The Outer Banks National Scenic Byway offers an amazing coastal landscape for travelers. Miles of nomadic sand dunes and coastal marshes bracket the Byway’s corridor.
This coastal landscape has been nationally recognized as important for decades. Two national seashores and two national wildlife refuges are planted along these the barrier islands. The State of North Carolina has set aside its largest remaining maritime forest. A community association, a statewide conservation organization and a museum have all made special places available to the public.
Cape Hatteras National Seashore
The national seashore runs from Whalebone Junction to Ocracoke Inlet.
This seashore is the nation’s first. It was authorized in 1937, established in 1953 and dedicated in 1958. Explore barrier island zones: beachfront and dune, vegetated sand flats and shrub thicket, maritime forest and marshes and sounds. Programs offered at visitor centers and some other places.
Runs from Ocracoke Inlet to Beaufort Inlet. Designated 1966. Undeveloped barrier islands, 56 miles long, make up the seashore: Core Banks and Shackelford Banks. Native grasslands in this seashore are the only remaining natural grasslands in the eastern United States. Ferries depart from Harkers Island and Beaufort.
The 13-mile north end of Hatteras Island was set aside as a national refuge in 1937 to protect migratory waterfowl. It’s known as a birder’s paradise for the diversity of species seen throughout the year.
A dramatic, vast expanse of black needle rush, a characteristic plant of coastal marshes, can be seen from the Outer Banks National Scenic Byway. The 14,494-acre refuge can be viewed by kayak and canoe. Fall and winter are best seasons to see migratory birds.
Buxton Woods Coastal Reserve, a North Carolina-owned reserve
This 2,500-acre reserve is accessed from NC 12 on Old Doctor’s Road, Flowers Ridge Road, or Water Association Road. These roads run directly into the largest maritime forest left in North Carolina. Various walking trails.
Also, a Buxton Woods Nature Trail in the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse district is available. That trail provides a short 3/4-mile, loop route into a portion of Buxton Woods.
Eagle Pass Road, Hatteras village – View Slide Show
Hatteras Village Park is a nature reserve located in the heart of the Village where Sea Breeze Trail winds through a maritime forest and salt marsh. Free self-guided booklets are available at Visitors Center in the historic U.S. Weather Station in Hatteras, on site and at realty companies.
104 Loop Rd., Ocracoke
See it all in Springers Point’s 120 acres: maritime forest, red cedar forest, salt marsh, wet grasslands and sound front beach. Walk or bike to Springers Point as no parking is available.
Open: around 8 a.m. to sunset, all year.
Willow Pond and Paths at Core Sound Waterfowl Museum and Heritage Center
The four-acre pond is one of the largest freshwater ponds along North Carolina’s coast. A nature trail loops through the woods around the pond. Programs about waterfowl and hunting heritage are offered for groups by Museum staff. Path open to the public from sunrise to sunset.