News Release

2018 Cape Lookout National Seashore Summer Activities and Operating Hours

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Date: May 11, 2018
Contact: B.G. Horvat, 252-838-8906

Cape Lookout Lighthouse to Open May 16, 2018
HARKERS ISLAND, NC A beach is a marvelous place to get away from it all and relax, or take a trek up the 207 stairs to view the Southern Outer Banks from the top of the iconic Cape Lookout Lighthouse at Cape Lookout National Seashore.
The lighthouse will open for climbing on Wednesday, May 16, and will be open for the public’s enjoyment through Sunday, September 16, 2018.
Climbing hours and days of operation will be Wednesdays through Sundays, 10:15 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. with ticket sales from 10:00 a.m. to 3:45 p.m. Folks can also plan to visit the lighthouse on Monday, May 28, and Monday, September 3, 2018, in honor of Memorial Day and Labor Day.
Tickets are $8 for adults and $4 for senior citizens (62 or older) and children (11 and under). They are available on a first-come, first-serve basis and can only be purchased in-person at the site the day of the climb. There are no advance ticket sales.
Children must be at least 44” tall, and children 12 and under must be escorted by a person at least 16 years old.
Visitors should prepare ahead of their visit by bringing sunscreen, bug spray, water and snacks, and plan to pack out any trash as the park is a trash-free zone. Also, check local weather ahead of time and dress accordingly. Climbing the lighthouse can be ‘strenuous’, as the climb is the equivalent to climbing a 10-story building. For more information, check the park website at
Harkers Island Visitor Center (HIVC), 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 the east end of Shackleford Banks is located at 1800 Island Road, Harkers Island, North Carolina. The HIVC is open daily, 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
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. The trail is open daily, during daylight hours.
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 Ibis and other migratory waterfowl year-round from observation sites along the way. The trail is open daily, during daylight hours.
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. Call 252-728-1500 or visit for more information.
Ribbon of Sand (park film available at the HIVC Theater - 26 minutes)
This film showcases the natural barrier island ecosystem from the sound-side marshes and estuaries to the protective chain 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.
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, the Beaufort Visitor Information Center, the Light Station Visitor Center, and the Great Island and Long Point Cabin Camp Offices.
Light Station Visitor Center (LSVC)
The beach is a wealth of activities under the Summer-sun at Cape Lookout National Seashore. From camping, fishing, surfing, shelling, and even to learn about the dynamic ecology of the banks, or the rich history of the Cape Lookout Light Station, there is something for everyone! The Light Station Visitor Center (LSVC) is located off the boardwalk in the lighthouse area that is connected to the passenger ferry dock on South Core Banks. This seasonal visitor center is open daily, from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Ranger Programs at the Lighthouse Beach
Located in front of the Light Station Visitor Center is a shade shelter where Cape Lookout Park Rangers and Volunteer Docents present programs. The programs are 20 to 45- minute talks and walks that focus on the statistics, processes, and meanings behind the human history, natural and cultural resources of the Southern Outer Banks. Come join a Ranger to enlighten your curiosity about this iconic highlight of the Crystal Coast region.
Programs vary by topic, and take place from May 16 – September 16, Wednesday through Sunday at 10:30 a.m. (20-minute talk) and 2:30 p.m. (45-minute demonstrations or walk).     
Beaufort Visitor Information Center (BVIC), Beaufort, NC
Introduce yourself to Cape Lookout National Seashore from historic Beaufort. The Beaufort Visitor Center provides exhibits on the ecology and history of the southern outer banks islands of North Carolina. Check out the maps, exhibits, and brochures and get advice from park staff in planning your visit over the expansive 56-miles of national seashore. Get the kids involved with the Jr. Ranger program and have your National Park passport book stamped. Stop by the visitor center if you’re in Beaufort.
The National Park Service’s Beaufort Visitor Information Center and the Island Express Ferry Service gateway to the west-end of Shackleford Banks are located at 701 Front Street, Beaufort, North Carolina. The BVIC is open daily, 8:30 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
Portsmouth Village Visitor Center (PVVC)
Plan ahead and take a step back in time on a visit to the historic Portsmouth Village, located on Portsmouth Island at the northern end of Cape Lookout National Seashore’s boundary (North Core Banks). Experience the once bustling lightering port where goods from the shipping industry were dispersed to smaller ships able to better navigate the shoals of the Sounds. Portsmouth Village is a step back in time to the hallowed grounds of maritime village culture. The first house on the right of the path from the Haulover Dock (where the passenger ferry drops off / picks up) is the Theodore and Annie Salter House, which serves as the Portsmouth Village Visitor Center (PVVC).
Departing from Ocracoke, NC, contact Rudy Austin’s Portsmouth Island Boat Tours (Passenger Ferry) for more details and ferry schedule at 252-928-4361. The PVVC is open seasonally (mid-April through the end of October) Tuesday - Saturday, 10:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m.
Island Express Ferry Service
Island Express Ferry Service is the passenger ferry service to the Cape Lookout Lighthouse and to Shackleford Banks. The authorized concessioner is available for daily (weather permitting) passenger service from the ferry gateway locations in Beaufort (Town Docks at 701 Front Street, Beaufort, NC 28516) and Harkers Island (1800 Island Road, Harkers Island, NC 28531). Call the ferry at 252-728-7433 or visit for their scheduled times and fees.

Last updated: May 11, 2018

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131 Charles St
Harkers Island, NC 28531


(252) 728-2250

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