A beach is a marvelous place to get away from it all and explore on those beautiful, crisp days during the winter.

Dress for the weather and come out to see what you’ve been missing at Cape Lookout National Seashore. All activities are free of charge unless otherwise noted.

On the barrier islands

Passenger ferry service to the islands is available daily, weather permitting, from the ferry gateway locations in Beaufort and Harkers Island.

While at the cape, visitors can participate in activities such as beachcombing.

Call the ferry at 252-728-7433 or visit islandexpressferryservice.com for scheduled times and fees.


Ferry service to the west end of Shackleford Banks is available and is located across the street at the Island Express Ferry Service booth.  

The National Park Service’s Beaufort Visitor Information Center, located at 701 Front St., will close for the season Sunday and remain closed through Sunday, March 22.  

Restrooms, maps and other printed park information will remain available in the front of town hall Monday-Friday throughout the winter.     

Harkers Island

The NPS’s Harkers Island Visitor Center and the Island Express Ferry Service gateway to Cape Lookout Lighthouse and the east end of Shackleford Banks is located at 1800 Island Road.

Winter hours will run from Sunday through March 22.

The Harkers Island Visitor Center is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday-Saturday and is closed Sundays, Christmas Day and New Year’s Day.

Ferry service and the Soundside Loop and Willow Pond nature trails are open seven days a week and holidays during daylight hours.

Soundside Loop Trail, a 4⁄5-mile, self-guided nature trail winds along the eastern shore of Harkers Island through maritime forest and saltmarsh. The trail meanders along the edge of land and sea, showcasing the forces that shape the island.

The Willow Pond Nature Trail is 1⁄3-mile and winds around a restored freshwater pond with views of wetland habitats and maritime woodlands.

Other offerings

“Ribbon of Sand,” a park film available at the Harkers Island Visitor Center Theater, takes you through the Cape Lookout ecosystem from the sound-side marshes and estuaries to the protective line of islands of the Outer Banks and the ocean depths beyond.

The film is shown upon request. For convenience, this film is open-captioned and audio described, and assistive listening devices are available.

Junior rangers and Junior Ranger Adventures

One way to explore the park is to become a junior ranger. The Junior Ranger Program is designed for ages 5-13, but everyone is welcome to participate.

Booklets are available at the Harkers Island Visitor Center and the Beaufort Visitor Information Center.  For more information on the Junior Ranger Program, ask at the Harkers Island Visitor Center or check the junior ranger webpage at go.nps.gov/jr_ranger.

For more information on these and other activities, call the park at 252-728-2250, ext. 0.

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