The Cape Hatteras National Seashore, established in 1937, was the first National Seashore in the United States. It extends along the beautiful Outer Banks of the North Carolina coast from Nags Head to Ocracoke Inlet and most of the area is protected from development by the United States Park Service. Even though it is a National Seashore, you will find charming towns and villages across seventy miles of barrier islands. The three islands that make up the Cape Hatteras National Seashore are Hatteras Island, Bodie Island, and Ocracoke Island. NC Highway 12, which links the islands together, is the only major route to access the park. It is among the “Top 10 Most Scenic Drives” in the United States. You will have a wonderful picturesque drive past sand dunes, marshes, and rare wildlife as you travel along the flat and narrow Highway 12. The northern entrance to the park is located at Nags Head, NC at the junction of US 64 and NC 12. The southern entrance is north of Ocracoke Island on NC Highway 12. Please note that Ocracoke Island is only accessible by the North Carolina ferry system.
The nation’s busiest national park is also home to three lighthouses, the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, Ocracoke Lighthouse, and Bodie Island Lighthouse. Cape Hatteras Lighthouse is the tallest in the United States and visitors are welcome to climb to the top for a spectacular view of the National Seashore! It is the most photographed and recognized lighthouse in the country. They also have a great museum, gift shop, and picnic area right next to the lighthouse. On Ocracoke Island, once the home of Blackbeard the Pirate, you will find the oldest operating lighthouse in North Carolina. The Ocracoke Lighthouse was built in 1823, but is not open to the public for climbing. With its recognizable black and white horizontal stripes, the Bodie Island Lighthouse is visible from miles away. Currently the lighthouse is undergoing an eighteen month restoration, but the visitor center and bookstore will be open during the restoration. For a peaceful getaway off the beaten path, include a visit to the lighthouses along the Cape Hatteras National Seashore.
All along these Carolina islands lie more shipwrecks than any other place in the country. This area gained national attention and became known as the “Graveyard of the Atlantic”. Since the 16th century, over 600 shipwrecks have been recorded along the Outer Banks. If you are a history enthusiast, this area is full of great historic places and museums to explore. The fascinating Graveyard of the Atlantic museum is located in Hatteras Village and displays many artifacts recovered from shipwrecks in this area. Are you into diving? This area is a divers dream come true! You will be able to explore Civil War ships and wrecks dating back to the 1500’s! Never been diving, but always wanted to give it a whirl? There are many diving shops along the coast that offer diving courses to get you started! What a memorable vacation that would be!
There are many family activities along the Cape Hatteras National Seashore and this includes windsurfing and kiteboarding. Windsurfing has been a way of life here for twenty-five years. If you are an outdoor adventurer, you should try your hand at kiteboarding. Because Hatteras Island has some of the best wind and waves on the East Coast, kiteboarding has become very popular here within the last ten years. What is kiteboarding? Well, you attach a specially designed kite to a kiteboard (much like a surf or paddle board), and hold on as it pushes you across the water. With the steady southeasterly winds and shallow waters, Cape Hatteras is known around the world for great windsurfing and kiteboarding. If you want to experience one of the most exciting and thrilling adventures of a lifetime, you should plan to give it a try!
Everything from water sports to museums and lighthouses! Ready to escape to the coast? With so much to see and do, and if you love the great outdoors, you will absolutely love your visit to the Cape Hatteras National Seashore in the Outer Banks of North Carolina!