Cape Lookout National Seashore Transitions to Winter Hours and Activities

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Date: December 5, 2017
Contact: B.G. Horvat, 252-838-8890

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 ‘0’.


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 daily (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 (BVIC), located at 701 Front Street in Beaufort, North Carolina, will be closed for the season (Sunday, December 10, 2017 – Sunday, March 19, 2018). Ferry service to the west-end of Shackleford Banks is still available, and is located just across the street, at the Island Express Ferry Service vestibule.


Harkers Island, NC

The National Park Service’s Harkers Island Visitor Center (HIVC) and the Island Express Ferry Service gateway to Cape Lookout Lighthouse and east-end of Shackleford Banks is located at 1800 Island Road, Harkers Island, North Carolina. Winter hours will run from Sunday, December 10, 2017 – Sunday, March 18, 2018. The HIVC is open Monday through Saturday, 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.; closed on Sundays, Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day and New Year’s Day. Ferry service, the Soundside Loop and Willow Pond Nature Trails are open seven days a week, and holidays during daylight hours.


  • Soundside Loop Trail – A 4/5 – mile, self-guided nature trail winds along the eastern shore of Harkers Island, through maritime forest and saltmarsh. The trail features a boardwalk and observation deck overlooking Core Sound. Stand on the edge of land and sea and think about the forces that shape Harkers Island – and her people.

  • Willow Pond Nature Trail - This 1/3-mile trail winds around a restored freshwater pond with gorgeous views of wetland habitats and maritime woodlands. Watch for ducks and songbirds year-round from observation sites along the way.


    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 24-25 and January 1 each year. Call 252-728-1500 or visit for more information.


    Other Offerings

  • Ribbon of Sand (park film available at the HIVC Theater - 26 minutes)

    This film transcends you throughout 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.

  • Cell phone tours – Learn more about the park before, during or after your visit with Ranger-narrated tours for your cell 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. Booklets are available at the Harkers Island Visitor Center and the Beaufort Visitor Information Center.

Last updated: December 5, 2017

Contact the Park

Mailing Address:

131 Charles St
Harkers Island, NC 28531


(252) 728-2250

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