Cape Hatteras National Seashore is located in North Carolina. The national seashore preserves an area of the Outer Banks between Bodie Island and Ocracoke Island. These islands are constantly changing due to shifting currents, tides, and weather. The area is rich in history and historical figures. The most notorious of these figures is likely Blackbeard, the 18th-century pirate who was known to pillage ships along the Atlantic Coast.
There is much to see and do at the national seashore. Two lighthouses are open for self-guided tours including Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, which is the tallest lighthouse in North America. Many different types of wildlife can be found in the water and on land including five species of sea turtles. Fly a kite in the breezy Atlantic air or see what shells you may find on the beach. On hot summer days, take a dip in the salty water of the Atlantic Ocean.
There are four campgrounds at Cape Hatteras National Seashore, all of which can accommodate RVs. Reservations can be made in advance online or over the phone. All campgrounds are located near the beach, separated only by dunes. There are many modern amenities at the seashore to make your stay comfortable, such as restrooms with showers. Pets are welcome at the park but must be leashed.
Cape Hatteras National Seashore is located in North Carolina. The north entrance to the seashore is located in Nags Head at the US-64 and NC-12 junction. The south entrance to the park is accessible only by ferry near Ocracoke Village. If taking the ferry, check departure times and note that some routes require a reservation.
Once at the national seashore, visitors should find it easy to get around, even with large rigs. The campgrounds can accommodate rigs up to 40 feet long. Parking is limited. If bringing more than one vehicle, you’ll want to make arrangements to reserve an extra campsite or leave the car outside of the park. Some beach areas are accessible only by off-road, 4-wheel drive vehicles.
There are four campgrounds at the national seashore which are Oregon Inlet, Cape Point, Frisco, and Ocracoke. While all campgrounds can accommodate RVs, Oregon Inlet is the only campground with utility hookups at some campsites.
The campgrounds are open from April to November. Reservations can be made in advance online or by phone. Each campground is separated from the beach by sand dunes with the exception of Frisco which is within the dunes. All campgrounds have restrooms with non-heated showers and each campsite has a picnic table and grill. There are no shade trees throughout the campgrounds.
Leashed pets are allowed at the park, but not at designated swim beaches or in park buildings. Camping is not permitted on the beach.
There are five species of sea turtles at Cape Hatteras which are the leatherback, hawksbill, Kemp’s ridley, loggerhead, and green. All five of these species live in the water at the national seashore year-round, but in the summertime, females make their way to the shore to nest. If a nesting turtle is encountered during your stay, do not approach and instead keep a safe distance. Some beaches may not be open for activities during nesting season.
While fishing is decent year-round at the park, it is best in the spring and fall. Fish from the shore, a fishing pier, by boat in one of the inlets, or in one of the park’s freshwater ponds. Avon Fishing Pier is world-famous from the many catches that have been made there. It is best known for red drum. A fishing license is required to fish at Cape Hatteras. Any fish that aren’t going to be kept should be returned to the water alive.
There are three hiking trails at the national seashore. Buxton Woods Trail starts and ends in the Buxton Woods Picnic Area. This ¾ mile loop trail leads hikers through the maritime forest ecosystem. The Open Ponds Trail is about a nine-mile roundtrip hike. This trail is part of the Mountains to Sea Trail and takes visitors past sand dunes, through the forest, and shrub thickets. The ¾ mile Hammock Hills Trail is another loop trail on which visitors will see many different types of vegetation, a salt marsh, and dunes.
There are three lighthouses in the park, two of which are open to the public. Cape Hatteras Lighthouse and Bodie Island Lighthouse are open to visitors for self-guided tours from April to October. Cape Hatteras provides visitors with a unique experience as it is the tallest lighthouse in North America. It’s quite a climb to get to the top of either lighthouse with both having over 200 steps. The narrow staircases only have a handrail on one side, so climb up and down the stairs single file to make room for other visitors passing by.
On a hot summer day head to one of the beaches to take a swim in the water or head out to snorkel. The refreshing salty water of the Atlantic Ocean is the perfect spot to cool off or float around. During the summer months, some beaches do have lifeguards on duty. Swimmers should take caution as the area is known for strong rip currents.
There are many beach activities to enjoy during a visit to Cape Hatteras. Spend time beach-combing to see what shells and other treasures the changing tides may have washed ashore. Bring a kite along for your visit and watch it soar high into the sky in the consistent sea breeze at the national seashore. Enjoy a fire on the beach. Fires in certain areas may be restricted due to nesting sea turtles and a permit is required.