Cape Hatteras National Seashore | HATTERAS ISLAND VISITOR CENTER

Hatteras Island Lighthouse and Visitor Center

OPERATING HOURS

The Hatteras Island Visitor Center is open daily, except for Christmas, from 9 AM to 5 PM. Hours can change, so before making travel plans always check the official Cape Hatteras National Seashore’s Operating Hours and Seasons web page for the latest schedule.

AMENITIES

  • Ranger-staffed information desk where you can get a park brochure and a list of daily activities
  • Meeting place for daily Ranger lectures and other programs
  • Museum of the Sea, a museum that focuses on the history of the Outer Banks (located in nearby building)
  • Cape Hatteras Lighthouse ticket booth
  • Off-Road Vehicle Permit office
  • Large book and souvenir store
  • Restrooms
Visitor Center Book and Souvenir store

Visitor Center Book and Souvenir store

RANGER-LED PROGRAMS

Just outside the front door of the Hatteras Island Visitor Center is a covered pavilion where Ranger Talks are held. A park newspaper lists the schedule for all Ranger programs, and you can pick up a copy inside the Visitor Center. You can also get a schedule by visiting the National Park Service’s official Calendar web page for Cape Hatteras National Seashore. The ticket booth for Cape Hatteras Lighthouse tours is also just outside the front door.

Ranger programs at the Visitor Center pavilion

Ranger programs at the Visitor Center pavilion

MUSEUM OF THE SEA

The Museum of the Sea is the only museum within Cape Hatteras National Seashore. It is dedicated to life on the Outer Banks, and it is one of the more interesting National Park museums that I have been to. It is open from mid-March through October from 9 AM to 5 PM. During the rest of the year it is open intermittently. There is no fee to visit. The museum is located a short walk from the Visitor Center in the Double Keepers’ Quarters that was built in 1854. This is where the two assistant lighthouse keepers and their families lived. The main lighthouse keeper lived in the Principal Keeper’s Quarters (1871), a building that sits just to the right of the Double Keepers’ Quarters.

Double Keepers' Quarters

Double Keepers’ Quarters

Principal Keeper's Quarters

Principal Keeper’s Quarters

Being housed in a large, two story building, you would think that a thorough visit to the museum would take a long time. However, the exhibits are sparse, so you can read and see everything in about a half hour. Information panels and actual artifacts are on display in the different rooms, each dedicated to a topic: shipwrecks; U-Boat activity during World War II; Civil War on the Outer Banks; Lifesaving Stations and the men who worked as lifesavers; life on the Outer Banks; the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse and a very interesting exhibit on how the lighthouse was moved to its present location in 1999.

Typical exhibit room at the Museum of the Sea

Typical exhibit room at the Museum of the Sea

Relics from sunken ships

Relics from sunken ships

U-Boat exhibit

U-Boat exhibit

Exhibit on the 1999 Cape Hatteras Lighthouse move

Exhibit on the 1999 Cape Hatteras Lighthouse move

The museum also has a small video room where three films are shown on demand. I watched one on the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse that ran for about 15 minutes, and I would recommend watching only this film, though I did not watch the others: one on sea turtles and one on rip tides.

Theater at the Hatteras Island Visitor Center

Theater at the Hatteras Island Visitor Center

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Last updated on March 26, 2020
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