Hatteras Island is an uncrowded, beautiful, and natural coastal destination, but that doesn't mean it's boring! The island offers a wealth of things to do and see. Whether you're looking for a relaxing beach vacation or exciting watersports adventure, Hatteras Island has you covered. Here is our list of the top ten things to do on Hatteras Island.

The Beach on Hatteras Island

1. Go to the beach!

Let's get the obvious out of the way. The beaches of Hatteras Island are truly unique and special, offering visitors a one-of-a-kind beach experience. This stunning coastline boasts miles of pristine sand and crystal-clear waters that are managed and protected by the National Park Service.

The beaches of Hatteras Island are also known for their natural beauty. Whether you are watching the sun rise over the horizon, taking a walk along the beach, searching for beautiful seashells, or simply relaxing in the sun, the beauty of Hatteras Island is sure to captivate you.

The National Park Service manages and protects the beaches of Hatteras Island, so you can be sure that the beauty of the island's beaches will remain intact year after year. The National Park Service also provides education and interpretation programs to help visitors understand and appreciate the unique local features and inhabitants, including local sea turtle nesting sites.

Cape Hatteras Lighthouse

2. Climb Cape Hatteras Lighthouse *after construction is completed*

*Cape Hatteras Lighthouse is undergoing renovation in 2024 and is not available for climbing.* A visit to the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse is a must-see for anyone visiting Hatteras Island. With it's iconic, diagonal black and white stripes, Cape Hatteras Lighthouse is one of the most recognizable landmarks on the East Coast.

One of the highlights of a visit to the lighthouse is the opportunity to climb its 257 steps to the top. The climb is strenuous but rewarding, and the views are simply breathtaking. From the top of the lighthouse, visitors can see for miles in all directions, taking in the stunning scenery of Hatteras Island, Cape Point, Buxton, and the surrounding ocean.

Visitors can also learn about the rich history of the lighthouse and the Outer Banks at the nearby visitor center. The visitor center features exhibits and displays that explore the history of lighthouse and its role in the maritime history of the East Coast.

In addition to the lighthouse, visitors can also explore the nearby grounds and gardens, which feature a variety of plants and wildlife native to the area. This is a great place to relax, have a picnic, or simply take in the stunning views of the surrounding landscape.

A Jeep on Carova Beach

3. Drive Your 4x4 Vehicle to Cape Point

The National Park Service allows visitors to buy 4x4 access permits and drive their 4x4 vehicles on Hatteras beaches, offering a unique and intimate way to explore the island and its surroundings.

Driving on the beaches of Cape Hatteras is unlike driving on any other beach. The sand is soft, and the ocean is close, making for an unforgettable experience. We recommend exploring Cape Point, where the island turns from North/South to an East-West orientation. At Cape Point, visitors can enjoy breathtaking views of the ocean, go fishing, or simply relax in the sun.

In order to drive on the beaches of Cape Hatteras, visitors must purchase a 4x4 access permit from the National Park Service. The permit allows drivers to access the beaches at dozens of points and park their vehicles at designated areas along the shore. The permit also provides important information about beach driving regulations and guidelines, including information about tire pressure and recommended 4x4 equipment.

Speaking of tire pressure, it is important to air down your tires before driving on the beaches of Hatteras Island. Airing down the tires will help your vehicle maintain better traction on the soft sand, reduce the risk of getting stuck, and reduce engine and transmission stresses. In addition, it is recommended to bring traction mats and a shovel to assist with getting unstuck if needed. Check out our "driving on the beach" guide for more information.

Hatteras Landing

4. Shopping and Dining at Hatteras Landing

Hatteras Landing Shopping Center offers a wide range of shopping, dining, entertainment, and other activities. Located on the southern end of the island, Hatteras Village Shopping Center is a hub of activity, and there is always something to do.

Shopping is one of the main attractions of Hatteras Landing Shopping Center, with a variety of stores selling souvenirs, gifts, clothing, and beach gear. Whether you're looking for a unique item to take home as a reminder of your trip or just need to stock up on essentials, the shopping center has something for everyone.

When it comes to dining, Hatteras Landing Shopping Center has plenty of options to choose from, including local seafood restaurants, snacks, fast food options, bars & grilles, and ice cream shops. Whether you're in the mood for a quick bite or a sit-down meal, there is something to suit every taste and budget.

In addition to shopping and dining, visitors can also book a charter fishing boat at the attached Hatteras Landing Marina. Charter offerings include inshore, offshore, and specialty experiences.

Hatteras Ocracoke Ferry

5. Ride the Hatteras - Ocracoke Ferry

The Hatteras Ocracoke ferry provides a link between Hatteras Island and Ocracoke Island. The ferry system operates two types of services: a vehicular ferry and a passenger-only (non-vehicle) ferry.

