When you drive into Cape Hatteras National Seashore, you might see oystercatchers or piping plovers flying overhead before you even hear the waves on the beach. These are signs of the magical place you’re entering. Spend at least a weekend exploring the 70 miles (110 kilometers) of coastline that are part of this remarkable preserve.
The array of flora and fauna makes Cape Hatteras National Seashore a favorite of biologists and wildlife researchers. Spot a rare bird or sea turtle or find a seal taking a rest on the shore. Inhale the scents of ocean spray mixing with tall grasses, orange-and-yellow firewheels and Virginia creeper.
Day or night, Cape Hatteras offers an abundance of things to do. Cast your line and go fishing for saltwater fish. Take scenic hikes with panoramic views of the water or spend a night stargazing at a perfectly dark sky. Swim, fly a kite or enjoy a bonfire on the tranquil beach.
Visit the two lighthouses that have served this area for centuries, Cape Hatteras Lighthouse and Bodie Island Light Station. Both offer wonderful photo opportunities and tours. Time your visit for midday, when the clear sky, ocean coast and pastoral landscape are covered in golden sunlight.
In the 1700s, the famous pirate Blackbeard looted ships in these waters and died near Ocracoke Island. See the Hatteras Island British Cemetery and Ocracoke Island British Cemetery which contain the graves of crewmembers from the HMS Bedfordshire, a British anti-submarine trawling vessel. Learn about the important moment in World War II history when British and American forces sought to defend the Atlantic Ocean from threats.
Admission to Cape Hatteras National Seashore is free, although some attractions inside require a fee. To get here, drive 85 miles (140 kilometers) from Norfolk, Virginia or 136 miles (219 kilometers) from Rocky Mount, North Carolina.
Sample local seashore restaurants and stay at a motel near the water. Buy a camping pass so that you can cook and camp in one of several campgrounds. However you want to enjoy the sea breeze and brilliant sunrises, Cape Hatteras National Seashore will be magical.