Cape Lookout National Seashore | HARKERS ISLAND VISITOR CENTER

Cape Lookout National Seashore Visitor Center at Harkers Island

Cape Lookout National Seashore Visitor Center at Harkers Island

LOCATION

The main visitor center for Cape Lookout National Seashore is located on the eastern tip Harkers Island at 1800 Island Road. This and the surrounding property are the only sections of the park that are accessible by vehicle.

OPERATING HOURS

  • April-November: daily from 9 AM to 5 PM (closed on Thanksgiving)
  • December-March: Monday through Saturday from 9 AM to 5 PM (closed Sundays, Christmas Eve and Day, and New Year’s Eve and Day)

AMENITIES

  • Ranger-staffed information desk where you can pick up a park brochure and brochures on beach driving, camping, and cabin rentals
  • Park film
  • Exhibit area
  • Book and souvenir store
  • Ticket office and departure point for passenger ferry service to Shackleford Banks and Cape Lookout
  • Restrooms
Olive Thurlow anchor outside the Harkers Island Visitor Center at Cape Lookout National Seashore

Olive Thurlow anchor outside the Harkers Island Visitor Center at Cape Lookout National Seashore

PARK FILM

A 26-minute film called Ribbon of Sand is shown every half hour in the Harkers Island Visitor Center movie theater. Be sure to catch this film before venturing out into the park so that you are more aware of the geology and wildlife you will see. This film is partially narrated by Meryl Streep and plays out as a typical nature documentary, though it does cover some of the historical aspects of the park as well. There is no objectionable material; the film is suitable for all ages.

Theater at Cape Lookout National Seashore's Harkers Island Visitor Center

Theater at Cape Lookout National Seashore’s Harkers Island Visitor Center

EXHIBITS

A small exhibit area at the Harkers Island Visitor Center covers a variety of topics concerning Cape Lookout: the wild horses on Shackleford Banks, the ghost town of Portsmouth Village, and the wildlife and geology of the three barrier islands that make up the park. There is also a child-oriented Discovery Room where you can listen to sounds of various animals that live in the area, answer questions at a quiz exhibit that tests your knowledge of the park, and touch various natural artifacts found throughout the park. You can read all of the information in about 20 minutes, and it is a good way to spend time while waiting for your ferry to one of the islands.

Exhibits at Cape Lookout National Seashore's Harkers Island Visitor Center

Exhibits at Cape Lookout National Seashore’s Harkers Island Visitor Center

Quiz exhibit at the child-oriented Discover Room in Cape Lookout National Seashore's Harkers Island Visitor Center

Quiz exhibit at the child-oriented Discover Room in Cape Lookout National Seashore’s Harkers Island Visitor Center

SCHEDULING YOUR TIME

Plan to spend no more than 1 hour at the Harkers Island Visitor Center, which gives you time to see the film and exhibits and ask questions of the park Rangers.

OTHER VISITOR CENTERS

Cape Lookout National Seashore has a number of additional Visitor Centers / Ranger Stations. The following are open at various hours and often only seasonally. For the latest schedule, visit the National Park Service’s Visitor Centers web page for the park.

The Light Station Visitor Center is located at the Cape Lookout Lighthouse complex on South Core Banks. This is where you can pick up a park brochure and ask questions of the Rangers on duty. There is a small souvenir store, but no exhibits. Modern bathrooms and an outdoor shower for rinsing off after a day at the beach are next door. A beach wheelchair is available on a first come, first served basis.

The Great Island Cabin Office is located at the cabin complex on South Core Banks. This is where you check in or rent a cabin (if available) in person. It serves more as a rental office than a Visitor Center. Ice and gas can be purchased here, and modern showers and restrooms are nearby.

The Long Point Cabin Office is now closed due to damage done by a hurricane in 2019, but I believe the showers and restrooms still work.

The Portsmouth Village Visitor Center is housed in the Salter House. The village’s volunteer hosts are headquartered here, and they can provide a guided tour or answer questions. A village museum is in the building.

The Beaufort Visitor Information Center is located in the Beaufort Town Hall at 701 Front Street, Beaufort, North Carolina. I did not go this Visitor Center, but this is the place to get ferry tickets to Shackleford Banks and Cape Lookout for those leaving from Beaufort. There are also exhibits on ecology and history.

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Last updated on March 19, 2024
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