic areas are open 7 days a week during daylight hours.

  • Ribbon of Sand(film) (26 minutes)

Travel through the Cape Lookout ecosystem from the sound side marshes and estuaries to the protective line of islands of the Outer Banks and the ocean depths beyond. The film is shown upon request. For your convenience, this film is open-captioned, audio described, and assistive listening devices are available.

  • Sound-Side Nature Trail –4/5 mile self-guided nature trail

This loop trail winds along the eastern shore of Harkers Island through maritime forest and saltmarsh and features a boardwalk and observation deck overlooking Core Sound. You can stand on the edge of land and sea and imagine the forces that shape Harkers Island and her people.

  • Willow Pond Nature Trail –1/3 mile self-guided nature trail

The loop trail winds around a restored freshwater pond with gorgeous views of wetland habitats and maritime hardwoods. The trail guide is available at the Core Sound Museum; the trail starts behind the Core Sound Waterfowl Museum and Heritage Center.

Core Sound Waterfowl Museum and Heritage Center is located at 1785 Island Road, Harkers Island, North Carolina, 28531. The Museum is open Monday through Saturday from 10:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m. and Sunday from 2:00 p.m. until 5:00 p.m. Holiday hours: closed Thanksgiving Day, closed December 24-26 and January 1 each year. Call 252-728-1500 or visit for more information.

Other Offerings

  • Cell phone tours –Learn more about the park before, during or after your visit with Ranger-narrated tours for your cell phone or smart phone. The tours are free; however, normal cell phone minutes and data rates will apply. Call (252) 838-7052 and select a stop number on a specific tour to hear a brief story. Available tours:
  • Orientation to Cape Lookout National Seashore: stops 100 –107
  • Harkers Island Nature Trails: stops 201 - 210
  • Cape Lookout Light Station: stops 501-511
  • Portsmouth Village: stops 940-950
  • Junior Rangers and Junior Ranger Adventures –A fun way to explore the park is to become a Junior Ranger. The Junior Ranger program is designed for ages 5 to 13 but everyone is welcome to participate. There are six different booklets and awards in the Junior Ranger and Junior Ranger Adventures programs. You can also earn a Junior Ranger Patch by completing a booklet, watching the park movie and attending a ranger or volunteer guided program. Be sure to have them sign your patch program sheet! Locations: Booklets are available at the Harkers Island Visitor Center, Beaufort Visitor Information Center, the Light Station Visitor Center, Great Island Cabin Fee Office, Long Point Cabin Fee Office and at Portsmouth Village when visitor centers or offices are open.
  • Ask us about our "by request" programs - these include Scouting programs, nature trail hikes, discovery cart programs, and programs on lighthouse keepers, wild horses and sea turtles. Call (252) 728 -2250, extension 3001 for more information.

Last updated: April 14, 2015

Contact the Park

Mailing Address:

131 Charles St
Harkers Island, NC 28531


(252) 728-2250

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