Head south over the Herbert C. Bonner bridge, or take the Hatteras / Ocracoke ferry from Ocracoke Island, and you'll land on the shores of Hatteras Island.

This long stretch of barrier island shoreline is one of the longest islands in the continental United States, and yet, is also one of the Outer Banks' least populated regions. With just seven small villages scattered throughout roughly 50 miles of coastline, the island has become a beacon to beachcombers who just want a quiet vacation destination without all the frills and fuss. There are no major resorts, towering hotels, amusement parks or big beach boardwalks here. Instead, vacationers will find miles of wide open space, uncrowded and even undisturbed beaches, and just enough amenities and attractions to fill up a relaxing beach vacation.

If you dream escape involves lots of natural surroundings, gorgeous beaches, and not too many other distractions, then you'll love an escape to Hatteras Island. Book a vacation rental home, a local motel room or bed and breakfast, or simply take a day-trip from the neighboring central and northern Outer Banks regions. With miles of shoreline to discover and a relaxing, peaceful drive throughout the entire landscape, Hatteras Island is an oasis for vacationers who just want to get back to the basics, and back to the beach.

 

Geography of Hatteras Island

Though 50 miles long, and hugging a long section of the North Carolina coastline, Hatteras Island is nevertheless so narrow and unpopulated that sometimes it doesn't even appear on national maps.

If you look at a map that does show this small island, you'll notice that the island stretches vertically, far away from the coast, bending at the middle as it veers back towards the mainland. In other words, it resembles a skinny arm, with an elbow in the middle leading it back towards the rest of North Carolina. This "elbow" or middle section is Cape Point in Buxton village, one of the most popular fishing beaches in all of North Carolina, and the locale that divides the northern facing beaches of Hatteras Island from the southern ones.

The majority of the Island is at most a mile or so wide, with some sections a little larger, and others much, much narrower. In fact, flooding in certain sections can be a major problem for the island, and on more than one occasion the island has been breached and cut off from the mainland after a new inlet has formed due to a fierce winter storm or hurricane. In calm weather conditions, however, the proximity to both the Atlantic Ocean to the east and the 30-mile wide Pamlico Sound to the west presents some incredible water views spanning in all directions, and a scenic drive that's dotted with sand dunes, patches of maritime forest, and miles of clear, sandy landscapes.

NC Highway 12 is the only route on and off Hatteras Island, and the small, two lane highway covers the expanse of the island from the Oregon Inlet and the Herbert C. Bonner Bridge to the north, to the ferry docks and the Hatteras Inlet to the south. In between are miles of empty shoreline, interrupted sporadically by seven small villages.

The entirety of Hatteras Island is part of the Cape Hatteras National Seashore, and as such, the majority of the island is protected and can never be developed. In fact, the only development on the island is concentrated within these seven villages, which take up a relatively small portion of the overall landscape.

Crossing the Herbert C. Bonner Bridge and heading south, the first villages a visitor will encounter are Rodanthe, Waves and Salvo, also known as the tri-villages. These villages are separated from Oregon Inlet by approximately 15 miles of empty beachscape, as they border both the National Seashore and the Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge, a 13 mile refuge that serves as the temporary home for thousands of migrating birds.

Driving through, it is nearly impossible to tell where one village ends and another begins, (and in fact all three villages are served by one US Post Office), but the area is nevertheless inviting, with a collection of small shops and watersports centers, vacation rental homes and small condo complexes, and several larger campgrounds that are popular in the summer months.

After the tri-villages, it's another 15 miles of undisturbed beaches and landscape before you come to Avon Village. This town could be considered the island's center, as it is home to Hatteras Island's two stoplights, (not counting the ones that direct ferry traffic in Hatteras Village), its only chain grocery store, and the island's main medical offices. A charming vacation town, Avon is a collection of stores, restaurants, beach homes and small condo communities, and is one of the most popular vacationer destinations on Hatteras Island.

Drive south approximate seven miles, and you'll head into Buxton. This town is the largest residential community on Hatteras Island, as well as the widest. Starting in Buxton, travelers will no longer see oceanfront dunes on one side of the highway and sound beaches on the other. Instead, the highway is bordered with a handful of commercial businesses, residences, and maritime forest on either side. Buxton runs directly into Frisco Village, which has a similar landscape until the very southern edges of town.

These towns, in fact, are quite protected from ocean over wash as within the majority of the villages, the ocean is several miles away and bordered by thick, dense maritime forest - some of the largest parcels of maritime forests along the East Coast. Regardless, there are still plenty of beautiful soundfront vacation rental homes, charming bed and breakfasts, and a number of oceanfront or oceanside hotels and motels. In fact, Buxton has the largest concentration of hotels and motels on Hatteras Island, namely attributed to its proximity to Cape Point and world class surf fishing.

After Frisco, the landscape returns to the ocean and sound waters peeking through on either side of the highway for approximately 5 undeveloped miles until the road extends into Hatteras Village. The last little town on the southern edge of Hatteras Island, Hatteras Village is charming, small, and well-stocked with vacation rental homes and vacation condos. The community has lovely beaches, and plenty of boat docks bordering the inlet that serve both the local fishing industry as well as the popular charter fishing businesses that flock to the island.

It might take a traveler a good hour and a half to skirt across the Bonner Bridge and explore Hatteras Island from one end to the other, but most drivers find the effort, and the ensuing views, well worth the trouble. Hatteras Island is really a land of contradictions. Though the island is one of the longest in the states, it's also barely visible on a map, and though the development is sparse, it's still one of the most popular beach destinations on the Outer Banks, with an estimated 1.2 million visitors crossing the Bonner Bridge every year. The best way to get a feel of the island and the culture, really, is to simply pay a visit, and discover why this small but stunning island deserves to be on the map.

 

Lodging and Hotels

The primary means of accommodations on Hatteras Island arevacation rental homes, which can range from 1 bedroom condos to 12 bedroom sandcastles, and which are found throughout all seven villages on the island.

With that being said, visitors who are just staying for a night or two, or who would prefer a motel or hotel environment, will find a number of options throughout the island.

All of the hotels and motels on Hatteras Island are locally owned and operated, and are generally on the smaller size. There are no oceanfront high rises along the shoreline, (the tallest hotel in the area is three stories tall at the most), but there are friendly owners, great locations close to the beach or sound, and lots of southern hospitality.

While hotels and motels can be found in Salvo, Avon, and Hatteras, the majority of motels are located in the central town of Buxton. Ranging from casual and decades-old beachfront establishments to highly rated boutique hotels that are situated next to the Pamlico Sound, visitors will have an easy time finding a place to stay that suits their style and budget.

Visitors should note that while some motels or hotels may close down in the winter months, many stay open year round with lower rates in the off-season months. No matter when a vacationers heads to Hatteras Island, however, they should note that the motels and hotels can fill up quickly – especially in the summer season – and advanced reservations are highly recommended to guarantee a place to stay.

 

Shopping

Vacationers who want to dedicate a rainy afternoon to a shopping exploration of Hatteras Island will be delighted to discover that there are plenty of options throughout the island. While there are no malls, outlet stores, or chain boutiques, there is a wide variety of beach-friendly options that can delight casual shoppers, and / or carry all the supplies visitors need.

Grocery Stores – There is one major chain grocery store on Hatteras Island, which is located in the central town of Avon. In addition to the chain grocery store option, visitors can avoid the summer crowds and head to one of several locally owned grocery stores that are scattered throughout the island. Conner’s in Buxton and Burrus Red and White in Hatteras Village have both been iconic shopping destinations for decades, and have all the essentials beach-goers need.

