Eastern North Carolina has some of the most iconic shorelines in the world. Though much of the coast has become inaccessible due to development and environmental regulations, there are still a few awesome places to go have a big time. Core Banks is not the easiest place to take your troop but could be one of the most rewarding.
The Cape Lookout National Seashore preserves a 56-mile (90-km) long section of the Outer Banks, running from Ocracoke Inlet on the northeast to Beaufort Inlet on the southeast. Three undeveloped barrier islands make up the seashore – North and South Core Banks and Shackleford Banks. The seashore includes two historic villages on Core Banks, Shackleford’s wild horses, and the Cape Lookout Lighthouse, which has a black-and-white diamond pattern. A visitors center for the seashore is located on Harkers Island.
The islands are only accessible by boat. At the north end of the island, private vehicle ferries shuttle 4-wheel drive trucks across. The island is mostly open for driving and a drum fisherman’s favorite. There are several primitive cabins available for rent through the national park service.
At the south end, private passenger ferries from Harkers Island or Beaufort and Morehead City, will take you across the sound and drop you off at the foot of the lighthouse. There is a few picnic shelters, board walk, bathrooms, and visitors center here. Camping is allowed except where posted. Fires are only allowed between the tide lines.
If you have a troop that is comfortable with primitive camping, this offers a unique experience. If you have your own boats, my suggestion is to launch at Harkers Island for roughly a 6 mile ride to the lighthouse. This area is extremely shallow and the boat channel changes daily so the best bet is to follow the commercial ferries. If you are really ambitious this also makes for an exciting paddle trip, just keep a close eye on the weather.