Cape Hatteras National Seashore

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Getting There

The seashore is reached by North Carolina Highway 12. Motorists can reach the park from the north via U.S. 17 and 158 or from the west via U.S. 64 and 264. From the north, the entrance is via Nags Head, NC.

From the south, use state-run ferries leaving Cedar Island or Swan Quarter to Ocracoke Island. Advanced reservations are required and fees are based upon vehicle size and type. The state-operated ferry linking Ocracoke Island to Hatteras Island is free. Call 800-BY-FERRY for more information. Two toll ferries travel from the mainland to Ocracoke. One leaves from Swanquarter, NC, which is reached via U.S. 264. The other leaves from Cedar Island, NC, reached via U.S. 70. From Swanquarter the ferry trip takes 2 and 1/2 hours; from Cedar Island, 2 and 1/4 hours. Reservations are recommended. In Ocracoke, call 919-928-3841; Cedar Island, 919-225-3551; Swanquarter, 919-926-1111.

Public transportation is not available to the Seashore, and only limited taxi and auto rental services are on the islands. The nearest bus service (Trailways) is in Elizabeth City, NC. Call 919-335-5183 for schedules.

If arriving by boat, park-provided slips are available at the boat docks in Ocracoke village on a first-come, first-served basis for up to two weeks. Concession-provided boat slips are also available on a first-come, first-served basis for up to thirty days at Oregon Inlet Marina.

The nearest major airport for commercial carriers is in Norfolk, Virginia. Two airfields are on the Seashore, in the villages of Ocracoke and Frisco. Both airfields have tie-down facilities and paved runways. They are only open during daylight hours and have neither runway lights nor fuel. Although the beach and sound can be accessed by foot, there are also designated four-wheel-drive ramps to reach them. Closed sections are well marked.

General Information

Bicycling is hazardous on the islands. There is no bicycle path and NC Highway 12 is a narrow, busy road. Helmets are strongly recommended. Bicyclists should use extreme caution because there are no established bike trails in the park. Be sure to walk—never drive—across barrier dunes to sand beaches. Park your car only in designated areas to avoid getting stuck in soft sands. Access ramps are provided at many locations for vehicles properly equipped to drive on soft sand. Check with rangers or at visitor centers for regulations on off-road vehicle travel.

Sunburn can be very painful; it can even ruin your vacation. The combination of bright sun, water, and sand can cause a burn quickly, so short periods of exposure and the use of protective waterproof lotions are recommended.

Hurricanes are rare but may occur from June to October. Winter storms, or nor'easters, should not be taken lightly. Efforts will be made to warn you in time to leave areas if a storm threatens.

Mosquitoes and other insect pests can make your trip an ordeal it you don't have an effective repellent and mosquito netting for camping.

Light clothing in summer should be adequate to protect you from the sun and keep you comfortable in the evening. Warm, wind-resistant clothing is needed in winter when high humidity and northerly winds make the weather much cooler than temperatures indicate.

Limited medical services are available in Ocracoke, Hatteras, Manteo, and Nags Head.

For more information on private campgrounds, lodging, charter boats, fishing piers, marinas, or rental/surf shops, contact:

Outer Banks Chamber of Commerce
P.O. Box 1757
Kill Devil Hills, NC 27948

Published: 31 Aug 2009 | Last Updated: 9 Jun 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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