Hardware Stores and Auto Parts Stores – A chain hardware store is also found in the heart of Avon close to the grocery store, while Buxton is home to an auto parts store, a building supply company, and other industrial essentials. Hatteras Village and the tri-villages also have catch-all shops where visitors can pick up maintenance or hardware supplies.

Shopping Plazas – While there are no giant shopping plazas on Hatteras Island, there are a few smaller yet charming options, which includes the Pamlico Station shopping plaza in Rodanthe, the central Food Lion shopping plaza in Avon, and a small shopping plaza in Buxton where local restaurants and the island’s ABC store can be found. For the most expansive shopping plaza experience, visitors will want to check out Hatteras Landing in Hatteras Village, which is next to the ferry docks, and which offers a host of popular gift stores, apparel stores, watersports stores, and other enticing options.

Apparel – Virtually every village has a boutique or apparel shop for visitors who want to look the part of an island aficionado. These shops can range from elevated yet casual boutiques which have one-of-a-kind sundresses, accessories, and footwear, to T-shirt shops where visitors can create their own shirt via a wide range of steam-pressed decals and options.

Gifts and Souvenirs – Like apparel shops and boutiques, Hatteras Island is home to a wide range of gift stores that are locally owned, and which feature a wide array of one-of-a-kind treasures. The assortment of shops includes several chain Beach Stores that are found all along the island, as well as small establishments that have been charming generations of vacationers. Check out Buxton Village Books in Buxton for a treasure trove of goodies, as well as a unique locale that was once an early 20th century Hatteras home.

Art Galleries – There are a wide range of art galleries that feature local, regional, and even national artists, and which all seem to share a common coastal theme. Offering a captivating array of mediums, including paintings and prints, photography, pottery, handcrafted jewelry, mixed media, and much more, an art gallery is the perfect destination for acquiring a piece of décor or a gift that can’t be found anywhere else.

Thrift Shops – Bargain hunters will want to head to the town of Buxton, where a wide range of thrift stores can be found. Benefiting local community organizations, the local thrift stores are a great venue for visitors who want to pick up some cheap goodies while supporting a local cause.

Bait and Tackle Stores – Bait and tackle shops are everywhere on Hatteras Island, and boast a wide range of goods which include rods and reels, apparel, accessories, and all kids of equipment for making the most out of a Hatteras Island fishing trip. Buxton arguably has the most shops to choose from – which makes sense considering its proximity to The Point – but vacationers in every community will find a handful of bait and tackle stores nearby.

Surf Shops and Watersports – Watersports are a big industry and allure of Hatteras Island, so it’s no surprise that every community has a number of surf shops or watersports businesses to choose from. A number of shops are sport-specific, (like kiteboarding shops or surfing shops), and may also offer daily or weekly rentals, used equipment for sale, and / or on-site lessons or camps from expert staff members and local watersports pros.

From securing all the groceries you’ll need to picking up a new beach read, every shopping taste can be catered to on Hatteras Island. With no big box stores but plenty of charm, an island-wide shopping expedition is a full day affair that’s always full of delightful surprises.

 

Watersports

Hatteras Island is a famed destination for a number of watersports that range from the easily accessible to the thrilling. Whether a visitor prefers a slow ride through calm waters, or the wind in their hair at 30 mph, there are seemingly endless ways and opportunities to enjoy the water.

A number of watersports companies serve the Outer Banks, and are great destinations for gear, rentals, lessons, accessories, and much more. In addition, many of these companies offer lessons, camps, or private instruction on some of the most popular watersports, (like surfing, windsurfing, and kiteboarding), making it even easier for visitors to dive in. In essence, regardless of what watersport a visitor is drawn to, a local watersports shop or rental business is a great initial destination to embark on a new passion.

Because Hatteras Island is bordered to the east by the Atlantic Ocean, and bordered to the west by the Pamlico Sound, (with lots of freshwater ponds and salty channels in between), the majority of beach activity revolves around the water. As a result, a number of watersports have flourished in the region, and are all worth trying by visitors who want to get their feet wet.

Surfing – Hatteras Island is a favorite day-trip destination for Virginia Beach or Wilmington surfers, simply because its location and frequent brush with nor’easters or tropical systems produce exceptional waves. New surfers will find gentle waves that are great for beginners in the towns of Frisco and Hatteras during the summer months, while advanced surfers will want to head to Buxton and northern Rodanthe when there’s a swell. The S-Curves just north of the tri-villages and the Jetties by the old Lighthouse Site in Buxton are both popular surfing destinations, although the best locations for waves tend to change with the seasons and storms.

Kiteboarding – Kiteboarding is big on Hatteras Island, and visitors come to this corner of the Outer Banks from miles around to enjoy the pristine wind and water conditions, especially in the spring and fall months. The tri-villages of Rodanthe, Waves and Salvo are a popular launching point for boarders, as is the National Park Service (NPS) managed Salvo Day Use Area, which is found on the northern outskirts of Salvo Village. Boarders can also find outside-your-door access to the waters from vacation rentals in Avon and Frisco, and can head to Kite Point, which is just north of Buxton, for exceptional conditions and easy access to the water. There’s also ample room to kiteboard in the ocean waters from a number of public beach access and ORV ramps.

Windsurfing – The NPS public beach access in between Avon and Buxton known as “Canadian Hole” was named after the initial waves of windsurfers that flocked to Hatteras Island in the 1980s and 1990s. The area is still the most popular destination along the East Coast for windsurfers, and has ample parking, seasonal restrooms, and miles of Pamlico Sound waters to go around. The Salvo Day Use Area and soundside neighborhoods like Hatteras Colony in Avon and Wind Over Waves in Salvo also offer exceptional Pamlico Sound access, as well as ample launching and rigging areas.

Kayaking – Kayaking is arguably one of the most popular watersports for visitors simply because it’s an activity that everyone can enjoy. Head to local beach rental businesses to pick up a kayak for the afternoon, day, or even the week, or sign up for one of the many tours offered by local watersports companies. With guided sunset tours and eco-tours that are family friendly, it’s easy for vacationers of all ages to dive into this easy-going and stress-free sport.

SUP (Stand Up Paddle Boarding) – SUP is making waves as the Next Big Thing on the Hatteras Island watersports scene, simply because it can be enjoyed anywhere, (on the ocean or sound), and is easy to pick up. Visitors can acquire rentals, equipment, and even lessons at local watersports companies or beach equipment businesses, and only need to find a soundside dock, calm oceanfront beach, or soundfront shoreline to be out on the water in no time. Beginners may want to start at the Canadian Hole beach access in between Avon and Buxton, as the shallow and generally calm waters, (especially in the summer), provide exceptional training grounds.

Parasailing – Visitors who want to soar above the waters can head to Hatteras Village, where a local parasailing company is happy to provide high-flying rides. Offered throughout the summertime, a parasailing trip is a thrilling yet leisurely cruise that hovers above the Pamlico Sound, Hatteras Inlet, and the tip of Hatteras Island.

Jet Skis / Wave Runners – While jet skis are not allowed to launch from the Cape Hatteras National Seashore beaches, (which includes all the ocean-facing shorelines on Hatteras Island), visitors will find options to explore the waters on a thrilling ride through the Pamlico Sound. A number of privately owned boat ramps are found in Avon, Buxton, Frisco and Hatteras, and visitors will find hourly rentals available, (as well as launching points and easy instruction), in the tri-village communities of Salvo, Waves and Rodanthe.

