DescriptionCape Lookout National Seashore extends for 56 miles along North Carolina's Outer Banks from Ocracoke Inlet in the north to Beaufort Inlet in the south. In addition to Portsmouth Island, Core Banks and Shackleford Banks, it encompasses a host of undeveloped barrier islands.
Cape Lookout can be reached only by boat, and on-island transportation is limited. Passenger and vehicle ferries leave regularly from Harkers Island, Atlantic and Davis; service is generally not available during the winter months. Charter service to Portsmouth can be arranged from Ocracoke. Rates for round-trip service to the park start at approximately $14-$20 per person, $75-$80 per vehicle.
Popular recreational activities are seashell collecting, surf fishing, bird-watching, boating and camping. Shackleford Banks is home to a herd of horses that have the freedom to roam with minimal human contact; they're interesting to observe but also hard to spot. Grazing undisturbed across the island, these equines are believed to have inhabited it since the early 1500s.
Portsmouth Village, a prosperous pre-Civil War port, is on the northern end of Core Banks. The Portsmouth Village Historic District includes still-standing buildings as well as structural remains that date from the 1850s. Cape Lookout Lighthouse, still operational, is in the Cape Village Historic District on Core Banks. The nearby Keepers' Quarters, which serves as a visitor center in summer, also is a meeting point for programs sponsored by park rangers. Rustic cabins are available for rent mid-March through November at Great Island and Long Point; for reservations phone (877) 444-6777.
A visitor information station at the east end of Harkers Island Road is open daily 9-5, Apr.-Oct.; Mon.-Sat. 9-5, rest of year. Closed Jan. 1 and Christmas. For information contact the Superintendent, Cape Lookout National Seashore, 131 Charles St., Harkers Island, NC 28531; phone (252) 728-2250.