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The Best Things to Do at Cape Lookout National Seashore


Are you looking for a day trip that combines beautiful vistas, history, excitement, and wild horses? Visit the Cape Lookout National Seashore in North Carolina! This beautiful preserve stretches over 56 miles of undeveloped beach. During your visit, you’ll find horses, an antique lighthouse, and a fascinating historic village! You won’t want to miss this slice of paradise!

Cape Lookout National Seashore is just one of the many amazing attractions in the area. For a full list, download our free Emerald Isle Vacation Guide! Ditch the outdated travel books and get local recommendations from a source you can trust. We’ve listed the best restaurants, historic sites, museums, and family-friendly attractions on the Crystal Coast. Planning your vacation is easy when you use our handy Vacation Guide!

Visit Cape Lookout National Seashore

Getting to Cape Lookout National Seashore can be a little tricky for first-time visitors. Let us help break it down for you! There are several choices for transportation, and it’s important to decide which is best for you before heading out.

The most popular way to get to the park is by taking an authorized Cape Lookout National Seashore ferry. There are several ferry services available that are authorized. If you’d like to take an ATV or 4WD, there are vehicle ferries available. While there is no entry fee to the Cape, you will have to purchase a ticket to the ferry.

If you’re hoping to get some exercise before visiting the Cape, you may kayak or take your boat from one of the barrier islands.

There are also plenty of privately operated tours available to get on the island. These are a great way to learn fun Cape Lookout facts and get an incredible view of the shore!

Explore the Park

Once you get to Cape Lookout National Seashore, you’re free to roam! The beaches are one of the highlights of the park, with plenty of great swimming, shelling, and fishing available. The Horse Sense and Survival Tour is one of the most popular activities in the park. With the guidance of a ranger, you’ll travel to Shackleford Banks to get a first-hand look at wild horse behaviors and the ins and outs of managing a herd. If you’re traveling with your family, this tour is a must. Kids love being able to see the horses. Who knows: you might even have a future equestrian on your hands!

If you’re interested in the history of the area, check out Portsmouth Village. This historic site was once a busy seaport. Inside, you can see exhibits on how the residents used to live. There are tours of the site available seasonally, as well as a self-guided audio tour.

If you’re visiting the park from mid-May to mid-September, be sure to climb to the top of Cape Lookout Lighthouse! It was built in 1859 and features an antique, third-order Fresnel lens. Self-guided tours of the lighthouse run from Wednesday to Sunday, starting at 9:45 a.m. with the last tour beginning at 4:15 p.m. Tickets for the lighthouse tour are $8 for adults and $4 for children 12 and younger.

Stay at Spinnaker’s Reach

After you’ve enjoyed a day at Cape Lookout National Seashore, return to a stunning rental home from Spinnaker’s Reach! You won’t find a better selection of properties on Emerald Isle. Whether you’re looking for rentals with a private pool or pet-friendly accommodations, you’ll find it in our inventory!

Consider renting Hale Kena Kai, a spectacular eight-bedroom, seven-bathroom home that features a private book, fully furnished covered and uncovered decks, and a hot tub! Inside, there is a recreation room with a pool and a ping-pong table, separate televisions for gaming and movie-watching, and plenty of space to stretch out! The fully equipped kitchen is the perfect place to cook a feast for the family.