A thin broken strand of islands curves out into the Atlantic Ocean and then back again in a sheltering embrace of North Carolina's mainland coast and its offshore sounds. These are the Outer Banks of North Carolina. For thousands of years these barrier islands have survived the onslaught of wind and sea. Today their long stretches of beach, sand dunes, marshes, and woodlands are set aside as Cape Hatteras National Seashore.
Once dubbed the "Graveyard of the Atlantic" for its treacherous currents, shoals, and storms, Cape Hatteras has a wealth of history relating to shipwrecks, lighthouses, and the U.S. Lifesaving Service. These dynamic islands provide a variety of habitats and are a valuable wintering area for migrating waterfowl.
Stretched over 70 miles of barrier islands, Cape Hatteras National Seashore is a fascinating combination of natural and cultural resources, and provides a wide variety of recreational opportunities.
The park's fishing and surfing are considered the best on the east coast.
Bodie Island Visitor Center
- The Bodie Island Visitor Center contains interesting exhibits on the history of the lighthouse and the families who tended it. The area is also a wonderful spot for birding, crabbing, and walking through a spectacular salt marsh ecosystem. Although the Bodie Island Lighthouse is not open for climbing, visitors may meander the historic grounds of this historic light station. Located approximately 6 1/2 miles south on NC Highway 12 from US158/NC12/US64-264 Intersection (Whalebone Junction) at Nags Head. (252) 441-5711.
Hatteras Island Visitor Center
- The Cape Hatteras Visitor Center houses a variety of exhibits on park themes. Staff are available to answer questions and visitors will find a varity of publications available for sale. A full range of ranger-led programs are available on a regular basis from mid-June through mid-August. Located at Cape Hatteras Lighthouse in Buxton. (252) 995-4474.
Ocracoke Visitor Center
- Exhibits on the natural and cultural history of Ocracoke Island and Cape Hatteras National Seashore may be viewed at this visitor center. A full range of ranger led programs are available from Memorial Day through Labor Day. (252) 928-4531.
Although there is no entrance fee to Cape Hatteras national Seashore, there are other Activity Fees to be aware of.
There are three major accesses to NC Highway 12, which is the only major route through the park. From the north, US Highway 158 accesses the Outer Banks at Kitty Hawk, and then intersects NC Highway 12 at the park's northern entrance below Nags Head, NC. From the west U.S. Highway 64-264 comes over Roanoke Island, and intersects NC Highway 12 at the park's northern entrance. NC Highway 12 may be used from the south (ferry transportation and reservations required; call 1-800-BY FERRY) from Morehead City/Beaufort NC area.