Small sailboat racing in the sound.

The islands of Cape Lookout National Seashore are reachable only by boat. While many visitors take a ferry; most paddlers and sailors prefer to take their own boats across to the islands. Fishing, whether on the waters of Back Sound, Core Sound or out the inlet to the near-shore ocean waters, is also an enjoyable and rewarding activity. The steady winds that blow across the sounds make this an ideal area for windsurfers and kite-boarders as well.

Navigating the shallow waters of the sounds is a challenge. The average depth in the channel is about 5 feet, with the surrounding water averaging under 3 feet and filled with shoals. Tidal changes can make an area impassable at low tide. Knowing how to "read the water" as well as a chart is essential to safe boating. Here it is not a matter of "if" you'll go aground but more "when" and how hard. NOAA charts 11545 (Cape Lookout, Shackleford Banks, Barden and Beaufort Inlets) and 11550 (Ocracoke Inlet, Portsmouth, Core Banks) are key to knowing the waters. Learning the area can bring years of enjoyable and safe boating.

Tide height: 2-4 feet
Current speed (channels): 2-3 knots


Contact the Park

Mailing Address:

131 Charles St
Harkers Island, NC 28531


(252) 728-2250

Contact Us