Things To Do In Cape Hatteras North Carolina

Nature’s stunning wonders provide opportunities for activities at Cape Hatteras.

According to the National Park Service, Cape Hatteras National Seashore is a small, narrow strip of barrier islands off the eastern coast of North Carolina. N.C. Highway 12 runs down this fragile strip of islands. Mother Nature provides the most stunning attractions in Cape Hatteras; however, the area offers well-known sites and activities that will please both locals and visitors.

Major Attractions

The black-and-white, spiral-striped Cape Hatteras Lighthouse has long served as an icon of Hatteras Island. From mid-April to Columbus Day, visitors can climb 248 metal spiral stair steps to the top of the lighthouse. Spectacular views of the Atlantic Ocean, Cape Hatteras and the town of Buxton reward visitors at the top. The Cape Hatteras National Seashore Visitor Center includes a bookstore, gift shop and educational exhibits.

The restored 1874 Chicamacomico Life-Saving Station, located in Rodanthe, is the nation’s most complete example of 19th-century lifesaving stations built to aid in shipwreck and rescue operations.

The Graveyard of the Atlantic Museum lies at the end of Highway 12 at the Hatteras ferry terminal. Exhibits include shipwreck artifacts, pirate exhibits and the original 1854 Cape Hatteras Lighthouse Fresnel lens.


Cape Hatteras is a magnet for people who love ocean-related sports activities. Surfing, windsurfing, kiteboarding, stand-up and paddle-boarding enthusiasts find the area a mecca for their sports. Rental venues are available for these activities. Kitty Hawk Sports in Waves Village offers gear for surfing, stand-up paddle boarding and kayaking. Lessons can be arranged. Rodanthe Surf Shop and OceanAir Sports provide access to personal watercraft, sailboats, body boards and skim boards, as does Hatteras Sailing Company in Hatteras Village. Various venues for boating, canoeing, parasailing, swimming, bicycling and simply roaming the miles of scenic beaches lie along the length of commercialized sections of Hatteras Island. Other activities include mini-golf, shopping, dining and watching movies.


Scuba divers can charter tours with expert guides to explore shipwrecks off the coast. Shipwrecks include Word War II vessels in the 70- to 110- foot-deep range. Scuba-diving and certification courses are offered by area businesses such as Outer Banks Diving and Dive Hatteras. Gear for snorkeling, diving and wetsuits for similar sports are available for rental.

Activities for Nature Lovers

Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge is a 13-mile stretch of pristine barrier island within Cape Hatteras National Seashore. The visitor’s center provides an introduction to the ecosystem and wildlife of the refuge and permissible activities, including shell-hunting, surf-fishing, photography, birding and other eco-friendly activities. A four-mile loop or smaller hiking trails are available.

Buxton Woods Coastal Reserve in Buxton is the largest remaining maritime forest in the Southeast. It allows horseback riding on some of its trails.


Cape Hatteras is a mecca for serious anglers. North Carolina fishermen have called it North Carolina‘s “sport-fishing capital.” Charter boats head into the Gulf Stream from Hatteras docks in search of blue and white marlin, sailfish and giant bluefin tuna. Six Hatteras Village marinas welcome boats large and small. Near-shore shipwrecks provide excellent fishing destinations. Surf fishing and pier fishing reward anglers with red drum, sea mullet, flounder, trout, striped bass and pompano. Fishing guides are available to share the area’s best fishing locations.