The beaches of Cape Lookout National Seashore are on the Southern Outer Banks, much like a strand of pearls, precious jewels of nature waiting to be discovered. Their waters are inhabited by sea turtles & dolphins, and illuminated by the sun and moon, but visitors must take the ferry to enjoy this necklace of barrier islands.
Cape Lookout National Seashore is 56 miles of a low, narrow ribbon of sand running from Ocracoke Inlet on the northeast side to Beaufort Inlet on the southwest side. The beach areas you will be enjoying are along the lengths of Core Banks and Shackleford Banks within Cape Lookout National Seashore. Check out the list of ferry services which will begin your adventure to one of the most special places on Earth.
When you arrive by ferry to the docks near the base of the Cape Lookout Lighthouse, you will notice a large interior beach, in the shape of a hook. This is known as Cape Lookout Bight. The beach is mostly flat and open for visitors to walk and explore. You often see boats from the locals anchored near the shoreline, taking advantage of the Cape’s beauty as well.
The water’s edge inside the bight is shallow and calm for the most part so it makes a great place for young children to play. You will see folks grilling burgers and dogs, throwing horseshoes, fishing, or just relaxing on floats. Feel free to pull up your beach chair, dip your toes in the water and soak up the sun. And by the way, if you see a herd of horses on the island across the way, you aren’t dreaming… Shackleford Banks is home to more than 110 wild horses!
You will notice a tall lady behind you, adorning her diamonds; her bright beacon warning sailors of the shoals. The Cape Lookout Lighthouse is the perfect backdrop for your day at the beach, and she is open for climbing May though September, weather permitting.
If your desire is to go to the ocean side, there is a long boardwalk that will take you across the dunes. Once you arrive, you will see miles of barren beaches made just for your footprints. It is here that you can listen to the sound of the surf, ride the waves, go beachcombing or fish til’ your hearts content! It is your playground, and a beautiful one at that!
You can take your car out to North and South Core Banks to find that remote camping spot or fishing hole, or to just enjoy the day. This too requires a ferry service and you can find out more about driving on the Banks here.
If you are interested in staying overnight at Cape Lookout National Seashore, you have the option of camping or rustic lodging on either Great Island or Long Point. Watching the sun rise up out of the deep blue Atlantic Ocean or sleeping beneath the black night sky, illuminated by thousands of twinkling stars, is a rare and wonderful experience!
A few tips to make your trip to Cape Lookout enjoyable: If you are bringing your 4 legged family member, please have them on leash. There aren’t any restaurants on the Banks so be sure to pack extras in case your crew is thirstier or hungrier than planned. Sometimes wanted or not, the bugs are out, so bring spray. And, last but not least, there are sharp shells on the sound side so pack water shoes if you plan to go exploring.