Body Boarding and Skim boarding – Visitors of all skill levels and budget-sizes can easily pick up body boarding and skim boarding, thanks to a number of surf shops, beach stores, and even grocery or hardware that sell inexpensive boards, coupled with the miles of shoreline throughout Hatteras Island. For young visitors and vacationers who just want to splash around and have fun, a body board or a skim board is a cheap and easy way to make a day at the beach even more entertaining.

Sailing – Mariners who want to cruise into Hatteras Island on a sailing adventure along the coastline will want to dock in Hatteras Village. Roughly a half dozen marinas are found on the soundside of Hatteras Inlet, and offer slips, ships’ stores, and even on-site restaurants and accommodations

From riding waves to paddling through salty canals, the watersports scene on Hatteras Island is simply unparalleled, and thanks to miles of waterfront and watersports businesses in every community, it’s easy for visitors of all styles to launch on a new adventure.

 

Tours

With more than 50 miles of coastline to explore that’s rich in scenery, history, and brilliant adventures, visitors often find that a tour is the best way to fully delve into the Hatteras Island landscape.

From sea-worthy cruises that kids will adore to rich road tours that highlight the centuries of legends that even the locals don’t know, the sheer variety of torus available will inspire any visitor to get out and explore.

Boat Tours – Visitors can head to the marinas in Hatteras Village to discover a wealth of seasonal boat tours that highlight the local on-the-water landscape from an inspired perspective. Popular available tours include dolphin watch cruises, clamming and kid-friendly explorations, eco-tours through regional marshes and inlet-bound islands, and sunset cruises. From romantic to family friendly, a wide number of charter businesses or cruise businesses are happy to custom tailor a Pamlico Sound, Hatteras Inlet, or even Atlantic Ocean tour that will thrill patrons of all ages and interests

Horseback Tours – Once of the most unique ways to explore the quiet shorelines is on horseback, and there are several horseback tour providers on Hatteras Island that can give visitors the ride of a lifetime. Located in Frisco and Hatteras Village respectively, these tour businesses can cater to riders of all skill levels, (including beginners), and offer 2-3 hour beach treks along isolated shorelines that often coincide around sunset. Advanced reservations are recommended, as these horseback tours are one of the most popular tours on the beach.

Kayak Tours – A kayak can serve as the best mode of transportation for exploring the thick marshes and soundside waters that are teaming with wildlife, and a number of watersports companies offer 1-3 hour tours that puts this terrain in perspective. Both eco-tours and sunset cruises – which provide unparalleled photo ops of the sun drifting into the Pamlico Sound – are readily available in the majority of Hatteras Island communities, and can accommodate paddlers of all skill levels and ages. With little training or instruction needed, a kayak tour is a premier opportunity to discover a new watersport while enjoying some of the best birdwatching and sightseeing on the island.

Air Tours – Hatteras Island looks like an entirely different world from the air, and there are several tour companies that can give visitors a bird’s eye perspective of the skinny barrier island. One tour company is located in the town of Frisco on the island, and offers roughly one hour rides to 1-2 passengers, while a number of additional options launch from the Dare County Airport, which is located roughly 30-60 minutes away in the town of Manteo. Most tours can only accommodate small parties, and last for two hours at most, but are perfect for photographers, sightseers, and anyone who wants a thrilling vantage point for admiring the beaches.

Bus Tours – Hatteras Island is home to a local tour company that provides incredible small bus tours throughout the island, and which highlight all the local history, stories, and legends that are abundant in the area. Guided by a lifelong local and Hatteras Island expert, the Hatteras Bus Tours are a fun option for parties of all ages who want to learn all about their island surroundings.

With ample choices for embarking on a tour, and equally ample options for customizations, it’s an easy feat to find a tour that uncovers personalized and specific fascinating aspects of Hatteras Island. Ranging from full day on-the-water cruises to exciting aerial explorations, the tours scene on Hatteras Island is a fine complement to this altogether engaging and picturesque Outer Banks landscape.

 

Museums, Parks & Trails

Hatteras Island is a destination where history and a wild landscape naturally combine, and as such, there are a wide variety of museum, parks, and hiking trails where visitors can enjoy the region outside the beach. From the rustic nature trails through Buxton Woods to the exquisite artifacts recovered from the Graveyard of the Atlantic, the sheer variety of options provide more than enough entertainment for a rainy – or sunny – day on the Outer Banks.

Hatteras Island Museums

The local museums on Hatteras Island pay homage to the region’s centuries of history, including its early Native American roots, its brushes with American wars, and its ties with the maritime culture. Perfect for rainy day explorations, these sites will impress as well as educate visitors of all ages on the backbone of the Hatteras Island culture.

Chicamacomico Lifesaving Station – Located in the northern town of Rodanthe, the Chicamacomico Lifesaving Station is a collection of unique structures that date back to the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and which are home to a wealth of artifacts from the station’s heyday as one of the most successful US Lifesaving Stations in the country. Tales of heroic rescues, personalized stories, and details on how the Lifesaving Service became the US Coast Guard are all found within this engaging complex.

Cape Hatteras Lighthouse Visitors Center and Museum – Visitors who head to the lighthouse will want to linger to explore the on-site museum, which is housed within an original light keeper’s cottage. Filled with artifacts on the original 19th century construction as well as the 1999 move inland, the museum uncovers the history behind the tallest brick lighthouse in North America

Frisco Native American Museum – Centuries before visitors arrived, Hatteras Island was home to small indigenous tribes who carved out a living thriving on the local seafood and vegetation. This story, as well as the stories behind Native American tribes all across North America, are explored in detail at the Frisco Native American Museum, which also boasts an engaging nature trail, an on-site fossil pit, and one of the most varied and enthralling gift shops on the island.

Graveyard of the Atlantic Museum – The Graveyard of the Atlantic Museum is one of the newest museums on the island, and is found on the southern tip of Hatteras Island. Opening in 2002, and home to a wealth of treasures that were dug up from the treacherous outlaying ocean waters, (which are commonly known as the “Graveyard of the Atlantic”), this museum unlocks the stories behind legendary shipwrecks, heroes, and pirates, including the German U-Boats, the USS Monitor ironclad warship, General Billy Mitchell’s bombing experiments, and Blackbeard the Pirate himself.

Hatteras Island Parks

While the entirety of the Hatteras Island beaches are found within a “park” – the Cape Hatteras National Seashore – there are also a few town parks that visitors can explore to enjoy a day off the beach while entertaining the youngest members of their vacationing party.

  • The Rodanthe Community Center Playground in the tri-villages offers a play area with slides, tunnels and climbing bar, a merry-go round, a swing set, and ample picnic areas that are close to the Pamlico Sound. The site is easy to find in the heart of Rodanthe, and the adjacent Community Building is a venue for a wide range of presentations and area events.
  • The Avon Playground or “Kinnakeet Village” playground is found just off of NC Highway 12 on Harbor Road, and features a fenced-in play area with slides, climbing bars and tunnels, a swing set, a picnic pavilion with tables, and benches where parents can relax while watching the action.
  • The Fessenden Center is found on the northern edge of Buxton, and is an expansive complex that features a full size gymnasium with bleachers and lighted scoreboard, a kitchen and neighboring activity room, observation decks overlooking the sound, a multi-use field, two tennis courts, a playground, a picnic area, and a new-in-2016 skate park. As a result of the extensive facilities, the park often hosts a wide range of fitness classes and community events year-round, as well as serves as a venue for local sports leagues.
  • The Cape Hatteras Secondary School in central Buxton has several tennis courts that are open to visitors, as well as a large outdoor field that is a popular Friday Night destination during football season.

