Getting Around

Boats drop anchor in front of the Cape Lookout Lighthouse.

NPS Photo/Shad Dusseau

Most visitors arrive at the islands of Cape Lookout National Seashore through one of the authorized ferry services. Check directly with the listed ferry service for its operational schedule and the cost of passenger and/or vehicle transportation out to the barrier islands. Passenger ferry service continues throughout the year, but the operational schedule changes with the seasons. Vehicle ferries operate from mid-March through the end of November, reservations are highly recommended. Contact the ferry directly to make reservations.

Personal boats, including kayaks and canoes, as well as personal watercraft (PWC) may also be used to reach the islands. Once there, most visitors then walk to where they wish to go. Near the lighthouse, a boardwalk makes the journey from the ferry dock to the beach a little easier.
riding the shuttle service to the point of Cape Lookout.

NPS Photo

Beach Driving is allowed on two of the islands that make up the seashore: North Core Banks and South Core Banks. A 4-wheel drive vehicle, all-terrain vehicle (ATV), or small utility vehicle (UTV) can make searching for that good shelling, surf-fishing, or camping spot a little easier. Make arrangements with one of the vehicle ferry services to transport your vehicle to the seashore.

All vehicles will need to purchase the ORV Beach Driving Permit before they can drive on the islands. This permit is purchased through and is good for one season. Be sure to print out the complete permit and bring it with you to obtain your window decal in person at Great Island cabin office or directly from a uniformed law enforcement officer on the island. For more information on obtaining the Beach Driving Permit and its window decal, check out the ORV Beach Driving Permit page.

For more information on riding an ATV or UTV on the islands check out our ATV rider page. Be aware that ATVs and UTVs are allowed for transportation only on the barrier islands of North Core Banks and South Core Banks within Cape Lookout National Seashore.

Don't forget to get a Long Term Parking Permit if you will be leaving your vehicle on the islands unattended for 24 hours or more. Information and the permit application can be found on the Permits page.

If you don't want to bring your own vehicle, check with the ferry service for details on the beach shuttle.

Bicycles are allowed on the North Core and South Core Banks, on designated routes open for off-road motor vehicles use, however the "back road" is not recommended for bicycle use. Bicycles are also permitted on the nature trail near the Harkers Island Visitor Center as long as they give way to pedestrians. Class-1 E-bikes (motor assist only when pedaling) may also be used in the same areas as regular bicycles. See the Beach Driving page for more information on bicycle and E-bike use on the barrier islands.

Last updated: April 28, 2023

Park footer

Contact Info

Mailing Address:

131 Charles St
Harkers Island, NC 28531


252 728-2250

Contact Us