Cape Hatteras National Seashore | PARK AT A GLANCE

Bodie Island Lighthouse as seen from the nearby salt marsh

Bodie Island Lighthouse as seen from the nearby salt marsh


Cape Hatteras National Seashore is comprised of the coastal shores along the lower tip of Bodie Island (pronounced “body”) and all of Hatteras and Ocracoke Islands, three islands that are part of North Carolina’s Outer Banks. With nearly 70 miles of Atlantic Ocean coastline, plus Pamlico Sound shoreline, Cape Hatteras National Seashore has plenty for room for playing. Sunning on undeveloped beaches, swimming and snorkeling, fishing and waterfowl hunting, camping, hiking, surfing, windsurfing, and kiteboarding are some of the recreational activities available in the park. In addition to outdoor fun, the National Seashore has plenty of historic sites to see, including three lighthouses, a museum, and a World War II British Cemetery. And when you’ve had enough of nature, a variety of quaint towns dot the coastline, offering vacation rentals, restaurants, shops, and tour companies.

Bodie and Hatteras islands are accessible by vehicle—a bridge connects the two islands. Ocracoke, on the other hand, can only be reached by private boat or ferry. A free vehicle ferry runs daily between Hatteras and Ocracoke, with times between departures as short as 30 minutes during the summer. You can also travel from the North Carolina mainland to Ocracoke on ferries running from Cedar Island and Swan Quarter. There is a fee for these trips, but it is very reasonable.

From Memorial Day through Labor Day weekends a fee-based passenger ferry called the Ocracoke Express stops directly at Ocracoke Village instead of the vehicle ferry terminal 12 miles to the east. This is a great way to get to Ocracoke from Hatteras Island without having to wait in line for the vehicle ferry, especially if you want to spend the day shopping and dining at Ocracoke Village.


All visitor centers at Cape Hatteras National Seashore are open every day except for Christmas from 9 AM to 5 PM. The grounds of the park are open year-round.

The Bodie Island Lighthouse and Cape Hatteras Lighthouse are open for tours stating in mid-April and running through Columbus Day. Tours start at 9 AM, with the last tour at 4:30 PM.

Times can always change, so before making travel plans, be sure to check the official Cape Hatteras National Seashore’s Operating Hours and Seasons web page for the current schedule.

The Oregon Inlet Campground is open year-round. The park’s three other campgrounds are typically open from April through November. See Cape Hatteras National Seashore’s Campgrounds web page for a current schedule and prices.


There is no fee to enter the park, but there is a fee for the lighthouse tours and camping. For the current prices, see Cape Hatteras National Seashore’s Fees and Passes web page.


Visitor Centers
allow up to 1 hour each

allow 1 hour per lighthouse

Time spent on other activities depends on you.

Back to the Top

Last updated on March 27, 2020
Share this article