Small parks may also be found in local subdivisions or communities, (like Kinnakeet Shores in Avon, which offers a host of amenities including a pool and tennis courts), and which may be open to area residents or visitors. With extras like sound access, launching spots, bike paths, and other extras, visitors will find it’s easy to embark on an off-the-beach outdoor adventure on Hatteras Island.

Hatteras Island Hiking Trails

Because Hatteras Island is home to miles of desolate shoreline and natural terrain, it’s no surprise that there are a network of nature trails that are found in veritably every village. From famed birdwatching routes to dense maritime forests, an adventurer will find that it’s easy to get “lost in the woods” on Hatteras Island.

Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge – The Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge has two nature trails, the North Pond Trail and the Salt Flats Trail, which extend into the heart of the wildlife refuge and offer scenic vantage points to observe the roughly 365 species of birds that call the refuge home.

Buxton Wood Nature Reserve – Buxton Woods has a network of miles-long nature trails that can be accessed via a drive along the side streets in Buxton and Frisco, and specifically Water Tower Road in the heart of Buxton. In addition, a roughly 6-7 mile long nature trail is located behind the British Cemetery just past the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, and a family-friendly .75 mile long nature trail with interpretive signs is found almost directly across from the lighthouse site.

Hatteras Village Nature Trail – The “Sea Breeze” nature trail in Hatteras Village is a short and scenic trek that winds through both maritime forest and salt marshes. Easily accessible by hikers of all abilities, this trail also features a central birdwatching and wildlife watching platform that overlooks a salty area creek.

Visitors should note that while all hiking trails within the island are open year-round, the cooler spring, winter and fall months are arguably the best time to explore due to the reduced mosquito population. Bring along plenty of water, bug spray, sunscreen and other necessities to ensure a great trek that’s surrounded by miles of natural terrain.

 

RV Parks & Campgrounds

Hatteras Island is home to a host of RV parks and campgrounds that are scattered throughout the seven villages, and which can accommodate visitors who prefer a rustic environment, as well as travelers who want all the bells and whistles.

The tri-villages area of Rodanthe, Waves and Salvo is arguably one of the best destinations for RV campers, as the area is home to roughly a half dozen RV-oriented campgrounds that range from privately owned establishments to huge communities. Several campgrounds in this area offer community pools, beach access, playgrounds and / or tennis courts, on-site supply stores, seasonal events, and / or all of the above, which is why the tri-villages have become a Mecca for campers of all varieties.

In addition, visitors can often find tent sites, small cabins, and other “rustic” accommodations of all kinds in the tri-villages to tailor a vacation to their specific tastes.

Avon is home to a small campground in the village which can cater to RVs and tent campers, and which is within walking distance of local restaurants, shops, and nightlife venues. Meanwhile, Buxton is home to several privately-owned campgrounds that are almost tucked away in Buxton Woods, (and which can offer amenities like community pools and Wi-Fi), as well as the NPS operated Buxton Woods Campground, which is steps away from the beach.

Frisco is another popular destination for campers, due to both an NPS managed campground in one of the highest destinations on the island, as well as the privately owned Frisco Woods campground. The NPS Frisco Campground is steps away from the beach and is idyllic for rustic campers, while Frisco Woods is steps away from the Pamlico Soundfront, and serves as a popular spot for kiteboarders, windsurfers, and an array of water sports enthusiasts. An on-site camp store, community pool, and other amenities are also found on-site.

Hatteras Village on the southern tip of the island also boasts a campground – the Hatteras Sands Camping Resort – which features tent sites, RV sites, and on-site cottages and cabins, as well as a locale that’s close to the beach.

Most campgrounds that can accommodate RVs offer water and electric hook-ups, as well as little extras like area picnic tables, grills, and / or easy beach access. Rates vary widely, but are generally seasonal with lower prices in the fall, winter and spring months. (Visitors should note that the two NPS managed campgrounds on the island are often closed in the winter months.) The great news is that considering every village or area has options, it’s easy for campers to stay in their favorite region and enjoy all the highlights of this corner of the Outer Banks.

 

Fishing Charters & Equipment Sales/Rentals

It’s hard to beat Hatteras Island for an offshore, inshore, or nearshore fishing expedition. The island’s proximity to miles of water provides some of the best fishing grounds along the Outer Banks, which is why Hatteras Island has a centuries-old culture that’s tied to commercial and recreational fishing.

Visitors who want to explore the on-the-water fishing scene in-depth will want to start with a trip to Hatteras Village.

Hatteras Village is arguably the heart of the island’s fishing industry, and a wide range of offshore and inshore fishing charters launch from the half dozen marinas that call the town home. Visitors can easily plan a trip by researching local charter fishing companies or calling a marina directly, (like Hatteras Harbor Marina, Oden’s Dock, or Teach’s Lair Marina, which are all popular hubs for local charter boat activity.)

In addition, visitors will find options to rent a Carolina Skiff or other smaller vessels from the Hatteras Village docks, and / or options for fuel, repairs, and service. Many of the marinas offer ships’ stores, lodgings, and other amenities for mariners traveling through, and additional options (as well as walking-distance access to local restaurants) are found in Buxton at the Scotch Bonnet Marina.

With dozens of charter businesses to choose from, and a locale that’s roughly 15 miles from the Gulf Stream, Hatteras Island is a dream for offshore anglers. Inspire an inner angler, and discover some of the best fishing grounds on the Eastern Seaboard with the guidance of a local expert in this Outer Banks region that is directly tied to its fishing industry.

 

Marinas, Boat Ramps & Boat Slips

Vacationers who are bringing their boat along to the beach will find that there are a myriad of options when it comes to launching into the water, docking, and securing services like repairs or fuel.

A number of waterfront vacation rentals, (particularly ones that are canalfront), offer boat docks that can accommodate smaller vessels, and there are also privately owned boat slips in veritably every community that visitors can access and use.

As for slips and long-term docking, mariners will find the most options in the town of Hatteras, where a half dozen marinas are located just yards away from the Pamlico Sound, and less than a mile away from Hatteras Inlet. These marinas offer a host of other amenities for mariners, which includes on-site ships’ stores, fueling stations, deep-water slips, restaurants, and other conveniences for all the necessities.

Space at the local slips may be limited, however, and some vacation rentals may not allow vehicles with boats on trailers to park in the community or subdivision. Check with your property management company for vacation rentals that are boat-friendly, and call the local Hatteras marinas, (or the Oregon Inlet Marina near the Bonner Bridge), to find out about specific availability for transient docking options.

Restaurants

Hatteras Island is teaming with restaurants of all varieties, which are scattered throughout all seven villages, and as such, visitors will find a wide variety of cuisine available no matter where they land. Fine dining restaurants, casual fast food joints, burger joints, seafood restaurants, steakhouses, Mexican restaurants, and Italian / pizza restaurants can all be found on the island, as well as eateries that are a little bit of all of the above.

While there are no major sit-down restaurant chains on Hatteras Island, (and just two chain fast food restaurants), the local dining scene is tempting, simply because of the abundance of fresh seafood that is almost always on the menu. Visitors who crave the freshest fare on the island will want to inquire about the daily specials or “fresh catch.” Many local restaurants are in fact a member of Outer Banks Catch – an organization that promotes the use of locally caught seafood – which makes it even easier to ensure that the fish on your dinner plate was swimming in neighboring waters just hours ago.

Patrons who crave a fantastic meal with an equally fantastic view will also find a wide range of waterfront restaurants along the Pamlico Sound, where the sunsets are unparalleled. (There are no oceanfront restaurants on Hatteras Island, since the shoreline is part of the National Seashore.) In addition, a number of restaurants offer seasonal live entertainment either to coincide with the dinner crowd, or to entertain after hour patrons. Check with local events schedules to see which establishments may have additional entertainment.

