On the crystal coast of North Carolina lies the Cape Lookout National Seashore – a 56 mile stretch of stunning virgin coastline stretched over three untouched barrier islands. The only way in — a three-mile boat ride from the North Carolina shore.

The Cape Lookout islands are renowned for their seclusion, gorgeous beaches, exceptional fishing, wildlife, and colorful heritage. Home to fishermen, whalers and stockmen in the 1800s, these islands have borne witness to many a shipwreck and daring rescue.

Cape Lookout Lighthouse Photo: BrianDBell- CC by SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Cape Lookout Lighthouse Photo: BrianDBell- CC by SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Getting to Cape Lookout

Take a ferry to Cape Lookout from Harkers Island, Beaufort, Morehead City and Ocracoke, NC. Or you can get there on your own boat.

Bring your four-wheel drive vehicle, ATV, or UTV on one of the vehicle ferries from Davis and Atlantic, NC and drive down the magnificent beaches on the island.  

The more adventurous and eco-conscious travelers can paddle their canoe or kayak from the mainland to one or more of the barrier islands.

Or take a tour of Cape Lookout with one of the privately operated boat, walking or vehicle tour services.

View from the Lighthouse - Jarek Tuszynski- CC by SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

View from the Lighthouse. Photo: Jarek Tuszynski- CC by SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Things to do at Cape Lookout

Although famous for its surf fishing, there’s something for everyone on the Cape Lookout Seashore.

Nature lovers will fall in love with the wild horses on Shackleford Banks. And you can spot the nesting shorebirds or pick spectacular sea-shells on the beach.

Families can explore the Cape Lookout lighthouse; the village historic district will take your kids a step back in time.

The virgin beaches offer plenty of seclusion for love-birds. The rustic, wooden cabins at Long Point and Great Island boast amazing beachfront views of the pristine coastline. The cabin camps can only be reached by boat, adding an element of both privacy and adventure.

If that’s not enough, there’s a ton of activities on Cape Lookout for everyone including swimming, hiking, kayaking, canoeing between the islands, fishing and windsurfing.

Shackleford Banks. Photo : Bobistraveling CC by 2.0 via Flickr

Shackleford Banks. Photo : Bobistraveling CC by 2.0 via Flickr

Stay on Cape Lookout

We recommend camping on the beach, or renting a rustic cabin. The sea-breeze, and sound of the waves will gently lull you to sleep as you marvel at an unforgettable view of the Milky Way. Now who can say no that?

Plan your visit

Ferry service to the park is offered from mid-March to the first weekend in December. Cabin rentals are available from mid-March to the end of November. Long-term vehicle parking can be used on the islands during the season.

Most family camping does not require a permit, except for a group of 25 people or more. And do bring bags to carry back your trash. That’s ecotourism 101.