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

  • Ocean beach from Ramp 26a to Ramp 27 is closed to motor vehicles, detour to the back road is available

North Core Banks

NOTE: Hurricane Dorian overwashed the entire island from the soundside to the ocean. Over 50 cuts/breaches/inlets were opened through the island. We have been unable to drive the island to check on any sea turtle nests that might have survived.

Areas Recently Reopened

South Core Banks
  • Ocean beach from Ramp 32 to Ramp 33
  • Ocean beach from Ramp 41b to Ramp 42a
  • Ocean beach on west side of Cape Lookout to Ramp 44b

Information is correct as of October 25, 2019

Last updated: October 25, 2019

Contact the Park

Mailing Address:

131 Charles St
Harkers Island, NC 28531


(252) 728-2250

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