Off-season visitors should note that many local restaurants close for the winter months, generally from Thanksgiving until March. The good news is that more and more restaurants are staying open year-round, and there’s a wide variety to choose from – including casual eateries, seafood restaurants, and fine dining establishments - which means that every visitor can find a dining experience to suit their tastes, regardless of the season.

 

Performances & Events

Vacationers who crave a night out or a little local culture will find a myriad of options throughout the year on Hatteras Island.

While the local nightlife scene is relatively slow-paced and relaxed, a number of restaurants and bars feature live music in the summer months, as well as other entertainment like karaoke. Local bars and restaurants are allowed to stay open and serve alcoholic beverages until 2:00 a.m. in the state of North Carolina, and there are several bars that have pool tables, dart boards, and other pub-style entertainment or activities.

In the summer months, visitors can also catch a big name show at the Koru Beach Klub in Avon. This oceanfront venue features a covered on-site theater, called the Papawack Theatre, and welcomes a host of nationally recognized bands once a week in the summer season. In addition, the Beach Klub also has weekly luaus, teen nights with a DJ and dancing, and other special events throughout the year at the impressively sized Klub, and at their neighboring tavern near the Avon Pier.

As for festivals and other big events, Hatteras Island has a wealth of community spirit, and this shines through in annual events throughout the year. The annual Day at the Docks in late September is a two-day festival that celebrates life by the water, while the holiday Hatteras Village Parade is a big community-wide celebration that ends with hot chocolate at the Hatteras Village Civic Center. Other popular festivals and events include the Hatteras Storytelling Festival in May, an annual Bluegrass Festival that’s typically held in October, and an annual Independence Day fireworks display off the Avon Pier.

 

Beach Equipment Rentals & Sales

Hatteras Island is stocked with beach equipment rental and sales companies, which makes perfect sense considering that there is 50 miles of shoreline to enjoy. These stores are located in every distinct region, (the tri-villages, Avon, Buxton and Frisco, and Hatteras), and feature a world of equipment besides the standard beach chairs and umbrellas.

Beach Equipment rental companies offer a far-reaching range of goods which includes chairs, lounges canopies and umbrellas, watersports equipment like SUP boards, surf boards and kayaks, cottage items like grills and extra beds or linens, and baby gear for the house and for the beach. Many of these companies offer delivery service as well, and offer end-of-season sales after Labor Day on coveted equipment, like kayaks, boards, and other beach necessities.

In addition to rental options, Hatteras Island is packed with chain beach stores that carry everything from body boards and skim boards to sunscreen and beach chairs. Many catch-all shops, including grocery stores and hardware stores, sell these items as well, ensuring that guests will never be too far away from all the extra items they’ll need to enjoy long and sunny days at the beach.

 

Kid’s Activities

Hatteras Island is seemingly designed for families, with a myriad of ways to enjoy the shoreline. From activities that are perfect for a rainy day to guided explorations of the island’s wild side, kids of all ages will find plenty of ways to enjoy the beach scene to its fullest.

Mini-Golf – There are several mini-golf courses on Hatteras Island, specifically in the towns of Buxton and Frisco. These golf course feature 18-holes of family friendly play, and also offer on-site concessions including ice cream, drinks, snacks, pizza, and / or all of the above. Additional features can include on-site arcades or other amusements, and visitors should note that mini golf courses are seasonally open – generally from mid-spring to late fall.

Go Karts –A seasonal go-kart track is located in the town of Frisco, and is a popular destination for summertime visitors. The go-kart track also borders a mini-golf course and small arcade, ensuring visitors can have a full afternoon or evening of off-the-beach fun.

Arts and Crafts – Crafty kids can head to Avon to make a work of art at the island’s favorite paint your own pottery establishment, Studio 12. This local pottery place also hosts seasonal art classes for visitors of all ages in the summer months, which focus on different artistic activities like working with mosaic tile, or painting beach scenes. In addition, the towns of Avon and Rodanthe have several bead shops where visitors can sit down, have a beverage, and create their own unique jewelry from hundreds if not thousands of different styles of beads.

Museums and Sites – Many area museums are undeniably kid friendly, and are a great destination for kids and adults alike to learn something new. Check out the Chicamacomico Lifesaving Station in Rodanthe, the Frisco Native American Museum in Frisco, and the Graveyard of the Atlantic Museum in Hatteras Village to discover a wealth of hands-on exhibits and interactive displays.

Special Events – Teens can cut lose, (and enjoy an escape from the parents), at the Beach Klub’s weekly teen night in the summer months. Located in Avon, and generally held on Wednesdays, this event features cool non-alcoholic drinks, a DJ, dancing, and an awesome setting next to the ocean. Hatteras Island also hosts a number of kid-friendly festivals throughout the year, which includes the Day at the Docks festival in the summer, (which features crab races and a kids’ fishing tournament), and the annual Hatteras Village Christmas Parade.

Tours and Cruises – Families can head to Hatteras Village for a myriad of kid-friendly cruise or tour options that depart from the local marinas and explore the island’s inshore waters. With dolphin watching tours, clamming trips, and even eco-tours or shelling trips, there are plenty of customizable options for kids who want to discover the local waters. In addition, many watersports companies host SUP or kayaking tours of the Pamlico Sound, which are easy and relaxing ways to explore the wild island environment from an on-the-water perspective.

Lessons and Camps – Kids who want to pick up a new skill or watersport while they are on the island will find plenty of opportunities to sign up for a surfing, kiteboarding, windsurfing, or stand-up paddle boarding lesson or day camp. Many watersports companies have on-site instructors who conduct private or group classes, and several big watersports companies have all-day and intensive camps where kids can pick up surfing, SUP, or even kiteboarding in no time.

Other Activities – A number of local organizations offer seasonal programs for kids who want to discover more about the Outer Banks. The National Park Service regularly hosts “Turtle Talks” fishing and crabbing expeditions, and nature walks throughout the summer season, while the Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge has special kids crafting activities as well as guided birdwatching walks all summer long. Check out the local Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge Visitors Center just north of Rodanthe, or the National Park Service Visitors Center next to the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse to learn more about the range of programs that may coincide with an upcoming vacation.

From cool guided tours by an expert ranger to unique crafting classes that are perfect for a rainy day, kids will discover that there’s a lot to do on the Outer Banks. Be sure and check for special events before your arrival, and enjoy a kid-friendly adventure or two that everyone in the family will enjoy.

 

History of Hatteras Island

From an aerial perspective, Hatteras Island looks as fragile as a sandbar, with a lifespan that could easily be wiped away with an incoming tide or summer squall. The truth, however, is that the island has been around much longer than its appearance suggests, and has been inhabited for well over a thousand years, as recent archeological digs have uncovered.

The island was first noticed by Spanish sailors in the early 1500s who were making trips from the West Indies back to Spain, but well before the European settlers ever set foot on its shores, Hatteras Island was populated with small clusters of Native Americans, branches of the Algonquin tribe. Each region had its own community, like the Kinnakeet natives of Avon or the Hatterask tribe along the southern portion on the island, although the tribes never fought each other or warred with other mainland native communities. Instead, they lived a peaceful and fulfilling life that was very rich in seafood, and had some villages away from the ocean, in the dense regions of maritime forest that were sprinkled throughout the shoreline.