The vehicular ferry is the only way visitors can take their cars or trucks to Ocracoke Island. The ferry operates on a frequent schedule, with departures from Hatteras Island to Ocracoke Island taking place several times per day. The trip varies in duration based on sandbar movement, but is approximately 1-2 hours long, allowing visitors to sit back and enjoy the scenic views of the ocean, Pamlico sound, and the surrounding coastline.

In addition to the vehicular ferry, the Hatteras Ocracoke ferry also operates the Ocracoke Express, a passenger-only (non-vehicle) ferry, during the Summer months. The Ocracoke Express operates with multiple departures each day from Hatteras Island to Ocracoke Island, and back. The trip duration is approximately the same as the vehicular ferry, making it a convenient option for those who want to explore the island on foot or by bicycle.

The Hatteras Ocracoke ferry and Ocracoke Express are a convenient and easy way to get to Ocracoke Island. With a frequent schedule, visitors can sit back, relax, and enjoy the scenic views as they make their way to Ocracoke Island. If you're looking for an exciting and convenient way to explore the beautiful Outer Banks region of North Carolina, the Hatteras Ocracoke ferry is the perfect choice!

Watersports at Haulover

6. Learn to Kiteboard and Windsurf

Hatteras Island is an East coast favorite destination for kiteboarding and windsurfing enthusiasts, offering world-class conditions and a wealth of opportunities for beginners and experienced riders alike. Whether you're looking to try these exciting water sports for the first time or you're an experienced rider looking to improve your skills, Hatteras Island is the perfect place to be.

One of the premier destinations for kiteboarding and windsurfing on Hatteras Island is REAL Watersports. REAL Watersports offers a range of lessons and equipment rental options for visitors, making it easy to get started or to continue improving your skills. The experienced instructors at REAL Watersports are dedicated to helping visitors of all skill levels achieve their goals, offering personalized instruction and guidance to ensure that you get the most out of your time on the water. Not interested in getting wet? REAL also offers an expansive shop with apparel and gifts, and a delicious restaurant with porch facing Pamlico Sound. We love grabbing a bite to eat and watching the kiteboarders glide back and forth across the sound.

Another great option for kiteboarding and windsurfing on Hatteras Island is Kitty Hawk Kites. Kitty Hawk Kites offers a range of lessons and rental options for visitors, making it easy to get started or to continue improving your skills. The experienced instructors at Kitty Hawk Kites are skilled in helping visitors of all levels achieve their goals. The Kitty Hawk Kites location in Waves also offers a large retail store with an amazing assortment of gifts, apparel, and gear.

Salvo Day Use Area

7. Relax at Haulover or Salvo Day Use Areas

Haulover on Hatteras Island, North Carolina is a popular soundside beach spot for visitors and locals alike. Located between Avon and Buxton, Haulover offers stunning views of the Pamlico sound, a sandy beach, and a variety of recreational opportunities. There are several amenities available, including restrooms and rinse-showers, making it easy to spend the whole day at Haulover. Additionally, there is an ample, paved parking lot.

Visitors to Haulover can swim, sunbathe, fish, kiteboard, and windsurf. The waters here are relatively calm, making it a great spot for families with small children.

The picturesque, soundside Salvo Day Use Area park offers bathrooms and plenty of picnic tables, making it easy to have a picnic or a snack in between activities. Additionally, there is ample parking available.

One of the most popular activities is swimming in the Pamlico sound. The sound is generally calm and perfect for families and children. Sunbathing is also a popular activity, with plenty of room on the wide sandy beaches to spread out and catch some rays.

The Salvo Day Use Area is also a popular destination for kiteboarders and windsurfers. The area is known for its consistent winds, making it an ideal spot for wind-fueled activities. Kiteboarders and windsurfers can practice their skills, providing a spectacle for onlookers. The wide open beach provides plenty of space for beginners to set up their gear.

Chicamacomico Lifesaving Station

8. Visit Chicamacomico Life-Saving Station

Chicamacomico Lifesaving Station in Rodanthe, North Carolina is a historical gem that offers visitors a glimpse into the past and the bravery of the US Life-saving Service. The station is one of the oldest surviving surf stations on the Atlantic coast and has been restored to its original condition, allowing visitors to see what life was like for the men who served there. The station is a testament to the bravery of the lifesavers who risked their lives to save others and the sacrifices they made to protect the people of the Outer Banks.

The Chicamacomico Lifesaving Station was originally built in 1874 and served as a base of operations for the US Lifesaving Service until it was decommissioned in the 1930s. Today, the station has been restored to its original condition and serves as a museum, showcasing the history of the US Lifesaving Service and the role the station played in the development of the US Coast Guard.

