Buxton Guide Sections:
Most every visitor who comes to Hatteras Island will make a stop in Buxton, either for the exceptional fishing off of Cape Point, the amazing kiteboarding and windsurfing at the Canadian Hole, or for the incredible views from the top of the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse. Buxton arguably has the lion's share of attractions on Hatteras Island, and over a million visitors a year make a trek to see the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse in Buxton alone.
But don't let that statistic fool you - behind the big distractions, Buxton is a quiet small town, and a mixture of rental communities, charming and decades-old motels, and welcoming oceanfront and soundfront vacation rental homes. If your family wants to be close to the big name attractions on the island, as well as some of the best fishing, kiteboarding, windsurfing, and hiking the Outer Banks has to offer, then join the countless vacationers who have fallen in love with Buxton.
Where to stay in Buxton
For accommodations, Buxton visitors have their pick of charming oceanfront motels that are located just steps off the beach, several inland motels that are renowned for their hospitality, and even a couple campgrounds, both bordering the woods and the beach. The campground run by the National Park Service is located within walking distance of both the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse and the access ramp to Cape Point, hidden behind a line of sand dunes. (If tent camping, be sure and bring plenty of bug spray in the summer, as the combination of woods and wet marshes can be very attractive to local mosquitos.)
Buxton is also home to two acclaimed Bed and Breakfasts, including a nationally recognized and award-winning soundfront B&B, The Inn on Pamlico Sound, which also features a world-class, fine dining restaurant on the premises.
Visitors can, of course, also elect to stay in a vacation rental home, either along the oceanside in small communities by the lighthouse, or on the soundfront in woodsy, private locations that offer both seclusion and incredible views. These homes are generally rented weekly, and can include hotel-quality amenities such as private pools, hot tubs, game rooms, and naturally, incredible waterfront views.
Vacation rental homes are the most popular way to stay in the Outer Banks. Rental homes are available in Buxton from:
Cape Hatteras Lighthouse - The historic Cape Hatteras Lighthouse is clearly one of Buxton's biggest (and tallest) attractions, and visitors can explore the lighthouse grounds and stand in the shadow of the massive structure free of charge. For a small additional charge, visitors can actually climb to the very top for a bird's eye view that spans from Avon all the way to Hatteras, and even Ocracoke on a particularly clear day. The lighthouse is open for climbers seasonally, generally from 9:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m., and climbing tours occur every 20 minutes and can be purchased on site.
Also on the lighthouse grounds are a visitors' center and museum, as well as a gift shop houses in the original keeper's quarters. In the vicinity is Buxton's famous "Turtle Pond" where small water-logged turtles will paddle up to curious visitors, and just across the street from the lighthouse, visitors will find a shaded picnic area and nature trail. This .75 mile self-guided trail is a primer in the local maritime forest habitat, and winter visitors can expect to encounter plenty of small, local deer along their walk.
Cape Point - Travel down the small paved road past the lighthouse, and you'll come across a series of fish cleaning tables, and the 4WD beach access ramp for Cape Point. This is the most popular beach ramp on Hatteras Island, as Cape Point has been famous with local and visiting anglers for generations as the best beach fishing spot on the East Coast. A small stretch of sand that's located on the "tip" of Hatteras Island, and lies inshore of where the two major North Atlantic currents meet, anglers at Cape Point can expect to reel in large drum, pompano, sharks, mullets, bluefish, and more, depending on the season.
As a result of the unparalleled fishing, the Cape Point beach is exceptionally popular, especially in the shoulder-season fall months when the local fishing is at its best. As such, it's not unusual to have anglers elbow-to-elbow, excited to reel in the big catches. While visitors with stamina can walk from the beach ramp to Cape Point, a 4WD vehicle is recommended to access to beach, particularly if you're tugging along all your fishing gear. A beach driving permit is required before hitting the sand, and can be obtained from the neighboring National Park Service office, also located on Lighthouse Road.
