Cape Hatteras National Seashore

Cape Hatteras National Seashore

Quick Facts

Cape Hatteras National Seashore

North Carolina

(252) 473-2111

Map Directions

Things To Do

Overview

Stretched over 70 miles of barrier islands, Cape Hatteras National Seashore is a fascinating combination of natural and cultural resources, and provides a wide variety of recreational opportunities. A haven for recreation and reflection, these islands are constantly changing by tide, storm, current, and wind. The plants, wildlife and people who live here adapt continually. You see it in the daily lives and hear it in the telling of their stories. And there are many story places - sandy beaches, salt marshes, maritime woods - come explore them all! The park's fishing and surfing are considered the best on the east coast. Swimming, crabbing, surf fishing, surfing, shell collecting, bird and wildlife watching, sightseeing - Cape Hatteras has this and more. By foot, bicycle or vehicle, explore the park and create lasting memories for yourself and your family to be treasured in years to come. These dynamic barrier islands and their diverse habitats offer many exceptional experiences. Once dubbed the "Graveyard of the Atlantic" for its treacherous currents, shoals, and storms, Cape Hatteras has a wealth of history relating to shipwrecks, lighthouses, and the U.S. Lifesaving Service. These dynamic islands provide a variety of habitats and are a valuable wintering area for migrating waterfowl.

Map of Cape Hatteras

Latitude, Longitude: 35.245058, -75.563965

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Activities

  • Boating

    Commercial kayaks and canoe rentals are available locally. Be sure to check the weather before your trip and remember to be careful of ocean currents, especially in the inlets. Don't get caught unaware!

  • Bicycling

    One way to get around is by bicycle (a partial bike path exists along some stretches of Highway 12; use caution on busy two-lane highway).

  • Auto/Motorcycle

    Off-road vehicles (ORVs) are one way for visitors to enjoy the seashore's ocean beaches and sound-side waters. Permits are required in all cases to drive ORVs at Cape Hatteras National Seashore. Portions of the beach may be temporarily closed to ORVs due to mandated protection of wildlife and plant species, such as protected birds and sea turtles.

  • Camping

    Cape Hatteras National Seashore has four campgrounds, all capable of serving tents, trailers, and motor homes. Reservations can be made ONLY for Ocracoke Campground through Reserve America. The other three campgrounds are available on a first-come, first-served basis and are only open during the spring, summer, and fall months.

  • Fishing

    Cape Hatteras National Seashore offers the angler a variety of excellent fishing opportunities. The best fishing is in the spring and fall but the earnest fisherman can easily find reward all year except January and February. Action during the middle of the summer is best offshore.

  • Hiking

    Hiking along the beach and on designated trails is a great way to explore the Cape Hatteras Seashore!

  • Hunting

    Snow geese, Canada geese, mallards, tundra swans, and many other waterfowl follow the Atlantic Flyway south to the food-rich marshes of the Outer Banks.

    The State of North Carolina, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and National Park Service request hunters take extra care while hunting on Cape Hatteras National Seashore.

    To hunt legally at Cape Hatteras National Seashore you must have on your person a valid North Carolina hunting license with North Carolina waterfowl privilege and a Federal Duck Stamp.

    Learn the silhouettes, flight patterns and winter plumage of the waterfowl you may legally hunt. Your familiarity with game and non-game species will contribute to waterfowl conservation programs and help insure a successful hunt.

  • Off Highway Vehicles

    Riding off-road vehicles (ORVs) is a popular way for visitors to enjoy the seashore's ocean beaches and sound-side waters. However, be aware that the seashore also contains important wildlife habitat created by dynamic environmental processes. Several species listed under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), including the piping plover, seabeach amaranth, and three species of sea turtles, are found within the park. Therefore, regulations were implemented to protect these species and were effective February 15, 2012.

    The special regulation requires visitors to have an ORV special use permit to operate a vehicle on the designated ORV routes at the seashore. ORV permits can be obtained beginning at any of the three NPS permit offices located at Coquina Beach, the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse Visitor Center (Buxton), and the Ocracoke Visitor Center. These offices will be open year-round, seven days a week (except Christmas Day), from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., with expanded hours on weekends and holidays during the summer season. The cost of an annual ORV permit (valid for the calendar year) is $120. The cost for a 7-day ORV permit (valid from the date issued) is $50.

    See the National Park Service's ORV Route Map for designated routes; it is available online and at the NPS permit offices.

  • Picnicking

    Picnic areas are available at the campgrounds.

  • Water Sports

    Many windsurfers use the areas known as Salvo Day Use Area and Haulover Day Use Area on Hatteras Island. These areas are best used when the winds are out of the northeast and are blowing at least 10 mph. Booties should be worn to protect your feet from the broken shells which litter the bottom. Windsurfing equipment is available for rent locally. Ocean swimming is also permitted, but ocean swimmers should be sure to take safety precautions.

Seasonality/Weather

Hatteras weather is notoriously unpredictable and can change quickly. The exposed nature of the Cape Hatteras lighthouse (open the third Friday in April through Columbus Day in October), and especially the balcony, precludes the safe use of the structure in certain conditions. Therefore, to keep visitors and staff safe, the lighthouse may close due to the following weather conditions: thunderstorms, high winds, rain, high heat, extreme cold, tornados or waterspouts, and hurricanes.

Directions

Driving

There are three major accesses to NC Highway 12, which is the only major route through the park. From the north, US Highway 158 accesses the Outer Banks at Kitty Hawk, and then intersects NC Highway 12 at the park's northern entrance below Nags Head, NC. From the west U.S. Highway 64-264 comes over Roanoke Island, and intersects NC Highway 12 at the park's northern entrance. NC Highway 12 may be used from the south (ferry transportation and reservations required; call 1-800-BY FERRY) from Morehead City/Beaufort NC area.

Flying

The Norfolk, VA (ORF) Airport is 100 miles distance. Raleigh-Durham, NC (RDU) Airport is 200 miles distance.

Phone Numbers

Primary

(252) 473-2111

Links