Cape Lookout Lighthouse. There is no fee for parking at the visitor center, but there is a cost to ride the Ferry to visit the Cape Lookout National Seashore. Cost range from $15-$20 per person to ride the Ferry and the ferry ride is approximately 15 minutes. For more information on taking a Ferry to the Cape Lookout National Seashore, click Here.
The Cape Lookout Lighthouse is only open is open for climbing from the second week in May to the third weekend in September. Self-guided tours of up to 10 people will begin every 15 minutes during the hours of operation. The current costs for admission when we went was $8 per person, there are discounted prices for children and seniors. The lighthouse may close at any time if conditions (i.e.: temperature/humidity, lightning, or high winds) are determined to be unsafe. The climb to the top is strenuous. It may be hot, humid, noisy and dim inside the lighthouse. Climbing the 207 steps to the gallery is roughly equal to climbing a 12-story building. The stairs are narrow and groups going up will share the stairs with groups returning to the bottom. Make sure to get your tickets to climb the lighthouse early because on busy days the number of tickets can sell out. There is a set number of people able to climb the lighthouse each day and the quota exists because the lighthouse is a very old structure and can only safely accommodate so many people safely. For more information about seasonal hours of operation, click Here.
During the ferry ride over, you will have Cape Lookout Lighthouse firmly in view. The ferry docks right near Cape Lookout Lighthouse and you exit the ferry right by Cape Lookout Lighthouse. You then hike along a wooden boardwalk to the visitor center, which has a small gift shop, restrooms, and is the gateway to Cape Lookout Lighthouse and Cape Lookout National Seashore. You buy your tickets to climb the lighthouse at this visitor center. At this point you are a short walk to the Cape Lookout Lighthouse and less than a 0.4 mile hike to the Atlantic Coast. There are wooden boardwalks around the visitor center and the Cape Lookout Lighthouse, but outside of that you are walking on flat sandy trails.
We did a little shelling and then went swimming in the warm Atlantic waters, which during the summer time get over 80 degrees. One of the neat things about being at Cape Lookout National Seashore is there is no development on the island. It is a completely different experience being on an island that has no housing right along the ocean. You look down as far as the eye can see along the coast and there is not a single home built on the coastline. It is truly a magnificent sight to see!
If you have more than one day to spend at the Cape Lookout National Sea Shore, there is primitive camping available on the island. Campers should prepare carefully for the natural conditions to be found at the park. We saw two groups of people that were going to be camping right on the beach.
Birds are the most easily observed animals in the park. Spring and Fall migration brings a number of different species through the park. Stormy weather can drive a few pelagic birds in from the open ocean for a visit. In summer, a number of tern species, egrets, black skimmers, herons, piping plovers and other shorebirds nest within the park's boundaries.
Ashley and I spent a little more than a half day on the island doing hikes along the beach, exploring the Cape Lookout Lighthouse, and swimming in the ocean. When you visit this area make sure to check the weather forecast before you go and be prepared for the anticipated weather conditions. Since we visited during the summery, we got rained on for about 20 minutes of our half day stay on the island.
Rating: Little elevation gain throughout the whole Cape Lookout National Seashore. You can make your day as relaxing or as strenuous as you would like.
Time to Complete Hike: Ideally, Ashley and I would recommend spending at least a half a day exploring the Cape Lookout National Seashore, if not a full day. We spent a half day and would have enjoyed having more time to spend enjoying the Cape Lookout National Seashore.