Cape Hatteras National Seashore

Cape Hatteras National Seashore
Cape Hatteras National Seashore (S. Solum/Photodisc/Getty)

A thin, broken strand of islands curves out into the Atlantic Ocean and then back again in a sheltering embrace of North Carolina's mainland coast and its offshore sounds. These are the Outer Banks of North Carolina. For thousands of years these barrier islands have survived the onslaught of wind and sea. Today their long stretches of beach, sand dunes, marshes, and woodlands are set aside as Cape Hatteras National Seashore.


Fine sandy beaches, marshes and coastal woodlands, and historic villages and lighthouses.


Hiking, camping, scenic driving, beachcombing, fishing, bird-watching, surfing, windsurfing, swimming, canoeing, sailing, and snorkeling.

Self-guided trails include the Hammock Hills Nature Trail on Ocracoke Island, the Buxton Woods Nature Trail near the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, and the Bodie Island Pond Trail and Dike Trail, both near the Bodie Island Lighthouse.

The distance for these trails average one mile each. Longer hikes can be taken along the dikes at Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge and on the North Carolina Mountains-to-Sea Trail, which runs through the Seashore.

Spring and fall at Cape Hatteras offer what many consider to be the best fishing on the East Coast. Most of the beach and sound is open to fishing. Fishing piers are available at the villages of Rodanthe, Frisco, and Avon. National Park Service boat ramps are located at the Oregon Inlet Marina and near the ferry office in Ocracoke village. Charters and head-boat services are available at local marinas.

Popular places to surf are at the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, Pea Island, and just north of the village of Buxton. Rental equipment is available locally. Surfing is prohibited in designated swimming areas, adjacent to villages, and within 300 feet of fishing piers.

Sites for this sport are located one mile north of Buxton at Canadian Hole, and just south of Salvo.


Coquina Beach
The ruins of the shipwrecked Laura A. Barnes lie here, not far from where she went aground in high seas in 1921.

Ocracoke Island
This isolated island and its small harbor village have retained much of their early charm and character. Ocracoke has served as a home for fishermen, and as a hiding place for pirates. Blackbeard often escaped his pursuers by fleeing to shallow waters near Ocracoke Inlet. The remnant of a horse herd that once roamed free on the island can still be found here.

Lighthouses and Lifesaving Stations
Each island has its own lighthouse, each unique in design and history. At 208 feet, Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, built in 1870, is the tallest in the United States. Ocracoke Lighthouse, built in 1823, is the oldest operating lighthouse in North Carolina. Bodie Island Lighthouse was built in 1872. The Cape Hatteras lighthouse is open during summer months.

Historic U.S. Life Saving Service Stations are located in Rodanthe and just north of Avon.

Places Nearby
Cape Lookout National Seashore, Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge, Wright Brothers Memorial Site, Fort Releigh National Historic Site, and Croatan National Forest.

Published: 29 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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