Canadian Hole and Kite Point - At sunset, there's arguably no better place than Canadian Hole or Kite Point to catch an incredible waterfront show, and surfers can be spotted at the area as well, as the ocean beach which is literally located right across the street, has been known to have some good breaks when the conditions are right.
Water sports lovers will want to travel outside the village, in between Avon and Buxton, for some of the best kiteboarding and windsurfing conditions in the world, at Canadian Hole and Kite Point. These two Pamlico Soundside beaches are located adjacent to each other, with one (Canadian Hole) unofficially designated for windsurfers, and the other (Kite Point) for kiteboarders. Accessible by public or roadside parking, as well as 4WD ramps that run a half mile down the beach, this area is literally covered with brightly colored kites in the spring and fall seasons when the wind conditions on the Outer Banks are breeziest, and therefore the sports are at their best. In the summer, the beaches are less crowded but still popular with the family crowd, who bring their young ones to splash in the shallow sound waters, or who use the ideal parking and easy sandy beaches as launching points for kayaks, stand-up paddle boards, or even small skiffs.
Surfing - Buxton is also renowned in the surfing world, as the ESA (Easter Surfing Association) holds an annual competition in the area every year. The competition usually takes place at the "Old Lighthouse Beach," or adjacent to the collection of jetties that border the lighthouse's original location. These manmade jetties that stick out into the Atlantic essentially amp up the ocean waves, so that good breaks in this area become even better. A popular surfing destination for locals and visitors alike, the "Old Lighthouse" beach has plenty of parking, an easy run to the ocean, and lots of photo opts for spectators who would rather relax on shore an enjoy the show.
Hiking - In need of a little off-the-water entertainment? Buxton is also home to some of the best hiking trails around, including small marked trails bordering the lighthouse, and miles of unruly, self-guided trails that wind through Buxton Woods. Not for the inexperienced, these trails can take a hiker through thick woods, desolate sand dunes, and even saltwater ponds and marshes. Advanced hikers will love the challenge, as well as the first-hand look at a coastal ecosystem at work.
The Beach - Buxton offers fine beaches, and the star is the famous Cape Point. The beaches of Hatteras Island are managed by the National Park Service as part of the Cape Hatteras National Seashore. Here are some things to know about Rodanthe beach policies:
- Pets are allowed on a leash no longer than 6ft, year-round. Pets are prohibited on designated swimming beaches. Service animals are allowed at all times.
- Fireworks are not permitted in Buxton.
- Beach fire permits are required. Print, sign and keep your paper permit with you (permits available here). From May 1 to November 15, beach bonfires are only allowed at Coquina Beach, the villages of Rodanthe, Waves, Salvo, Avon, Buxton, Frisco and Hatteras, and the Ocracoke day use area. From November 16 - April 30, Beach fires are allowed throughout the park. Fires are allowed from 6am - 10pm. An adult must be present. Fires must be on greater than 3 feet in diameter. Fires must be built and maintained below the high-tide mark and 50 feet from any vegetation. Fires cannot be left unattended, and must be extinguished upon end of use. The area must be cleaned up.
- Beer is allowed on the beach. Wine and liquor are not officially permitted. Please drink responsibly.
- Metal detecting is NOT allowed within National Parks.
- There are no lifeguard stations in Buxton.
- It is illegal to walk on the dunes, and it is also illegal to pick live sea oats growing on the beaches.
- Fill in any holes you dig. Holes in the sand can be a hazard.
- Be mindful of Noise. Most communities consider a violation of the noise ordinance to be any sound that can be heard from inside a nearby residence, and any load noise after approximately 11:00 p.m.
- No glass on the beach. Be mindful of glass bottles. Alcohol is allowed on all beaches, but if at all possible, stick to cans and plastic to save future beach-goers from any bare foot injuries.
- Surf Fishing is allowed. A fishing license is required in North Carolina and can be obtained before your vacation via the NC Marine Fisheries and Wildlife website, or a fishing license can be purchased at most any tackle shop on the Outer Banks.
