Plan Your Visit

Visitors swim in the sound near the Cape Lookout Lightstation.
Getting wet near the lighthouse

NPS Photo/Karen Duggan


A little planning can make your visit to the islands of Cape Lookout National Seashore more enjoyable. Unlike neighboring beaches, no bridges cross from the mainland to the islands. A boat ride is a must for reaching the area - either your own boat or a ferry. There are also no paved roads, concession stands, bathhouses, camp stores or trash cans in the seashore. Except for the ferry landing areas, the islands are undeveloped and wild.

A man and boy walk along a boardwalk carrying beach toys.

Plan a Day Trip

Visit for a couple of hours, a half day, or all day--there's plenty to do and see.

Hit the beach for shelling, swimming, and fishing. Join us for a ranger-led program to see the Shackelford Banks wild horses or climb the Cape Lookout Lighthouse. Tour Portsmouth Village. Stop by a visitor center on Harkers Island, in Beaufort or on Core Banks at the Light Station Visitor Center near the lighthouse to pick up your Junior Ranger booklet or begin your Junior Ranger Adventure.

Suggested items to bring:

  • Drinks and snacks or a picnic lunch.
  • Hand sanitizer and/or moist towelettes. Most areas do not have sinks or running water.
  • A trash bag to carry any empty wrappers, drink containers, or the remains of your lunch back to the mainland for recycling or disposal. Remember there are no trash cans or garbage pickup on the islands; help us keep the beach clean.
  • Sunscreen and a hat for shade.
  • Insect repellent.
  • Comfortable clothing and shoes that can take getting sandy and wet. Remember to check the weather and dress accordingly.
  • Beach or fishing gear if going swimming, surf fishing or for other activities.
A rustic Long Point Cabin

Plan an Overnight Trip

There are two ways to stay overnight on the islands of Cape Lookout National Seashore. Rustic cabins may be rented from mid-March through the end of November, while primitive camping is available year-round.

Rustic cabin rentals are available on North Core Banks at Long Point and on South Core Banks at Great Island. Reservations are highly reccomended. While the basics are provided you will still need to bring a few things:

  • bed linens or a sleeping bag.
  • an ice chest and ice for your food and drinks (no refrigerators).
  • your food and drinks.
  • a lantern for light and/or a generator if staying at Great Island Cabin Camps, the cabins at Long Point do have some solar generated electricity provided.

Learn more about the cabins...

Primitive beach camping.

All camping is in the primitive style. You will need to bring everything you need with you, including your drinking water, and take all trash back to the mainland for disposal.

Learn more about beach camping…

Last updated: February 2, 2017

Contact the Park

Mailing Address:

131 Charles St
Harkers Island, NC 28531


(252) 728-2250

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