Short visit to Cape Lookout and Shackleford island



Friends had recommended the Cape Lookout area to us, saying it was very beautiful and well worth visiting. We didn’t have much time as the bad weather held us hostage in Morehead City for an extra few days, but we decided to visit the area and we were not disappointed.

Lookout Bight and Cape Lookout National Seashore

The guide book described it as “one of the most beautiful anchorages in all of the Carolinas, Lookout Bight “ “ Miles of unspoiled, dune backed beaches of Cape Lookout National Shoreline provide the perfect setting to search for seashells of the giant whelk or watch the antics of Laughing Gulls, a variety of terns, willets, dunlins, cavorting oyster catchers…”

Anchoring in the large Lookout Bight by midday we had lunch and set off to explore. We headed to what we thought was a boardwalk that would lead us to a track and to the abandoned village. We were wrong; this was a disused, falling apart boardwalk that led into the marshes that was not an access to the “village”. So we opted to walk along the beach and exposed sandbars.

We walked along the inside of the bay for miles as the tide went out. It was wonderful to be taking pictures, walking and enjoying a new adventure. We crossed the huge dunes separating the bight from the Atlantic seas and were just stunned by the beauty of the beach and shoreline. The beach goes on for miles and miles, in fact 7 miles out and then the sand bars for a further 8 miles into the Atlantic. Again we walked the shoreline, now I was collecting shells too, so I was even happier. It was a wonderful afternoon.

Cape Lookout Lighthouse

The following morning we dingied over to the famous Cape Lookout Lighthouse. It has been a landmark since 1812 and still shines the way to those that travel/sail the waters. The lighthouse’s unique diamond markings actually mark north and south with the black diamonds and east and west with the black, again showing the way. At the lighthouse we climbed to the top, all 200 plus steps and what a fabulous view from the top! We could see for miles. The ranger gave me his binoculars so I could view the wild horses across on Shackleford Island. They were in the water of a marsh bay happily splashing and enjoying the cool.

We then set off to walk to the abandoned village, but the sandy track was very hot with the sun baking down and we just reached the first of the structures. For our walk back we crossed to the other shore and enjoyed walking the beach back.

After lunch we went in one of the parks ATVs for a tour of the Cape. This comprised of a very interesting history of Cape Lookout, the village, (we found out we had made it to the village store on our walk) and then along the beach out to the end of Cape Lookout. The island was made a national park many, many, years ago, but the people who owned the properties were allowed to stay for 25 years. The last of the islander left in 2005. We opted to stay out on the bar for an hour and walk around; again it was just wonderful and so very beautiful. The sandbars extend for another 8 miles off the shoreline, just incredible!

Back at the dingy John suggested we pop over to nearby Shackleford Island. This is where the wild horses of Shackleford banks have roamed from the 1500s when Lucus Vasques de Ayllon’s colony failed and the horses were turned free. They are now protected as they have their own unique bloodline. They number about 150 and care completely for themselves. We were not disappointed as there were several right there grazing. We had an excellent day.

We were planning on leaving the next day, but the weather came in so that the morning was just pouring with rain and very miserable, so we stayed. As the weather lifted in the afternoon we went for a very long walk over the dunes on the shoreline. We walked to the end of the peninsular and back to the boat via the other side. It was wonderful; birds all round, wide open beach, wind blowing, waves crashing and nobody around for miles.

“What I like most about change is that it’s a synonym for ‘hope.’ If you are taking a risk, what you are really saying is, ‘I believe in tomorrow and I will be part of it.”  — Linda Ellerbee

 “To get up each morning with the resolve to be happy is to set our own conditions to the events of each day. To do this is to condition circumstances instead of being conditioned by them”  — Ralph Waldo Emerson


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