Start receiving our award-winning magazine today!


Cape Lookout National Seashore

The Outer Banks extend far into the Atlantic Ocean, making them vulnerable to the harsh weather.

Open to the Public


Things To Do

Birding / Small Boats / Large Boats / Camping / Picnicking / Fishing View All

Plan Your Visit

View All

Get Directions

Carteret County






Beaufort, Cape Lookout, Davis, Harker’s Island, Horsepen Point, Portsmouth, Styron Bay, Wainwright Island

Topographical maps are available by contacting:
NC Geographical Survey.
1612 Mail Service Center
Raleigh, NC 27699-1612.
(919) 715-9718


For beach driving permits, fishing information, tide table, maps, contact:
Cape Lookout National Seashore
131 Charles Street
Harker’s Island, NC 28531
(252) 728-2250

For rental units, primitive camping, private ferry service for north Core Banks, contact:
Morris Marina Kabin Kamps
1000 Morris Marina Road
Atlantic, NC 28511
(252) 225-4261

For rental units, primitive camping, private ferry service for south Core Banks, contact:
Alger Willis Ferries
P.O. Box 234
Davis, NC 28524
(252) 729-2791


The North Carolina Chapter assisted the National Park Service in protecting 950 acres of Core Banks in 1974, thereby completing the land acquisition for Cape Lookout National Seashore.

North Carolina’s Outer Banks extend far into the Atlantic Ocean, making them vulnerable to the harsh weather systems created by the collision of the tropical Gulf Stream and the chilly Labrador Current just off Cape Hatteras. One of the state’s great coastal wilderness areas is located on the Outer Banks just south of Ocracoke: Cape Lookout National Seashore, 58 miles of undeveloped barrier islands.

These narrow, low-lying islands (Portsmouth Island, Core Banks, and Shackleford Banks) are separated from the mainland by an open-water sound. The island chain is one of the few remaining examples of barrier islands that are naturally overwashed by the ocean and do not have artificial foredunes. Portsmouth Island and Core Banks have extensive beach berms and interdunal sand flats covered by grasses and shrubs. Woody vegetation is limited to small pockets. Tree-covered hammocks and salt marshes extend along the sound.

Although plant diversity is low in this stressful environment, Cape Lookout National Seashore is home to several rare plants, including the threatened seabeach amaranth. The islands provide important nesting habitat for the loggerhead sea turtle. Many shorebirds nest on the low sand flats and small islands, including North Carolina’s largest nesting concentration of the federally listed threatened piping plover. Be sure to visit Portsmouth Village; once a busy little 19th-century port, this picturesque village is now a ghost town.

Birding / Small Boats / Large Boats / Camping / Picnicking / Fishing


The National Seashore office is located on the southeast end of Harker's Island. From Beaufort, take US 70 nine miles north and then east to Harker Island Road (SR 1332). Turn right and drive almost nine miles to the national seashore headquarters.

You can get to Cape Lookout National Seashore on private concession ferries. For information about the ferry from Harker’s Island to Cape Lookout and the lighthouse, call (252) 728-3907, and for the ferry from Ocracoke to Portsmouth Village, call (252) 928-4361 or (252) 928-1951 for rates and schedules.


Have you been to this preserve? Are you thinking of visiting? See what others are saying about their experiences and add your comments below.

Add Your Comments

Time for you to join the discussion. Tell us about your experience at this preserve. What plants and animals did you see? When did you go? You can help others plan their visit when you share your thoughts. And thank you for visiting one of our nature preserves!

comments powered by Disqus

Read our guidelines on posting comments

We’re Accountable

The Nature Conservancy makes careful use of your support.

More Ratings

x animal

Sign up for Nature eNews!

Sign Up for Nature e-News

Learn about the places you love. Find out
how you can help.

Thank you for joining our online community!

We’ll be in touch soon with more Nature Conservancy news, updates and exciting stories.

Please leave this field empty

I'm already on the list!

Read our privacy policy.