- 4x4 Driving on the Beach - The beaches of Hatteras Island and Ocracoke Island are managed by the Cape Hatteras National Seashore. Permits are required, and can be purchased online and sent via mail, or in person at one of the following locations: Coquina Beach office, Cape Hatteras Light Station, and the Ocracoke Visitor Center. Each vehicle must have its own permit. Vehicles must be registered, licensed, insured, and have a current safety inspection if required in home state/country. Vehicles must have low-pressure tire gauge, shovel, jack and jack support board. A spare tire, first-aid kit, fire extinguisher, trash bags, flashlight and tow straps are recommended. ATV's are not permitted. Night driving is generally allowed from November 16 through April 30. See current access ramps and beach closings by visiting this page and clicking on the "daily beach access map". Obey all posted signs.
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Upcoming Buxton Events
Hatteras Island Arts and Craft Guild Holiday Show
- November 24th, 2023 - November 25th, 2023 10:00 AM - 4:00 PM
Get into the holiday spirit while perusing a far-reaching range of arts and crafts that are delightfully one-of-a-kind with this seasonal event that always attracts locals and visiting...more
Restaurants and Entertainment - As for restaurants and entertainment, Buxton vacationers will find they have plenty of places to dine. The town features small, quirky cafes, established seafood restaurants, pizza and burger joints, and fine dining options. In short, vacationers will find they can try a new place every day of the week, with plenty of local restaurants leftover for a second trip. From the basic local seafood to a four-course meal, the eating scene in Buxton is fantastic, so be sure you budget a meal out or two during your vacation.
Like the majority of Hatteras Island's now established towns, Buxton has humble roots as the original home to a small but flourishing tribe of local Native Americans, the Croatans. In fact, it was here that many historians suggest that the original Lost Colonists fled to, in an effort to dodge starvation and the increasingly hostile Native Americans on Roanoke Island. These original natives figured out quickly what modern locals and frequent vacationers still know - Buxton has excellent fishing. Living on a primarily seafood diet, the Croatans thrived in the original town of Buxton for well over a thousand years.
As European settlers trickled in, the large swaths of maritime forest became attractive sources of lumber, and a makeshift railway was built along the island to transport large loads of timber, primarily from Buxton Woods. In addition to lumber income, many locals realized that the fishing possibilities in Buxton could also provide a livelihood, and local seaFishifood became a small export, as well as locally run "fishing trips" for the occasional, adventuresome vacationer.
In history books, however, Buxton is probably most famous for being at the center of the treacherous Diamond Shoals. Because of the town's position, located at the veritable "turning point" of Hatteras Island, a number of sandy shoals jet off the point, shifting daily if not hourly with new wave patterns and currents. In addition, at this locale, the Labrador Current and the Gulf Stream Current, the East Coast's largest off-shore currents, run side by side, and occasionally collide with sometimes powerful and stormy results.
These conditions led to the shipwreck and destruction of literally hundreds of passing ships since the 1500s. With sand bars that could change in an instant, and a shallow coastline that was barely visible from sea, hundreds of ships fell victim to the Diamond Shoals. In both World Wars, more ships would also be destroyed by lurking U-Boats, that would hide off-shore and attack American and British forces as they passed by the narrow passageway along the North Carolina coast. Visitors to the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse who are history fans will want to travel about a half mile down the lighthouse road to visit the British Cemetery, which honors a handful of English soldiers that were lost during one of these World War II attacks.
In response to the naturally-caused shipwrecks, the US Government stepped in to build a lighthouse for passing ships, as early as 1797. Unfortunately, their first two attempts did little good, as the ships, some 15-30 miles offshore, could barely see the light from the beach.
