Cape Hatteras National
1401 National Park Drive
Manteo, North Carolina 27954
Explore the narrow barrier
islands, things never stay the same!
A haven for recreation and reflection, the
islands of Cape Hatteras National Seashore are constantly changing
by tide, storm, current, and wind. The plants, wildlife and people
who live here adapt continually. You see it in the daily lives and
hear it in the telling of their stories. And there are many story
places � sandy beaches, salt marshes, maritime woods � come
explore them all!
History and Culture
The area now known as Cape Hatteras National
Seashore has a long and rich heritage. The islands that make up the
seashore have been home to Native Americans, farmers, watermen,
slaves, lighthouse keepers, surfmen, and many others who continue to
shape the heritage of the area. The people have witnessed events
that include hurricanes, the death of Blackbeard the pirate, Civil
War battles, the construction of its now famous lighthouses, the
birth of the USCG in the lifesaving stations, hundreds of
shipwrecks, Billy Mitchell�s test bombings, Reginald Fessenden�s
first radio broadcasts, the building of dunes by the CCC, scientific
strides in weather forecasting, u-boat attacks, and much more.
Though some of the actual history has been lost in time, the culture
found in the people, places and stories lives on.
"A Ribbon of Sand"
The narrow barrier islands of Cape Hatteras
National Seashore are in a constant state of change. Tides, waves
and currents provide daily, sometimes subtle changes, while storms
can provoke more sudden changes to the islands.
Stop by one of our Visitor Centers: Your first
stop should be at a park visitor center on Bodie, Hatteras or
Ocracoke Islands to get orientation information on the park and
learn a bit about the park too. Visit all three!
SWIMMING: During the summer months,
there are generally several lifeguarded beaches provided in the
park. All swimming is at your own risk.
Swimming in the ocean is not the same as
swimming in a pool or lake. Wind, waves, the change of the tide, the
slope of the beach and other factors can cause strong currents to be
present in the water even on the calmest days. Never swim in an
inlet as currents in the inlets can be especially dangerous.
Ocean conditions can change from day to day
and from hour to hour. Before going in the water, spend a few
moments watching the waves. Wave patterns are a good indicator of
the presence of currents and where deep water and other
"surprises" are located. Know what to expect before you go
in the water.
Of special concern are rip currents. Certain
weather conditions can make these currents stronger and more
dangerous. The National Weather Service now posts rip current
forecasts for area beaches. Weak swimmers and children are advised
to stay out of the ocean when there is an increased threat of rip
currents, and even strong swimmers should stay out of the ocean on
FISHING/BOATING: Spring and fall at
Cape Hatteras offer what many consider to be some of the best
fishing on the Atlantic Coast. Most of the beach and sounds are open
to fishing - State of North Carolina fishing regulations apply. The
numerous local tackle shops sell bait and fishing equipment and are
your best source for fishing information. There are several
commercially operated fishing piers in the park. National Park
Service operates a boat dock at Silver Lake in Ocracoke. Commercial
charter boat services are offered locally.
VISITING LIGHTHOUSES: The Cape Hatteras
Lighthouse is open for climbing from the third Friday in April
through Columbus Day. The Bodie Island and Ocracoke Island
lighthouses are not open for climbing.
SHELLING: Cape Hatteras is an excellent
place to explore for shells. A handbook, available from one of our
bookstores, can be very helpful when less common shells are found.
Please do not take shells with the animals in them. Take only empty
OFF-ROAD VEHICLE USE: 4-wheel drive
vehicles may be driven on the open beach, as marked, or on
designated sand trails only. If your vehicle becomes stuck, towing
fees can be quite expensive.
BIRDING: Birding is a year-round
activity at the seashore. Terns and herons are best seen in the
summer. The spring and fall seasons are excellent times to view
shorebirds, hawks, and songbirds. Ducks and geese are common during
the winter months.
RANGER PROGRAMS: Daily interpretive
programs are offered during summer months. A limited number of
programs for the fall are offered September 2nd through September
30th. Program offerings are varied and take place at different
locations throughout the park.
CAMPING: The park has four campgrounds.
Camping is allowed only in these campgrounds. Camping on the beach
is prohibited. Campers should prepare carefully for the natural
conditions to be found at the park.
KAYAKING/CANOEING: Commercial kayaks
and canoe rentals are available locally. Be sure to check the
weather before your trip and remember to be careful of ocean
currents, especially in the inlets. Don't get caught unaware!
WINDSURFING: Many windsurfers use the
areas known as Salvo Day Use Area and Haulover Day Use Area on
Hatteras Island. These areas are best used when the winds are out of
the northeast and are blowing at least 10 mph. Booties should be
worn to protect your feet from the broken shells which litter the
bottom. Windsurfing equipment is available for rent locally.
HUNTING: A traditional use of the
seashore has been waterfowl hunting on Bodie Island in the fall.
This practice continues under federal and state hunting regulations.
Did You Know?
The Bodie Island Lighthouse at Cape Hatteras National Seashore is
one of the few lighthouses to still retain its original first-order
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