This is one of America’s few remaining undeveloped barrier islands. Covered by grasslands, bordered by dense vegetation, dunes, and wide open beaches, and surrounded by salt marsh, Cape Lookout remains virtually untouched. The earliest maps called the area “horrible headland” in reference to its dangerous shoals. The sound side, however, is a calm, sheltered anchorage. The north side of the island, near the village of Portsmouth, is mud-flats and frequently overwashed. The village is no longer inhabited, except by National Park Service volunteers or those chosen by lottery to stay in one of the historic homes.
You can make this a day trip, but I recommend camping over. Public facilities are limited. Be sure to bring insect repellent, food and drinking water, sunscreen, appropriate clothing, and a hat. Mosquitoes may visit everywhere else, but this is where they live. The weather is unpredictable here. Fierce lightning storms are common, so be prepared.
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