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Key Info

Price & Hours

Free
9 a.m.-5 p.m. daily

Details

Beaches, Free Type
Half Day to Full Day Time to Spend

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  • 5.0Value
  • 4.0Facilities
  • 4.0Atmosphere

The Cape Hatteras National Seashore stretches for more than 70 miles and tempts visitors with its well-kept sands, picturesque lighthouses and rolling waves. While many visitors come to soak up the sun along the Atlantic's sands, you should devote some time to the seashore's other attractions, most notably the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse.

The Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, the tallest in the United States, has long protected passing ships from the fierce currents and hidden sand bars that earned the area the nickname "the graveyard of the Atlantic." You should also keep an eye out for Cape Hatteras' wildlife: A wide array of birds (more than 360 species) can be found here, mingling with sea turtles along the golden shores.

Recent visitors said a visit to the top of the lighthouse is a unique experience and they recommended visiting the park at low tide if you'd like to walk along the beach. Others called the seashore a "national treasure" and recommended setting aside a day to complete the scenic drive.

The north entrance to Cape Hatteras is located in Nags Head at the intersection of U.S. Highway 64 and NC Highway 12, while the southern gate can be found off NC Highway 12 just north of Ocracoke Village. The seashore and visitors centers (at Bodie Island, Hatteras Island and Ocracoke Island) are open year-round from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Keep in mind that lighthouses are only open from the third Friday in April to Columbus Day. You don't have to pay to explore Cape Hatteras National Seashore, but fees are required should you wish to climb Cape Hatteras Lighthouse ($8 for adults and $4 for children younger than 12) or camp overnight in the park. For more information, visit the National Park Service's website.

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Time to Spend
#1 Outer Banks Beaches

The beaches in the Outer Banks stretch for more than 100 miles along barrier islands that frame the eastern coast of North Carolina. These sands are known for their cleanliness and their family friendliness. Each beach has something different to offer travelers, but take note that lifeguards are on duty on all beaches between Memorial Day and Labor Day.

The shores at Hatteras Island are known for their fishing and sailing (the lighthouse at Cape Hatteras is the tallest in the United States) as well as their campgrounds and 4x4 beach driving. The northern shores (specifically Kitty Hawk and Kill Devils Hills) are ideal for water sports like surfing and skimboarding, as they see more waves than the southern beaches. Nags Head also completed a 12-mile beach nourishment program that widened the sands so visitors have more room to spread out. Travelers should be mindful that the public parking is limited in Southern Shores. Those bringing their four-legged friend can head to Duck where dogs are allowed to be off their leash as long as they're under control.

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