2nd June 2019
Cape Hatteras National Seashore stretches for 70 miles along the North Carolina Outer Banks. NC Hwy 12 links the islands that make up the National Seashore. The highway is narrow but paved the whole length and passes through 8 villages each with their own character. One of the highlights of the Seashore are the 3 lighthouses found on Ocracoke, Hatteras and Bodie Islands. Hatteras and Bodie lighthouses are able to be climbed, Ocracoke is closed to the public.
The park has 4 campgrounds that offer cold showers, drinking water, tables, fire grills and modern restrooms. There are no utility hook-ups.
We arrived from the south so we took the Cedar Island ferry to Ocracoke Island. The ferry ride takes about 2 ¼ hours and the cost is $45 for a car and travel trailer. You can get out of your car and walk around. There is a very nice lounge with vending machines and restrooms. We saw some dolphins playing in the bow wave of the ferry as we neared Ocracoke Island.
The Ocracoke Lighthouse is close to where the cars disembark from the ferry. It is the second oldest lighthouse on the US but you are unable to climb it. Near the Ocracoke Island Visitors Center there is the skull of a whale that washed up on the beach.
We travelled north along Hwy 12 and took the free ferry between Ocracoke Island and Hatteras Island. This ferry takes only 40 minutes, you may walk around but only on the car deck. We found most people sit in their cars. Our first stop on Hatteras Island was the Hatteras Island Lighthouse. It is quite imposing with its diagonal black and white striping. It is the second tallest brick lighthouse in the world. It was built on 1870 and stands at 198.5 ft. It had been moved recently as the ocean was starting to encroach upon its foundations. The Visitor Center has a great display with excellent information about the lighthouse and the lengths they had to go to in order to move the lighthouse.
To climb the lighthouse it is $8 per adult and the tickets are timed. The day we were there it was not busy so we were able to go straight up. It has 257 steps. I struggled a little but slowly and steadily I made it to the top. There are landings with open windows on the way up so they were a good place to stop and have a breather. The view from the top was amazing, the Atlantic one way and Pimlico Sound the other. You could see up and down the Outer Banks.
We did not stay at any of the National Park campgrounds, we stayed at a private campground in the village of Rodanthe north of the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse. The Cape Hatteras KOA was a lovely campground. It was right on the beach. The beach was accessed via a short boardwalk over the dunes. The amenities were great, it offered full hookup. For all these things of course it was more expensive than the park campgrounds. We paid about $130 per night for a site that was a 2 minute walk from the beach. We had dinner at The Atlantic Coast Café just across the road from the campground. It had good food and was reasonably priced.
We did not stop at Bodie Island lighthouse or the Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge further north. That is planned for another trip next time we travel up the Outer Banks.