Cape Lookout National Seashore

Beaufort, North Carolina 28516

Cape Lookout National Seashore

Cape Lookout National Seashore Professional Review and Guide

"So close to civilization, yet so far away, Cape Lookout National Seashore is another world. This 55-mile-long seashore is made up of three islands: North Core Banks, South Core Banks, and Shackleford Banks. Portsmouth Island is at the northernmost point of the seashore, on North Shore Banks. This abandoned village has been preserved. Dating from the 1700s, this was once the largest community on the Outer Banks. South Core Banks is famous for its Cape Lookout Lighthouse, which overlooks the dreaded Frying Pan Shoals.

The lightkeeper’s quarters are currently being used by the park service as a residence for a volunteer ranger. At the most southern point, you will find Shackleford Island, the wildest of the three. Huge sand dunes meet maritime forest here. No matter which section you choose to visit, you will be enjoying one of the few uninhabited, wild beach areas left in the United States, accessible only by boat. Take your time to explore the islands, enjoying the slow pace of island time."

Cape Lookout National Seashore Reviews

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I paddle this trail often and I love it more each time. I put in a shell point at the Cape Lookout National Seashore Ranger Station. Paddlers are required to fill out a float plan and to check back in after returning. Although there are no campsites campers are required to fill out a camping permit. Because of the tides timing your trip over and back is highly recommended. At dead low tide portaging may be required. The trail follows a series of small islands. The north side of the islands is the main boat channel. For an easier and less crowded trip paddle along the south side of the island.
This is a great open water paddle? We put in at shell point, Harkers Island. This is normally a 2 hour paddle to the lighthouse. We had hit the wrong tide and had moderate ocean swells on the sound side. We were also pulling an extra surf kayak that was holding all of our gear. There were storms brewing but we decided to go anyway. We strayed slightly off the paddle trail to avoid being wornout by the wind and tides. On our trip we encountered wild horses on small islands created by low tides and had great views toward the lighthouse and Shackleford Island. We camped on Cape Lookout Island and brought several Five-O's for surfing. We were camping about 200 yards north of the Lighthouse, its about 1/4 mile walk to the ocean side over several dunes. Encountered some racoons going after our food, so store it well. They even tried to enter our tent, but they didn't pose any danger threat at any time, just hungry. Just wanted to let you know about them being around. Coming home, we left at first light and had the tide with us. Smooth paddling in about 1 hour and 50 min. My advice: Check the weather and check the tide table? I will be paddling this trail again. Peace.

Cape Lookout National Seashore Photos

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Trail Information

Nearby City
Moderate to Difficult
Skill Level
2 to 3 hours
Year-round, weather permitting
USGS: NC0313 Cape Lookout
Local Maps

Activity Feed

Jul 2018