Hatteras Island — historically, Croatoan Island — is a sparkling gem on the Outer Banks.
Not only is it the site of the iconic Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, it also is home to the Graveyard of the Atlantic Museum.
The museum is a rich repository of maritime history devoted to the waters off the coast, which earned its moniker — Graveyard of the Atlantic — because of the hundreds of shipwrecks and thousands of bodies lost at sea. The museum also is home to the original Fresnel lens of the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse.
There are several places to launch a canoe or kayak on Hatteras Island. The Pea Island launch is at the new inlet parking area, a few miles south of Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge. The Salvo Day Use area is south of the village of Salvo, and the haulover is halfway between the villages of Avon and Buxton. No visit to the Outer Banks is complete without exploration of Hatteras Island.
Bodie Light Station
Tucked away between tall pine trees and freshwater marshland, the structure is located at the northern end of Cape Hatteras National Seashore. The light station that stands today is the third on Bodie Island. The original, constructed in 1847, was replaced in 1859, but it was destroyed during the Civil War by retreating Confederate troops, who feared the Union troops would commandeer it. Construction on a third light station began in 1871. The most recent restoration of the existing lighthouse itself was completed in 2013.
Hours: Tours are available from the third Friday in April to Columbus Day in October. The lighthouse also is open for self-guided climbs
Cost: $10 adult, $5 ages 62 and older, and ages 12 and younger (must be 42 inches tall to climb)
Where: 8210 Bodie Island Lighthouse Road, Nags Head
Info: (252) 475-9000, nps.gov/caha/planyourvisit/bils.htm
The refuge, located between Oregon Inlet and Rodanthe, includes 6,000 acres with walking trails and uncrowded beaches and is a birder’s paradise. An array of educational and fun programs is offered for all ages.
Hours: 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday-Saturday, noon-4 p.m. Sunday
Where: NC 12 north of Rodanthe
Info: (252) 473-1131, ws.gov/refuge/pea_island
Chicamacomico Life-Saving Station
Chicamacomico Life-Saving Station, located in the village of Rodanthe, is the most complete site of all remaining life-saving stations in North Carolina and one of the most complete sites in the U.S. Constructed in 1874, it is on the national register of historic places. The U.S. Coast Guard recognizes the 1918 “Mirlo” rescue by the Chicamacomico station as one of the top rescues in maritime service’s history.
Hours: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday through Friday; 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday
Cost: $8 adults, $7 ages 65 and older; $6 ages 4-17; free for age 3 and younger
Where: 23645 NC 12, Rodanthe
Info: (252) 987-1552; chicamacomico.org
Buxton Woods Coastal Reserve
The reserve treats visitors to a self-guided nature trail through the largest tract of maritime forest on the North Carolina coast.
Hours: Daylight hours
Where: Old Doctors Road and NC 12, Buxton
Info: (252) 261-8891; nccoastalreserve.net
Frisco Native American Museum
The museum features artifacts of North American tribes and those of Hatteras Island, along with walking trails through maritime forest.
Hours: 10:30 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday
Cost: $5 per person, $15 per household, $3 seniors
Where: 53536 NC 12, Frisco
Info: (252) 995-4440; nativeamericanmuseum.org
Cape Hatteras Lighthouse
At 193 feet tall, the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse is considered to be the world’s tallest lighthouse. Climbing is available through Columbus Day. The Visitor Center and Museum of the Sea is located on-site. Visiting the museum is free. Hiking trails are located nearby.
Hours: 9 a.m.-5 p.m. daily
Cost: $8 adults, $4 seniors and youth
Where: 46368 Old Lighthouse Road, Buxton
Info: 252-473-2111; nps.gov/caha/planyourvisit/lighthouseclimbs.html
Graveyard of the Atlantic Museum
The museum features exhibits on a maritime history and shipwrecks off the coast of North Carolina, along with special programs each week. Programming from mid-May through September includes its Salty Dawg Series, which is at 2 p.m. each Tuesday. Presenters celebrate all things coastal to include seafood cooking, history and culture talks on the Civil War and WWII, maritime art and music, fishing history and life-saving stories, and even local language.
Hours: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Saturday
Where: 59200 Museum Drive, Hatteras
Info: (252) 986-2995; graveyardoftheatlantic.com