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5.0
242 votes

Cape Lookout National Seashore Beach Camping

1800 Island Road, Island Express Ferry Service, Harkers Island, North Carolina 28531 USA

1
Video
Open Now
Wed 9a-5p
  • Independent
  • Not Wheelchair
    Accessible
  • Public
    Restrooms
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“A coastal paradise”

Discover the natural beauty and unspoiled wilderness of Cape Lookout National Seashore, a pristine barrier island off the coast of North Carolina. With its iconic lighthouse, pristine beaches, and abundant wildlife, this protected area offers endless opportunities for adventure and relaxation. Explore the miles of pristine beaches, hike through scenic trails, go fishing or birdwatching, or simply relax and soak in the breathtaking coastal views.

Cape Lookout National Seashore is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Operating hours for visitor centers and other services will vary throughout the year. Only two sections of Cape Lookout National Seashore can be reached by car (without taking a vehicle ferry): the Harkers Island Visitor Center and Park Headquarters and the Beaufort Visitor Information Center.

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Reviews of Cape Lookout National Seashore Beach Camping

6 people have reviewed this location

Ratings Summary

3.8 Access
5.0 Location
5.0 Cleanliness
5.0 Site Quality
5.0 Noise

Cell Coverage

Verizon 4G/5G

Confirmed by 3 users | Last reported on June 20, 2023

T-Mobile 5G

Confirmed by 1 users | Last reported on June 03, 2022
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Reviewed by
Tatiana Danger

  • Road Warrior
  • 1,169 Reviews
  • 914 Helpful
March 28, 2016
Rated 4.0

Take the ferry to Cape Lookout Lighthouse. If you don’t have time, snap your pictures of the only checkered-pattern lighthouse in the United States from the shore. But if you do have time, the lighthouse’s visitors center and keepers’ quarters museum are open in the summer.

3 people found this review helpful

Reviewed by
alkillebrew

  • 3 Reviews
  • 0 Helpful
January 04, 2018
Rated

Cape Lookout National Seashore is an unknown nobody when compared to its more heavily visited northern sister, Cape Hatteras. And that's a really good thing. Most of the info you'll need to have a safe and enjoyable visit is available on the Park's website.

The Seashore consists of three barrier islands off the central NC coast - Shackleford Banks, South Core Banks and North Core Banks (more commonly called 'Portsmouth Island' by those of us fortunate enough to live in the area). Only tent camping is permitted on Shackleford but private ferry services capable of carry a half dozen or so vehicles provide access to South Core and Portsmouth so truck campers and pop-up trailers are ideal when searching for that perfect site. Four wheel drive is a must.

Actually, there are no sites. Each island is roughly twenty miles in length and, other than a few restricted areas, you're free to find a spot anywhere between the dunes and the high tide line that suits your fancy.

Ice is available from the Park Service offices and potable water and restrooms with showers and flush toilets are located nearby. You must take EVERYTHING else with you. Bug spray and sun lotion should be at the top of the list.

Portsmouth Village on North Core is well worth a visit but you'll likely have to drive through a quarter mile of water to get there - kind of fun actually. And South Core has the Cape Lookout Lighthouse which can be climbed during the season. Cape Lookout offers more isolation than any other public lands with vehicle access on the east coast.

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alkillebrew would stay here again

Nightly Rate: $0.00

Days Stayed: 5

Site Number: N/A

1 Access
5 Location
5 Cleanliness
5 Site Quality
5 Noise
Photo of Campendium

Reviewed by
Campendium

July 04, 2018
Rated

Very private beach, MUST have good 4x4 or you will get stuck.

Bring everything you need with you. Including a strong canopy for shade and tent stakes that are designed for sand. Cell service with Verizon is good including internet.

Be prepared for sand flys ... bug spray is a must.

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This reviewer would stay here again

Nightly Rate: $0.00

Days Stayed: 3

Site Number: -

5 Access
5 Location
5 Cleanliness
5 Site Quality
5 Noise

Cell Coverage Rating

Verizon 4G

  • 4 Reviews
  • 0 Helpful
June 03, 2022
Rated

Used Cape Lookout Cabins Camp Ferry to get over. Everyone was awesome and helpful. Potable water in two spots on the island. Sound side at lighthouse has small store you can buy a few cold waters and swim in front of lighthouse. When you get off ferry you can buy ice and they have toilets and a place to dump trash. Heads up, bring lots of bug spray for yourself and gear. Tons of seashells and beach frontage. Seems like there is no one there, but take a ride a few miles down or up and you’ll run into other campers or fishers. Great place to relax and catch some sun. Cell service varied with where you were on beach.

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roadtripper7654931 would stay here again

Nightly Rate: $3.00

Days Stayed: 4

Site Number: Beach

5 Access
5 Location
5 Cleanliness
5 Site Quality
5 Noise

Cell Coverage Rating

T-Mobile 5G

Reviewed by
perrybays

  • 5 Reviews
  • 0 Helpful
August 19, 2022
Rated

Very dispersed in spite of sections of the island being off limits due to sea turtle nests at this time of year. 4x4 is a must and taking travel trailers or larger RVs down to the tip of the cape near the lighthouse will be a challenge. Bring everything you need as there's no stores on the island and the ferry only runs during the day.