The native population gradually disappeared with the arrival with English explorers, beginning with what some historians believe were the original Lost Colonists. When the 200 settlers of the Lost Colony completely disappeared from Roanoke Island in 1587, they left behind a clue of their fate carved into a tree - the word "CROATAN." Many historians believe that this phrase alluded to the Croatan Indians, a friendly Hatteras Island based tribe that the original settlement had briefly encountered, and who would likely protect the settlement if they ran into dire times, or trouble with the not-as-friendly Roanoke natives.

While no sign of the colonists was ever found on the island in the decades that followed, future explorers noted that the island natives were odd with "blue eyes and pale skin," suggesting to some historians that they had at some point mixed with European Americans along the way. This theory of the Lost Colonists' move to Hatteras Island was further bolstered when an insignia ring dating back to the late 1500s was found during a recent archeological dig in Buxton, in an area that was a well-known original locale of a Native American community.

Regardless of who was the first to arrive, by the early 1700s, Hatteras Island was populated with a handful of settlements up and down the island. The main industries in the area were timber, due to the miles of maritime forests, fishing, and simple sustenance living, as newcomers discovered, just as the Native Americans had, that it was easy to carve out a simple, farming and fishing life on the small barrier island.

By the late 1800s, the island was very active in the lifesaving business, as a half dozen of stations were dotted along the shoreline to protect and assist passing vessels that were trapped by the Diamond Shoals. The crews of the Hatteras Island lifesaving stations were among the bravest in the nation, and the servicemen stationed on the island performed countless rescues for everything from shipwrecked merchant ships in the late 1800s to torpedoed British tankers during World War I.

After the wars, and after modern navigational systems became widespread making the course along the Hatteras Island shoreline an easier venture, the island slowed down, and tourism gradually began to trickle in. Up until the late 1950s, only a handful of visitors would make the ferry crossing across Oregon Inlet and the long ensuing drive through the sandy paths along the island to access the incredible fishing and hunting grounds that waited for them in Buxton and Avon. This all changed in 1963 when the Herbert C. Bonner Bridge opened, making the Oregon Inlet ferry obsolete, and opening the floodgates, so to speak, to tourism.

The first wave of oceanfront beach cottages were built shortly after the opening of the Bonner Bridge, after huge parcels of oceanfront property were bought for a song by regional developers and investors. More vacation homes followed in the 70s and 80s, becoming larger and grander, and today the island is stocked with vacation rental homes and modest condo complexes that range from classic 3 bedroom cottages to expansive 8 bedroom beach homes with private pools, game rooms, and even theater rooms.

Clearly, Hatteras Island today is a far cry from the small cluster of native villages that first called the area home a millennium ago, but nevertheless, the area has the same appeal it always had to new settlers. Quiet, undisturbed, and cut off from the rest of the world, (and with great seafood to boot), Hatteras Island is still a popular destination for modern-day explorers of all varieties.

 

Things to see on Hatteras Island

While Hatteras Island is certainly not the most populated area of the Outer Banks, it is home to some of its most iconic and well-loved attractions. The most notable of the group is surely the black and white candy-cane striped Cape Hatteras Lighthouse. This Buxton structure towers over the landscape and can be seen all the way from Avon and Frisco, especially at night when the beam from the Fresnel lens circles the island. The lighthouse is the tallest brick lighthouse in the world, and can be climbed seasonally by adventurous vacationers with a bit of stamina. Located in the heart of Buxton next to a picnic area, several nature trails, and public beach accesses, a visit to the lighthouse can be enjoyed year-round, and it is easily the most visited attraction on Hatteras Island.

The Chicamacomico Lifesaving Station in Rodanthe is another popular historic site. Built in the late 1800s, the station is one of the oldest lifesaving stations in the country, as well as the best-kept, and the only station that's still active as a museum. Visitors can tour the extensive grounds which include the original boat house, cooks quarters, and "new" 1911 main station, and can even enjoy summer reenactments of historic lifesaving drills, performed by the modern heroes of the US Coast Guard.

Rodanthe Pier

Hatteras Island is also home to several museums. In Frisco, visitors can stop by the Frisco Native American Museum, an expansive museum that covers all aspects of local, regional and even national Native American life. Hatteras village is home to Hatteras Island's newest museum, the Graveyard of the Atlantic Museum, which features artifacts from some of the area's most famous shipwrecks, and the original Fresnel light from the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse.

History buffs will also want to take a stroll through Avon (or Kinnakeet) Village, and historical Hatteras Village. Avon Village veers away from NC Highway 12 towards the soundfront, and features a collection of historical residential homes that date back to the early 1900s.Along the waterfront, visitors will spot the historic and charming Avon Harbor, which still operates as a small-town fishing center and seafood market for businesses and regular patrons alike. In the center of Hatteras Village, near the historic Burrus Red and White Grocery Store, head west towards the sound, and you'll pass the notable US Weather Station that first received the telegram from the Titanic and currently serves as a fascinating visitors' center with plenty of local information and knowledgeable staff volunteers. Down this road, visitors will also find a small collection of historic homes, with towering live oaks dripping with Spanish Moss. Both Avon and Hatteras Village are ideal locales for a scenic bike ride, and visitors who love a local exploration will enjoy touring these towns within a town.

Nature lovers will want to explore the many wild avenues on Hatteras Island that are open for exploring, beginning with the Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge. With a visitors' center and several extensive nature trails that lead all the way to the Pamlico Sound, this region has become a must-see for birders all over the world, who flock to the refuge to view hundreds of different species dotting the landscape. Buxton and Frisco Woods also have deep nature trails that run through marshlands, maritime forest, and even ancient, sea-oat lined sand dunes located miles away from the ocean. Even Hatteras Village has a small nature trail that leads visitors along a saltwater pond with a fantastic view of the village surroundings. Basically, considering the amount of natural landscape that is found within Hatteras Island, it should come as no surprise that the nature trails here are among the best on the Outer Banks.

Even if you're not a history buff or a nature aficionado, the attractions along Hatteras Island will surely take your breath away. A collection of coastal icons and museums that honor the Outer Banks' roots, visitors are encouraged to explore the coastline and uncover the world of history that waits just beyond the beaches.

Things to Do on Hatteras Island

Because Hatteras Island is literally bordered by hundreds of miles of water, it should come as no surprise that some of the favorite activities can be found along the ocean and sound facing shorelines.

Hatteras Island is historically known as one of the best fishing destinations on the East Coast, and this designation holds true for all kinds of fishing, including casting from the surf, the pier, or from an offshore charter boat.

Surf fishermen will find miles of beaches to set up the pole holders, including the world famous Cape Point. This beach marks the exact spot where the island bends back towards the mainland, and located 30 miles offshore, comes dangerously close to the Diamond Shoals as well as the Labrador and Gulf Stream currents. The result is a never ending supply of trophy-worthy game and sport fish that come remarkably close to shore, and can be landed by anglers of all seasons. For a different angle, head to the Avon or Rodanthe Pier for a little fishing several hundred feet into the Atlantic Ocean. Both piers are open for the majority of the year, and cater to fishermen and sightseers alike who want to take in a stunning view of the Hatteras Island shoreline. Finally, offshore fishermen should note that Hatteras Village has earned the nickname "Blue Marlin Capital of the World," due in no small part to the dozens of charter fishing boats that are docked along its half dozen harbors and marinas. Located just 10-15 miles from the Gulf Stream, Hatteras Island is an ideal place to launch a deep sea fishing expedition to reel in those massive marlins, tunas, mahi mahi, and everything in between.