These unsuccessful attempts led, finally, to the construction of the current Cape Hatteras Lighthouse in 1870, the tallest brick lighthouse in the country. A first order Fresnel light was also installed, ensuring a safer passage for mariners for decades to come. Unfortunately, by the late 1990s, beachfront erosion had threatened the very existence of the lighthouse which, while no longer in use, was by this point considered a National Treasure. In 1999 the lighthouse was successfully moved 2,870 feet inland to its present location. Buxton visitors exploring the grounds around the lighthouse will find a circle of granite stones indicating its original locale, just feet away from the ocean wash at a very high tide.
Buxton vacationers also find they have all the conveniences of home, and all the perks of a vacation destination, including fantastic art galleries, book store, boutiques, coffee shops, and locally run souvenir shops, in addition to a local grocery store, post office, and the island's only ABC store, (where hard liquor is sold in North Carolina.) In essence, whether you need the staples or a little something decadent, chances are that you can find it in Buxton.
Hatteras Island vacationers almost always make an inevitable trip into Buxton for exceptional food, shopping, and the island's most well-loved attractions. Whether you stay an afternoon or a week, you'll find that Buxton holds plenty of charm to keep your family happily entertained, from some of the Outer Banks' best restaurants to the Outer Bank's best views atop the tallest brick lighthouse in the country. On your next Hatteras Island vacation, be sure and reserve a little time to explore the town of Buxton, as once you get past the towering attractions, you'll find a world of coastal charms just waiting to be discovered.
Frequently Asked Questions
Where is Buxton, NC?
Buxton is located in central Hatteras Island, where the island makes its turn back towards the mainland. It is bordered directly to the south by the town of Frisco, and is roughly five miles away from the town of Avon to the north.
How do you get to Buxton, NC?
Visitors can take NC Highway 12 south across the Bonner Bridge to reach Hatteras Island and the town of Buxton.
What is there to do in Buxton, NC?
Buxton is home to a number of landmarks and popular destinations, including the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, Buxton Woods Coastal Reserve, and Cape Point. The town also has a mini golf course, a community center and outdoor skate park, and several horseback riding businesses that offer rides on the local beaches. Buxton is also known for its collection of shops and restaurants, which includes art galleries, fish markets, a famous local book store, and gift shops.
What are the special events in Buxton?
Buxton is the home base for a number of events such as the annual NCBBA Red Drum Tournament and the Cape Hatteras Anglers Club Surf Fishing Tournament, which are both held in October. In addition, the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse has a number of seasonal programs for visitors in the summer months, and many restaurants and nightlife destinations feature live music and other events throughout the year.
Where are the beach accesses in Buxton, NC?
Buxton is part of the Cape Hatteras National Seashore, so all beaches are open to the public, barring seasonal bird or turtle nest closures. In addition, the town is home to two ORV ramps – Ramp 43 and Ramp 44, which are both located just past the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse.
Does it cost any money to park at the Buxton public beach accesses?
It is free to park at all local beach accesses, however, visitors who want to drive on the beaches on Hatteras Island will need to purchase an ORV beach driving permit from the National Park Service.
Are there lifeguards in Buxton?
Buxton may have seasonal lifeguards in the summer months at the “Old Lighthouse Beach,” which is located next to the current location of the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse.
Where can you surf in Buxton?
Buxton’s most popular spot for surfing is the Old Lighthouse Beach, also known as “the jetties,” which is located along Old Lighthouse Road, just before the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse. This beach is also the site of area surfing tournaments, such as the Eastern Surfing Association (ESA) regional tournament.
What are the attractions in Buxton, NC?
Buxton is home to the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, which is the tallest brick lighthouse in the country, and the tallest lighthouse of any kind in North Carolina. The Cape Hatteras Lighthouse is seasonally open to climbers, and features an on-site museum and visitors center. Other attractions in Buxton include Cape Point, one of the most popular spots for surf fishing on the Outer Banks, the newly formed Shelly Island, and the Buxton Woods Coastal Reserve, which is one of the largest parcels of maritime forest on the East Coast.
Are there shops and restaurants in Buxton, NC?