Visitors to the Chicamacomico Lifesaving Station can tour restored buildings and see the equipment and tools used by lifesavers, including surfboats, life-saving apparatus, and rescue equipment. They can also learn about the rescue operations that took place at the station and the challenges the lifesavers faced. The station also offers educational programs, such as reenactments of lifesaving drills and demonstrations of the rescue equipment, giving visitors a hands-on experience of what it was like to be a lifesaver.

In addition to the museum, the Chicamacomico Lifesaving Station also offers a gift shop, where visitors can purchase souvenirs and learn even more about its history.

Rodanthe Pier

9. Visit a Fishing Pier (and go fishing!)

Hatteras Island is an extremely popular destination for anglers and fishing enthusiasts, and offers three fishing piers. Each pier has its own unique features and amenities, making it easy to find the perfect spot to cast a line.

Bonner Bridge Pier: Located at the Northernmost point of Hatteras Island, this pier is actually the Southern end of the old Herbert C. Bonner Bridge. Open to the public, it's a popular spot for fishing, with plenty of room to cast a line. There aren't any amenities at Bonner pier, so bring everything you need for your day of fishing. Rolling carts and folding chairs are highly recommended! Bonner pier is a great spot for sightseers, with stunning views of the Basnight Bridge, Oregon Inlet Lifesaving Station, and surrounding landscape.

Hatteras Island Fishing Pier (Formerly Rodanthe Fishing Pier): The Hatteras Island Fishing Pier is located in the town of Rodanthe and offers 700 feet of boardwalk. The pier house is well-stocked with bait and tackle, making it a great spot for those who want to try their hand at fishing but don't have their own equipment. Visitors can also purchase a fishing license on-site and take advantage of the pier's cleaning station. The pier is also a popular spot for sightseers, with stunning views of the ocean.

Avon Fishing Pier: Located in the town of Avon, this popular pier is a popular spot for visitors to watch the sunrise and fish. It is well-stocked with bait and tackle. The pier is also a great spot for those who want to try their hand at fishing but don't have their own equipment, with a fishing license available for purchase on-site. In addition, the pier has a cleaning station, making it easy to clean your catch and take it home for dinner.

10. Kayak Rentals and Tours

Kayaking is a wonderful way to explore the stunning coastal waters and marshes of Hatteras Island. With a variety of kayak rental and tour companies available, it's easy to find the perfect way to experience the beauty of Hatteras Island from the water.

One popular kayak rental and tour company is Kitty Hawk Kites. They offer a variety of kayaks for rent, including single and tandem kayaks, as well as Hobie pedal kayaks. The company provides all the necessary equipment, including paddles and life jackets, making it easy to get out on the water and start exploring. Kitty Hawk Kites also offers kayak tours leaving from its Salvo location.

Another great option is Coastal Kayak, which offers guided kayak tours of Pea Island Wildlife Refuge. The tours take visitors through this birding paradise, offering a unique perspective on the wildlife and ecosystem of the Outer Banks. Guides are knowledgeable about the local waterfowl, animals, and plants, and are happy to answer any questions you may have.

This is by no means an exhaustive list of great things to do on Hatteras Island, but we hope it gives you a taste of just how much there is to do!

Henry's Restaurant
The Farmer's Daughter
Joe Lamb Jr. & Associates
Duck Town Park & Boardwalk

Duck Town Park provides a playground for all seasons and more. Its 11 acres consist of a mix of Maritime Forest, willow swamp, open lawn with amphitheatre and picnic shelters, all sitting next to the lovely shallow waters of scenic Currituck Sound. Situated in the heart of Duck, the Park is also central to most of the town’s public activities. During the season, the smoke-free Park offers live theatre, stories and magic shows for children in the mornings and a concert series for all ages in the early evenings. All during the day, every day from dawn ‘til dusk, visitors and locals can take advantage of the park’s picnic shelter, walking trails through the woods, canoe and kayak access and playground with gazebo. Fantastic free Town Park events like the Fourth of July celebration, with parade and after-party, and October’s Duck Jazz Festival, featuring national and local jazz artists, have become favorite annual OBX traditions.The latest addition to the Park is access to the town’s new boardwalk, which is open from dawn until 1 a.m. and offers breathtaking soundside views, peaceful sunsets and a connection to solitude and nature, as well to the bustle of Duck’s many visitors shopping and dining during the season. Duck Town Park provides two parking areas where visitors and locals can leave their cars and enjoy any or all Park activities, or they can choose to access the boardwalk and take in all it has to offer.The Town of Duck sums up its Park as a place for family fun, sound side activities, natural beauty, awesome music and stunning sunsets.