 

Besides fishing, Hatteras Island is also popular with watersports lovers of all varieties. In the last couple of decades, the area has become known as one of the best kiteboarding and windsurfing destinations in the world due to its proximity to over 30 miles of shallow sound waters, consistent wind conditions, and miles of uncrowded ocean and sound facing beaches. A number of nationally acclaimed watersports companies have set up home bases on the island, and as a result, Hatteras Island hosts a number of professional and amateur windsurfing and kiteboarding events every year.

Surfing is another popular sport that has always put Hatteras Island in the spotlight, as several beaches have become renowned as some of the best surfing beaches on the East Coast. Areas like the S-Curves outside of Rodanthe or the Old Lighthouse Beach just north of the lighthouse in Buxton have been attracting surfers for generations, and often serve as the site for regional and national ESA (Eastern Surfing Association) tournaments.

If your favorite sports are a little more relaxed, then you'll be happy to discover the area is also ideal for kayaking and stand up paddle boarding. Both of these sports can be picked up with little instruction, and are easy to enjoy by virtually anyone, young and old alike. Paddle through the dozens of saltwater canals that border the soundfront Hatteras Island communities, or take a self-guided exploration of the Pamlico Sound. Sport lovers of all varieties will soon discover that when it comes to new open water regions of the island to explore, the sky (or rather the sound) is the limit.

 

Naturally, the most popular thing to do on Hatteras Island is to head to the beach, and visitors will certainly find endless beaches to explore throughout all 50 miles of the island. The best part about beaching on Hatteras Island is the sheer solitude, and in any given town or community, visitors will find ample space to spread out and relax without other vacationing groups lingering a few feet away.

On the beach, feel free to take a dip in the ocean, spread out a blanket and relax, read, play Frisbee, build sandcastles or dig for ghost crabs. The majority of vacation hours are clocked in on the shore, and vacationers of all ages find no shortage of things to do on sand. Treasure hunters should definitely dedicate a little time to combing the beaches, as Hatteras Island is also known as a fantastic destination for seashells. The southern beaches just south of Cape Point and Buxton can be especially fruitful, with plenty of perfect finds, including olive shells, whelks and even Scotch Bonnets, rolling in with the tides.

For a little fun indoors, the seven villages along Hatteras Island offer plenty of shopping and dining options. Explore the region's wide array of regionally acclaimed art galleries that proudly and prominently feature the works of local island artists, or head to the collection of surf shops and clothing boutiques that have plenty of island-worthy gear and apparel. There are also beading shops and paint-your-own-pottery shops for crafty afternoons, in addition to mini golf courses, and even a go kart track in Frisco for off the beach entertainment.

Visitors will also want to sample the variety of restaurants from Rodanthe to Hatteras that specialize in creating exquisite meals from the island's large supply of fresh seafood. Ranging from small burger joints and pizza places to five star soundfront dining establishments, patrons will find plenty of options that will please even the pickiest eaters. Plan a romantic waterfront meal or cocktail at one of the many soundfront restaurants, or head to a local bar for some steamed shrimp and Sunday sports. On Hatteras Island, seafood has always been the star of the local dining scene, and visitors will find plenty of options to spread out a napkin and enjoy a completely tasty and seaworthy dining experience.

No matter how you like to have fun, Hatteras Island has a little something for everyone, from the die-hard sports lovers to the relaxed beach loungers. The hard, part, really, is trying to decide how to spend your day. Visitors who love the great outdoors, a quiet beach, or a little fun out on the water will find that Hatteras Island is a perfect retreat, capped off with fantastic meals, gorgeous surroundings, and plenty of wide open spaces.

 

Where to Stay on Hatteras Island

There are no major resorts or sky-rise hotels on Hatteras Island, however, visitors will find they have plenty of options for accommodations. The most popular vacation lodgings are the several thousand vacation rental homes that are located throughout all seven villages. These homes are rented by local Hatteras Island property management companies on a weekly basis, and can range from 1-2 bedrooms condos to 10-12 bedroom estates. With a variety of amenities, such as private pools, hot tubs, game rooms, large expansive living areas, and plenty of oceanfront or soundfront decks, visitors will find that these accommodations have all the comforts of home and a whole lot more. For an extended Hatteras Island stay of a week or more, a vacation rental home (or condo) is the ideal long-term accommodation.

For shorter long weekend stays, head to the local bed and breakfasts or hotels / motels that are located throughout the island. All of these establishments are locally run, and many are either oceanfront or soundfront providing guests with expansive views and easy access to the beach. With plenty of guest-friendly amenities, and even on-site restaurants and lounges, a hotel, motel or local B&B is the perfect way to get your feet wet in the Hatteras Island scene for a relaxing weekend or even longer.

Budget-friendly vacationers, or travelers who want to explore the great outdoors, will also find a number of campgrounds available on Hatteras Island as well. Rodanthe, Waves and Salvo have the largest concentration of campgrounds, although camping accommodations, either privately run or managed by the National Park Service, can be found in virtually every village. With extensive hook-ups for campers and RVs, private grills, community pools and even snack centers, game rooms or restaurants, many of the campgrounds on Hatteras Island can turn a typical camping trip into a resort-quality event.

Regardless of where you ultimately decide to stay, be sure and do your research and plan your stay well in advance. The accommodations on Hatteras Island tend to book up well before summer arrives, and because so many accommodations providers have easy-to-use websites or friendly staff available year-round to answer questions, planning a Hatteras Island vacation in advance, regardless of where or how you stay, is a breeze.

 

 

Tips and Tricks for Visiting Hatteras Island

  • Every vacationer to Hatteras Island needs to take in at least one Pamlico Sound sunset during their stay. Grab the beach chairs, a cooler, and even a picnic basket, and hit a local soundside beach for one of the best nightly shows on the Outer Banks. There are many soundside access points throughout the island and public parking areas ensuring that any vacationer is just a quick drive or short stroll away from a gorgeous sunset locale. Head to popular soundside beaches like Canadian Hole in between Avon and Buxton, or the Salvo Day Use area on the southern outskirts of Salvo Village, and relax with one of the best waterfront views on the beach.
  • Vacationers with limited mobility or visitors who want to explore more regions of the beach should bring along the 4WD truck, pick up a beach driving permit, and cruise along the beaches in their vehicle via the numerous beach access ramps located all along the Cape Hatteras National Seashore. Beach driving permits are available for a weekly or annual fee, and can be picked up at the National Park Service Station in Buxton. Driving on the beach is a time-honored tradition on Hatteras Island, and visitors are welcome to join in the fun, and see why visitors have been happily cruising along the Hatteras Island beaches for decades.
  • Visitors who appreciate a quiet deserted beach should consider a visit to Hatteras Island in the shoulder season months of the spring and fall. These months are prime vacationing time for windsurfers, kiteboarders, and tourists who just like a little peace and quiet. Generally, accommodations are significantly cheaper than in the prime season months, and the majority of restaurants, shops, and other attractions or amenities on the island are wide open for vacationers.
  • Not sure if you want to spend a full week on Hatteras Island? If you're staying in the northern or central Outer Banks, then consider taking a day trip. Hatteras Island is just a quick 20 or 30 minute drive from the central Outer Banks, and it's a scenic drive at that, with towering views of Oregon Inlet, the ocean and Pamlico Sound, and miles of the Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge. Bring the family along, and make an afternoon expedition to one of the Outer Banks' favorite and least populated locales.

Hatteras Island proves that gorgeous beaches, miles of waterfront, and a handful of things to do and see can translate into an absolutely spectacular beach vacation. When making your Outer Banks vacation plans, consider adding a day-trip or a weeklong stay on Hatteras Island to your beach agenda.

