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Shackleford Banks in North Carolina

Trip Overview

This was going to be the big four-day solo expedition around North Carolina's Shackleford and South Core Banks over the long Thanksgiving weekend. As a Kiwi now living in Durham, I can eat turkey with the rest of them, so was "encouraged" by my absent partner to spend turkey day with her cousins down in Beaufort. So now it was a three-day weekend. And then the cold front blew in Friday with NOAA posting a small boat advisory warning - figured that included me too. Sneaked out for a four-hour excursion around Beaufort and Taylor Creek and it was freezing and blowing a gale (bless Rapidstyle's fuzzy rubber!). Cousin is the recently retired skipper of Duke's research vessel, 'Cape Hatteras', who advised that there's always two good days after a cold front, and I should be good to go Saturday. So now it was a two-day weekend. But he was right.

Early morning I shot out Beauforts entrance with an out-going tide and offshore breeze about 10-15knots. Fairly choppy with a good bit of boat activity and tugs and barges, but clear once around the point heading up Shackleford. Great paddle up the coastline, watching a few of the wild horses trudging along the beach. Nine miles and a few hours later I coasted ashore in flat calm conditions in the lee of Cape Lookout on the northern end of Shackleton to drag ashore and pitch the tent. Within a few minutes the Park Ranger cruised up in his runabout to check everything was okay. The beach is heaven for walking and managed a four-mile wander collecting shells. That evening, having recently moved across coasts from San Diego, I found it spooky to be sitting in my tent, looking straight out over the Atlantic, watching the sun go down in the west.

Sunday headed off around 0830 to complete the circumnavigation via the entrance to Cape Lookout. Against the tide and a little bit of headwind, but sticking close to Shackleford, weaving through shallow waters and marsh grass islands, it was fairly easy going. Very soon the wind completely dropped out and the temperatures jumped to F72/C22. I took a line for the southern end of Harkers Island, and then headed across to Taylor Creek, past folks wandering Beauforts Front St, and back to the put-in, around 1330. Highly recommended weekend.


Lots of local B&Bs. Must do is a visit to the Maritime Museum on Front St and its boat building year across the street. Please don't buy a raffle ticket for their annual sailing dinghy, which they've built, because it's mine.


Wilderness Systems Tempest 16.5. Full camping gear, stove, chocolate, hip flask etc.


Free camping is allowed anywhere (except within 100' of a structure) on Shackleford and the Core Sounds, but you do have to pick up a (free) camping permit and complete a trip report at the Rangers Station at the top end of Harkers Island (literally at the end of the road). Good people.


From Raleigh/Durham take the 40E and then the 70 all the way to Morehead City and then Beaufort. Put in was the Morehead City end of Broad St. There's small carpark (about six cars) where you can leave overnight, and the first single marina ramp is for public use - perfect spot.


NOAA charts or the GMCO pro series (waterproof).

  • Duration: 2-3 Day Trip
  • Skill Level: Intermediate
  • Water Type: Open Water/Ocean
  • Group Rates: No

Locations on this Trip