Buxton has a nice collection of shops which includes a locally owned grocery store, beach gear and surf shops, art galleries, a historic book store, gift shops, fish and produce markets, and thrift stores. The town also has a large array of restaurants, pizza places, a bakery, and other eateries.
Where do you stay in Buxton, NC?
Buxton has a number of hotels and motels, as well as a selection of vacation rental homes that are close to the beach or the Pamlico Sound. The town also has a boutique hotel, a bed and breakfast, and several campgrounds, including the Cape Point Campground which is managed by the Cape Hatteras National Seashore.
What can you do on a rainy day in Buxton, NC?
On a rainy day, visitors can tour the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse museum or explore other museums in the southern Hatteras Island area like the Frisco Native American Museum or the Graveyard of the Atlantic Museum in Hatteras village. Buxton is also home to a wide variety of gift shops, galleries, thrift stores and specialty shops, as well as more than a dozen restaurants and eateries.
Are pets allowed on the beach in Buxton, NC?
Pets are allowed on all Buxton and Cape Hatteras National Seashore beaches provided they are on a leash at all times.
Can I drive on the beach in Buxton, NC?
Yes, with a permit. Visitors can access the Buxton beaches via two ORV ramps that are located just past the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse – Ramp 43 and Ramp 44. A Beach Driving Permit is required to drive on all beaches in Buxton and the Cape Hatteras National Seashore.
Are there shells in Buxton, NC?
Buxton is well-known for its exceptional shelling, and has been called one of the best spots for beachcombers on the Outer Banks. Popular shelling destinations include Cape Point and the neighboring Shelly Island sandbar, as well as the Old Lighthouse Beach just north of the Point.
Are beach bonfires allowed in Buxton?
Bonfires are allowed throughout the Cape Hatteras National Seashore, although a permit is required. Visitors can pick up a permit at the Buxton ranger station next to the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, or via the National Park Service website.
Where is Cape Point?
Cape Point is located in the heart of Buxton, and marks the spot where Hatteras Island makes its western turn towards the mainland. It can be reached by driving just past the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, and is a famous beach for surf fishermen from all across the East Coast.
Where is Shelly Island?
Shelly Island is a sandbar that is located just off of Cape Point in Buxton, past the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse.
How do you get to Shelly Island?
Visitors can reach Shelly Island by driving past the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, and taking the 4WD vehicle Ramp 44 in Buxton south to Cape Point. Shelly Island is located roughly 1.5 miles from the 4WD ramp’s entrance, and parking is available next to the ramp for visitors who want to walk to the sandbar.
Who owns Shelly Island?
Shelly Island is technically owned by the State of North Carolina as long as it does not connect to the rest of the Hatteras Island shoreline. If and when it connects, it is owned by the Cape Hatteras National Seashore.
Is Shelly Island still there?
Shelly Island is a sandbar that is continually affected by waves and weather patterns. It may be its own stand-alone island, or it may be connected to the rest of Cape Point and Hatteras Island, depending on weather conditions.
Do you need a 4WD vehicle to get to Shelly Island?
No, visitors do not need a 4WD vehicle to access Shelly Island. Beach-goers can park at the base of Ramp 44 and walk roughly 1.5 miles to reach this isolated beach off of Cape Point.
When is the best time to visit Buxton?
While Buxton is popular all year long, the area beaches – and especially Cape Point – are most popular in the spring and fall months, when surf fishermen come to the area from all across the East Coast. In the summer, the area is popular with beach-goers, lighthouse fans, and shell hunters.
What are the air temperatures each month in Buxton?
January - high: 52°, low: 39°F
February - high: 54°, low: 40°F
March - high: 59°, low: 45°F
April - high: 66°, low: 53°F
May - high: 74°, low: 61°F
June - high: 81°, low: 69°F
July - high: 85°, low: 74°F
August - high: 84°, low: 73°F
September - high: 80°, low: 69°F
October - high: 72°, low: 60°F
November - high: 64°, low: 51°F
December - high: 56°, low: 43°F
Photos of Buxton