Wildlife Protection Zones

Plover chick with whelk shells.
Drivers should keep watch for chicks, like this plover, hiding in the sand and grasses.

Protection zones for nesting birds and sea turtles are seasonal or temporary area closures to motor vehicles with the exception of the following permanent closure areas:

  • Shackleford Banks
  • Ramp 41a to Ramp 41b (ocean side lighthouse beach)
  • Power Squadron Spit west of the Jetty
  • Portsmouth Village
Loggerhead Hatchling
Loggerhead hatchling

In general, the shoreline is open to pedestrians. Exceptions will be posted.

Boaters can expect interior bird nesting area protection zones, signed closed to all entry, at the inlets and points from April 1 to August 31. Boaters are encouraged to land within 0.25 miles of the inlets. This allows pedestrians to walk the inlet shoreline for access to the ocean shoreline.

Maps of North and South Core Banks which show exit ramps connecting the ocean beach and the back "road" are available on the Maps webpage.

More information on the need for the protection zones can be found on this short Fact Sheet webpage.

The annual nesting reports can be found on the Wildlife Management webpage.


NEW! A Cape Lookout Beach Access Status Map is available for seeing which ramps and beach areas are open for vehicle usage. Please note: Signage in the field has the "final say". The closures on the beach represent the most current beach access status, and should be considered more accurate than this map.

To use the map:

  • Click on the + or - button in the top left to zoom in and out, or use mouse wheel to zoom in and out.
  • Click on any part of the line to see the name status of that area.
  • Click on top right to choose a different basemap (imagery, Street Map, etc.)

South Core Banks

  • No wildlife closures

North Core Banks

  • No wildlife closures

Hurricane Erosion Zones

The ocean beach erosion areas near Ophelia Inlet from Hurricane Florence have been re-opened for motor vehicles and are delineated. These areas are still low and prone to flooding. It is important to pay attention to the weather and tide when driving in these areas north and south of Ophelia Inlet. These driving routes may only be accessable at low tides.

Information is correct as of November 21, 2018

Last updated: November 27, 2018

Contact the Park

Mailing Address:

131 Charles St
Harkers Island, NC 28531


(252) 728-2250

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