Although it’s often overshadowed by its larger, more accessible, more famous neighbor Cape Hatteras (with its larger, more famous lighthouse), Cape Lookout National Seashore, off the coast of North Carolina is well worth the time and effort it takes to get there.
Only the Harker’s Island Visitors’ Center is accessible by car; the rest of the Seashore can only be reached by private boat or by one of the small private ferries that run from several coastal towns. The limited access means that visitors to the seashore don’t have to deal with the crowds that are usually present at other North Carolina beaches; plus, the beaches here are excellent for collecting shells and watching birds (including breeding populations of the endangered piping plover) and sea turtles.
There’s history here, too. At the northern end of the seashore (and a short boat trip from Ocracoke Island) is historic Portsmouth Village, once the largest community in the Outer Banks. Current visitors can wander the streets of the now-uninhabited town, where a number of buildings, including a church, school, and life-saving station remain. At the seashore’s southern end, visitors can see the black and white diamond-patterned Cape Lookout Lighthouse and visit the adjacent museum.
If You Go > >
Cape Lookout provides a number of ranger-led tours and talks during the summer season. Make sure to take advantage if you can!
NPCA Recommends > >
If you like mysteries, try B.J. Mountford’s two novels about a Cape Lookout park volunteer, Bloodlines of Shackleford Banks and Sea-Born Women.