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Cape Hatteras and the other neighboring islands are considered “barrier” islands, protecting North Carolina’s shores from bad storms and hurricanes. Recognizing that the islands needed protection from mining, fishing, and other commercial enterprises, Cape Hatteras was established as a National Seashore Recreational Area in 1937. This designation allowed people to continue hunting turtles and other wildlife on the islands. Cape Hatteras was recategorized as a National Seashore in 1953, which made it illegal to engage in hunting activities.
One of the main draws to Cape Hatteras National Seashore is a portion of the beaches are open to street-legal vehicles. Around 28 out of 67 miles of seashore can be driven on. Bear in mind, though, permits are required.
The closest town with a variety of shopping, restaurants, and a medical center with an emergency room is Nags Head. Nags Head is a popular beach town that boasts several historic cottages and buildings, fishing piers, and a small amusement park. Nags Head is about 50 miles north of Cape Hatteras National Seashore.
The fresh, briny air, sun, and miles of beaches. What more could an adventurer want? Cape Hatteras National Seashore is a habitat for several protected animals, including five species of sea turtles: leatherback, hawksbill (rare), Kemp’s ridley, Loggerhead, and Green. Watching a turtle build their nest is an amazing opportunity that very few people get to experience. Bring a camera to document it for proof.
Though hunting is no longer allowed, fishing is permitted - provided that one obtains the appropriate fishing license. Fish from the seashore, use one of the fishing piers or set out on a boat. Fish thrive in the clean water off Cape Hatteras, and trophy-sized catches are common. Anglers can expect to catch a wide array of fish, including tuna, king mackerel, wahoo, and mahi-mahi. Fresh blue crabs, anyone? Crabbing also is allowed, though all crabbers must have a fishing license. There is crabbing equipment available for rent or purchase in most towns on the barrier islands.
Exposed to the rough Atlantic Ocean, the waves along the shores of Cape Hatteras National Seashore are especially strong and high. Riptides are common. Beachgoers are cautioned to exercise basic safety practices, such as swimming with a buddy, if they venture out into the water. There are four beaches that have lifeguards; however, swimmers should not let their guard down. The lifeguards are spread out along the beach, and during the peak season, it can be difficult for them to spot a swimmer in trouble.
Fancy seeing marine animals outside an aquarium? Set out in a kayak or a canoe. There are various coves along Cape Hatteras at which one can see skates (related to stingrays), turtles, dolphins, and even an occasional shark swim alongside the boat.
Skip hotels and get closer to nature when you rent an RV and head to Cape Hatteras National Seashore. Listen to the sound of waves crashing ashore and the cry of gulls overhead. There are a handful of campgrounds on the barrier islands. RV camp at Frisco, NC, which is the closest campground. There are over 125 sites for guests to choose from. The campground is situated inside sand dunes, and the beach is just a few feet away. There are no hookups, though there are restrooms for campers to use.
Alternatively, consider a stay at Cape Point Campground near Buxton. This campground is the largest Cape Hatteras National Seashore RV campground with around 150 sites for RVs. Each site comes with a grill, and campers can make use of the restrooms and outdoor showers, also.
The privately-owned Hatteras Sand Campground may be a good contender, too. It boasts several modern amenities like WiFi, air-conditioned bathrooms, and an Olympic-sized swimming pool.
Hop into an Airstream rental and explore the historic sea towns along the barrier islands. In addition to taffy and ice cream shops, gift shops at which one might find an RV camping souvenir, there are museums, art galleries, and historical landmarks to explore. The Graveyard of the Atlantic Museum in Hatteras showcases boats and ships that fell prey to the rocky seashore along North Carolina.
Most American schoolchildren know the famous tale about the doomed Roanoke Colony. Fort Raleigh Historic Site in Manteo is the site of the colony, and visitors may explore its grounds as well as browse the visitor center’s exhibitions. The exhibitions include artifacts found at the settlement, replicas of records and letters written by puzzled leaders in England, and a short video recapping the history and the current theories.
On the sunny beaches of Cape Hatteras National Seashore, make new memories with family and friends when you book a camper in Dare County.