The Cape Hatteras National Seashore is on the Outer Banks of North Carolina. It was from this strand of barrier islands that the disastrous “Lost Colony” of Roanoke met its fate and where the Wright Brothers first took flight. Visiting the Outer Banks of North Carolin is something that every family should do when you want a quiet getaway.
When most people think of the Cape Hatteras National Seashore they automatically think of the famous lighthouse and many think it is the only thing to do on the Outer Banks. My family quickly abandoned this notion when we visited.
Built in 1869, the Cape Hatteras lighthouse is easily one of the most recognized in the United States. In 1999 it became necessary to move the lighthouse away from the beach to the place where it now stands.
The tall black and white spiral tower stands in sharp contrast to its surroundings. The lighthouse has warned sailors away from dangerous shoals for over 100 years.
Tours are available daily from mid-April to mid-October. Visitors can buy tickets at the visitor center. As of this writing the cost is $7.00 for adults and $3.50 for kids and National Parks and Federation Lands Access Passholders. With the exception of one night per week tours take place during the daytime. Hours vary by season. Full details are on the Cape Hatteras National Seashore website.
There are 248 steps to be navigated. The National Park Service warns that climbing can be extremely challenging. It is not recommended for people who have asthma or other respiratory problems or those who are physically challenged in any way.
We opted not to climb the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse and chose to spend more time exploring. There is a short video but after that and a quick look in the bookstore the lighthouse visit is pretty well over unless you take the tour.
This is not the place for families who are used to the hustle and bustle of other beaches. There aren’t any large shopping malls, thrill rides or an abundance of shops or restaurants. What you find when you visit the Cape Hatteras National Seashore is a quiet getaway removed from the sights and sounds of large cities.
A national seashore is kept in as natural condition as possible. The bird watching and wildlife viewing is excellent. Bring binoculars. You will need them for wildlife viewing and to get a better view of any fishing boats out on the water.
Visitors will need to bring a picnic lunch and supplies. Sunscreen and a hat is a good idea. Don’t plan on being able to find a restaurant or snack shop open when you want it. Businesses are mostly mom and pop types and close early.
In Nags Head, we found a restaurant named Bad Barracuda’s. They had the best fried oysters that I have eaten anywhere. We can’t wait to go back. The prices didn’t seem to be out of line with other family restaurants that we’ve tried.
Our visit included staying with friends. There are a few national chain hotels along the Outer Banks (OBX as it is often called). Again this is Cape Hatteras National Seashore. Most of what you will find are mom and pop motels, vacation rentals and privately owned bed and breakfasts. The Outer Banks travel guide from Outer Banks Tourism will help you find out about places to stay on the Cape Hatteras National Seashore.
A few of the campgrounds along the shore are operated by the National Park Service. Information about those can be found by clicking the link above.
Our visit to the Cape Hatteras National Seashore provided the perfect spot to relax and unwind.
Cape Hatteras Lighthouse staff
National Park Service
Outer Banks Tourism Bureau