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Cape Hatteras National Seashore

Cape Hatteras National Seashore - BEST Places to Picnic

1401 National Park Drive
Manteo, North Carolina 27954

Visitor Information
(252) 473-2111

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 dangerous days.

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 shells.

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 Fresnel lens.

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