Cape Lookout National Seashore

Cape Lookout National Seashore preserves a section of one of the most unique natural structures in the world. The barrier islands that protect much of the American eastern seaboard serve as a guard against the turbulent weather and create a haven for waterfowl while establishing extensive and beautiful beaches. These islands were more of a nuisance for early European settlers than a help, creating a navigation hazard that blocked the way for easy settlement and resupply. Today, the three main islands that make up the Cape Lookout National Seashore — North Core Bank, South Core Bank, and Shackleton Bank — and a series of small islands such as Portsmouth Island, protect 56 miles of beach and 28,283 acres of land from development. Reachable only via ferry from coastal towns or via private craft, these islands offer visitors the chance to enjoy horizons created by the forces of nature. The Harkers Island Visitor Center, lying outside the seashore area, is located 62 miles north of Jacksonville, NC, preserving the integrity of an area that holds Cape Lookout Lighthouse as its only human-constructed operational structure.

Things to Do

Things To Do Near Cape Lookout National Seashore

The list of activities available to visitors at the Cape Lookout National Seashore differs depending on the island on which travelers find themselves. One small island — Portsmouth Island — is famous for Portsmouth Village, a deserted community that was once one of the most active ports on the North Carolina coast and is now a perfectly preserved ghost town. ATVs and four-wheel-drive vehicles may drive the beaches of North Core and South Core Banks but nowhere else. Beachcombing is a favorite activity for visitors on every island who are eager to watch the waves and birds while seeking shells washed up on the shore. Vehicles are not allowed on Shackleton Island as the island preserves a herd of rare Shackleton Horses, but hikers love that island over all others for its lonely and elegant shores, high sea oats, and deep forests.

Hiking Trails



Nearby Shops and Restaurants

map-marker-alt-regular How to Get There

How To Get To Cape Lookout National Seashore

For visitors coming from the large urban areas of the South, the best route to get to Davis is through Jacksonville, NC. When leaving Jacksonville, get onto United States Highway 17 (US-17) and travel north for two miles. Take the slight turn to the right to get onto North Carolina Highway 24 (NC-24). Stay on NC-24 for 38.3 miles and then turn right onto United States Highway 70 (US-70) and travel 45 miles into Davis, NC.

Visitors to the Cape Lookout National Seashore must bear in mind that the only way to reach these islands is via a ferry or a private craft out of Davis, NC. Access to this seashore is available year-round, though the ferries and personal craft do not travel the Sound during hurricanes or other intense weather events. Some attractions are only available during a given season; for instance, the Cape Lookout Lighthouse is open from May 13 to September 13 of any year.


131 Charles Street, Harkers Island NC 28531

Fee: Entry fee $0

Though you cannot access this seashore in an RV, you can travel there in an RV and camp in one of the many RV parks that lie along this section of the North Carolina coast. Taking the trip as a family and then accessing the park via ferry is an adventure that those taking the trip will remember for a lifetime. Remember, the comfort you enjoy in your RV will always be there after you return from a long hike on one of the islands that make up the Cape Lookout National Seashore.