Whether you're a watersports lover, an avid fisherman, or just a part-time beach bum, you'll be charmed by the miles of endless shoreline with just a handful or other people to share the view. Filled with wide open spaces, miles of Pamlico Sound and Atlantic Ocean waterfront, and everything a vacationer needs to stay entertained, Hatteras Island is truly a beach lover's paradise.

Frequently Asked Questions

Where is Hatteras Island, NC?

Hatteras Island is located in the southern Outer Banks, and is roughly 20 miles off the mainland of North Carolina. It is bordered to the east by the Atlantic Ocean, and is bordered to the west by the Pamlico Sound.

How do you get to Hatteras Island, NC?

Visitors can access Hatteras Island from the north via NC Highway 12, which intersects with US 64 as well as US 158. From the south, visitors can take the Hatteras / Ocracoke ferry, which is a free one hour vehicular ferry that departs from the northern edge of Ocracoke Island.

How long is Hatteras Island, NC?

Hatteras Island is a little more than 50 miles long, and stretches from Oregon Inlet and the Bonner Bridge, to Hatteras Inlet at its southernmost point. 

What are the towns on Hatteras Island, NC?

There are seven villages on Hatteras Island. From north to south, the villages are Rodanthe, Waves and Salvo, (also known as the “tri-villages”), Avon, Buxton, Frisco, and Hatteras village.

What is there to do on Hatteras Island, NC?

Hatteras Island is part of the Cape Hatteras National Seashore, and is well known for its pristine and undeveloped sound and ocean facing beaches, which stretch for more than 50 miles. As such, the island is a very popular spot for fishing, kiteboarding, surfing, windsurfing, kayaking, and other water activities. The island also has a number of museums and attractions, including the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, dozens of shops and restaurants, and other activities such as mini-golf courses, boat tours, and other amusements. 

What are the special events on Hatteras Island?

Hatteras Island has a number of special events throughout the year. Popular annual events include the 4th of July Celebration with fireworks over the Avon Pier, the Hatteras Village Christmas Parade in December, a number of fishing tournaments in the fall, and the Day at the Docks celebration of working watermen in September. 

Where are the beach accesses on Hatteras Island, NC?

Beach accesses are located throughout Hatteras Island, and visitors can access the shoreline via parking areas, village boardwalks and walkways, or sometimes just by parking on the side of NC Highway 12. There are also 11 oceanside ORV ramps for 4WD vehicles to access the shoreline.

Does it cost any money to park at the Hatteras Island public beach accesses?

All beaches on Hatteras Island are part of the Cape Hatteras National Seashore, and as such, they are all free and open to the public, barring any seasonal bird or turtle nesting closures.

Are there lifeguards on Hatteras Island beaches?

There may be seasonal lifeguards at the Old Lighthouse Beach, which is located just north of the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse in the town of Buxton. Hatteras Island beaches also have seasonal rescue patrols by area organizations, including the Chicamacomico Banks Rescue team, and the Hatteras Island Rescue Squad.

What are the attractions on Hatteras Island, NC?

Hatteras Island has a number of historic and cultural attractions. Favorite area landmarks include the Chicamacomico Life-Saving Station in Rodanthe, the Little Kinnakeet Life-Saving Station north of Avon, The Cape Hatteras Lighthouse and the Cape Point beach in Buxton, the Frisco Native American Museum in Frisco, and the Graveyard of the Atlantic Museum in Hatteras village. 

Are there shops and restaurants on Hatteras Island, NC?

Hatteras Island has shops and restaurants in each of its seven villages. Avon and Buxton are arguably the most populated areas, with dozens of restaurants, grocery stores, and a wide array of gift shops and art galleries, however each community has its own distinctive collection of eateries, stores, and things to do.

Where do you stay on Hatteras Island, NC?

The majority of visitors to Hatteras Island stay in vacation rentals, which are generally rented on a weekly basis, and which can range from one bedroom condors to 12 bedroom or more homes. The island also has a number of motels, (particularly in the town of Buxton), as well as a number of campgrounds throughout the region, especially in the northern towns of Waves, Rodanthe and Salvo.

What can you do on a rainy day in Hatteras Island, NC?

Hatteras Island has a wide array of shops to explore, which include bead stores and a paint your own pottery studio, art galleries, a historic book store, gift shops, and beach gear stores. In addition, there is a seasonal indoor amusement center with laser tag arena in the town of Rodanthe, and a spa and salon in the town of Avon. There are also a number of museums on the island, including the Chicamacomico Life-Saving Station in rodanthe, the Frisco Native American Museum, and the Graveyard of the Atlantic Museum in Hatteras.

Are pets allowed on the beach in Hatteras Island, NC?

Pets are allows on all Hatteras Island beaches, but must be on a leash at all times.

Can you drive on the beach in Hatteras Island, NC?

Vehicles are allowed on multiple areas of the Hatteras Island shoreline, and the Cape Hatteras National Seashore has 11 ORV ramps on Hatteras Island alone. A permit from the National Park Service is required to drive on the beaches.

Are there shells on Hatteras Island, NC?

Hatteras Island is a popular shelling destination, thanks to its isolation and deserted beaches. Popular spots for shelling include Hatteras Inlet, Frisco and Hatteras beaches, and the newly formed “Shelly Island,” which is located off of Cape Point in Buxton.

Are beach bonfires allowed on Hatteras Island?

Beach bonfires are allowed throughout the Cape Hatteras National Seashore, from Rodanthe to Hatteras village. A permit is needed and can be obtained via the National Park Service’s website.

Where can you go charter fishing on Hatteras Island?

Hatteras village has roughly a half dozen marinas that are home to dozens of charter businesses that offer inshore and / or offshore fishing trips. Hatteras village is also the closest Hatteras Island town to the Gulf Stream, which is an estimated 12-15 miles away.

Where is the best fishing on Hatteras Island?

Popular Hatteras Island beaches for surf fishing include Cape Point in Buxton, the 4WD accessible Frisco Beach, and the Bonner Bridge and Oregon Inlet area. Anglers can also head to the Avon Pier, which is located in the heart of Hatteras Island.

Where are the best surf spots on Hatteras Island?

Favorite surfing spots on Hatteras Island include the S-Curves just north of Rodanthe, the “Jetties” which is located next to the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse at the former lighthouse location, and the old Frisco Pier, which is in the heart of Frisco.

Where can you go kiteboarding on Hatteras Island?

Hatteras Island has a number of soundfront vacation rental homes with easy kiteboarding access. In addition, kiteboarders can head to the Salvo Day Use area just south of Salvo, as well as Kite Point, which is situated in between the towns of Avon and Buxton.

When is the best time to visit Hatteras Island?

Hatteras Island is most popular in the summer months, when air and water temperatures are at their highest, and all seasonal shops and restaurants are open for visitors. The island is also popular with watersports fans and anglers in the spring and fall months.

What are the air temperatures each month in Hatteras Island?

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 

Hatteras Island Photos

 The Hatteras - Ocracoke Ferry Many charter fishing excersions are available     Deer rest in Buxton Relaxing at Rodanthe Pier      Kiteboarding in Haulover 

Hatteras Landing in Hatteras Village

Oceanfront homes in Rodanthe

The

Cape Hatteras National Seashore allows 4x4 beach access with permit

Cape Hatteras Lighthouse in Buxton

Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge

A bed and breakfast in Buxton

Kiteboarding in Waves

REAL Watersports in Waves

Beach access in Buxton

The Pointe Golf Club
Fishing on the Outer Banks
Wild Horse Adventure Tours