One day is not enough! We didn’t realize we’d want to spend more time, so a day is all the time we had for a quick tour of Portsmouth Village, Cape Lookout National Seashore and Shackleford Banks.
The iconic lighthouse and nearby beach provide hours of pleasure on a day visit from the Harker Island Visitor Center ferry (for a list of ferry services and departure points, click here).
On the way to the lighthouse, we detoured past Shackleford Banks so we could see the wild horses, including a brand new filly, only a couple months old and still nursing. There are over 100 wild horses on Shackleford and they have no veterinary or other intervention from the Park Service. And they are absolutely beautiful. If you want, the ferry will drop you off to camp or beachcomb on Shackleford Banks, but there are no services.
Accessed by boat tour (we used Austin Boat Tours) from Ocracoke, Portsmouth Village was a bustling busy seapport over a hundred years ago due to Ocracoke Inlet being a major shipping channel. Today the village stands deserted, in stark contrast to happier days. But as you tour the deserted homes, post office/general store, church, school and lifesaving station, it feels like folks just dropped everything and left, to return sometime soon. The village was established in 1753 as North Carolina’s official port of entry and by 1842 was responsible for 2/3 of the state’s exports. Unfortunately in 1846, a major hurricane opened Cape Hatteras Inlet to the north and the deeper and better water signaled ultimate doomsday for Portsmouth Village. The final 3 residents left in 1971 after living there for decades without running water or electricity.
Luckily Cape Lookout National Seashore preserved this historic village which today functions as a museum. It’s well worth a visit – and if you want to spend a bit of time on the north beach, just ask your tour boat driver to drop you off – supposedly you can walk, but it’s over a mile slog through the salt marsh – while we were there, the water was over knee deep – otherwise we would have attemped the walk. We couldn’t be dropped off by boat because the boat has to land on the beach and it was windy and rough.
The GOOD news about windy was that the mosquito population supposedly was reduced, but it was still significant. So much so that we had to wear our mosquito netting for the first time – we bought the hoods for Alaska and didn’t need them…
Do yourself a favor and allocate more than a day for Cape Lookout National Seashore! You won’t be sorry! Anyone with comments or more information on this wonderful treasure? Please leave a comment and share! Cheers! Jan