I had great mobile coverage with Verizon and worked while it rained during my visit. Highly recommend!

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perrybays would stay here again

Nightly Rate: $0.00

Days Stayed: 4

Site Number: N/A

5 Access
5 Location
5 Cleanliness
5 Site Quality
5 Noise

Cell Coverage Rating

Verizon 4G

Reviewed by
dianagraham

  • 50 Reviews
  • 0 Helpful
June 20, 2023
Rated

There are two different ferry services, both out of Davis, North Carolina, to get you over to the Great Island Cabin Camps ferry dock. You will need a reservation. However, even in June, I was able to call on Tuesday and get a reservation for a Thursday trip over. We used great cabin camps; the cost was $182 for our truck camper plus two passengers. They’re very flexible and friendly. We aired our tires down pretty extremely, on the advice of the ferry captain who brings his F350 with a truck camper over here quite often. We weren’t sure if we were going to try to get all the way down to the lighthouse or not because the consequences of getting stuck and having to call a wrecker is VERY expensive.

From the ferry dock, we took the first ramp out to the beach, drove down maybe a half a mile and found a nice spot. There’s really not much value in going farther unless you go all the way to the point, the beach looks the same until you get down that far. Though the sand is soft, we had no trouble navigating the sand on the beach. However Back Road, which parallels the beach is "sugar sand" and even the diesel Kabotas that you can rent have to be monitored for over heating on Back Road. There is no sea breeze and the entire road is single lane, soft sand. Since we were reluctant to take our truck down to the point, we called great island cabin camps ferry and decided to rent a Kubota for the day ($200). They sent it over on the ferry. We met the ferry at 8:30, did the paperwork, and took off. It's 11 miles or so from Great Cabin Camps to the lighthouse. During our visit, the beach was closed between MM 35-36 for turtle nesting. NPS had the area roped off and all traffic had to detour to Back Road, the soft sandy road that parallels the beach. Down near the lighthouse there is another permanent closure for beach goers who visit the lighthouse. The tide was out when we approached the point so we were able to drive around the point and past MM45 where there is a small road that takes you to a private beach on the sound side (no camping). Driving on the beach is much easier than driving Back Road, even at high tide.

After driving the Kabota to the lighthouse area, my husband thinks we could have gotten our Truck Camper down to the point. We did see Truck Camper‘s all the way down at the point so people make it. But no other duallys and no other Truck Camper as heavy as ours (Lance 992 with two slides).

Nestled in the Great Cabin Camps area, there is a dump station, potable water to fill a camper, and a bathhouse (which we did not use), dumpsters, air for your tires and ice for sale. As soon as you get off the ferry, NPS has a small building/office where you pick up you ORV decal ($50 but you must purchase it online through Recreation.gov) - their hours are 8:00 - 3:00. There is also a dump station near the lighthouse on Back Road between MMs 43/44.

Highly recommend this unique experience.

Was this helpful?
dianagraham would stay here again

Nightly Rate: $0.00

Days Stayed: 7

Site Number: N/A

3 Access
5 Location
5 Cleanliness
5 Site Quality
5 Noise

Cell Coverage Rating

Verizon 5G

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Cape Lookout National Seashore Beach Camping

1800 Island Road
Island Express Ferry Service
Harkers Island, North Carolina
28531 USA
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Hours

Open now until 5:00 pm
  • Mon - Sat: 9:00 am - 5:00 pm

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Good for boating, fishing, and 5 more activities.

  • Unavailable
    Parking
  • Unavailable
    Pets Allowed
  • Check
    Restrooms
  • Unknown
    Wifi
  • Unavailable
    Wheelchair Accessible
  • Unknown
    Credit Cards Accepted
Affiliation
National park
Last Nightly Rate
0.0
Longest Vehicle Length Reported
25.0
Lowest Nightly Rate
0.0
Max Stay
14
  • Unavailable
    Full Hookup
  • Unavailable
    Pull Through
  • Check
    Tent Sites
  • Check
    Dump Station
  • Unavailable
    Big Rigs
  • Unavailable
    Open Seasonally
  • Unavailable
    Age Restricted
  • Check
    Boondock
  • Unavailable
    Cabin Sites
  • Check
    Dispersed Sites
  • Unavailable
    Firewood
  • Unavailable
    Fulltime Residents
  • Unavailable
    Group Tent Sites
  • Unavailable
    Laundry
  • Unavailable
    Mobile Homes
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    Permit Required
  • Check
    Potable Water
  • Unavailable
    Propane
  • Check
    Public Water
  • Unavailable
    Pull Through RV Sites
  • Unavailable
    Reservations
  • Unavailable
    Sewer Hookup
  • Unavailable
    Showers
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    Standard Tent Sites
  • Unavailable
    Water Hookup
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