Hatteras Attractions

Explore All Hatteras Attractions 

The natural world is the most stunning of Hatteras attractions — from Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge to Hatteras Island National Seashore. It’s hard for anything else to compete with the wonders that Mother Nature provides here, so many of the local points of interest are nature-oriented. You can walk mile upon mile of beautifully undeveloped shorefront searching for shells and other treasures or get yourself out into the deep, blue sea on anything that floats — standup paddleboards and kiteboards are the latest crazes. But beyond the water, the landscape and the wildlife, there are some fantastic Hatteras attractions that offer interesting diversions and inform visitors about the rich history of Hatteras Island. The most well-known of Hatteras attractions is the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, but other popular sites will get you up close and personal with the Native Americans who were the real first inhabitants of these islands, teach you about how locals predicted weather years ago, about the courageous men from the U.S. Life-Saving Service who went to the aid of hundreds of shipwreck victims and about the long and storied history of the Graveyard of the Atlantic. The Hatteras attractions are either free or charge a very modest fee. Several of the places listed here are also included in Hatteras History, so you may want to refer back to that section for more information. Also see Hatteras things to do for other ways to get to know this island.

Hatteras Attraction by Location or Category

Avon

South of the Tri-Villages of Rodanthe, Waves and Salvo, past a sizable stretch of undeveloped Cape Hatteras National Seashore, Avon is considered the largest and busiest of the Hatteras Island towns (but remember that’s relative to Hatteras Island, not where you come from). Avon has the only two stoplights on the island and the only chain grocery store. It also has a wealth of accommodations, shops, restaurants, water sports outfitters and a well-loved fishing pier over the ocean. If you’re here to kite board, paddleboard or windsurf, Avon can hook you up. South of Avon is one of the island’s most popular kite boarding and windsurfing spots; it’s known as The Haulover or Canadian Hole.

Buxton and Frisco

Buxton and Frisco are two distinct villages but they border one another (without any parklands in between) so they kind of blend together. Both of these villages are set among the Buxton Woods Maritime Forest, lending a different feel from the villages to the north, and Buxton is situated at the island’s widest point.

Buxton is the home of the world-famous Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, which you can climb for a view of the island. It’s also home to Cape Point, the magnificent point of land that juts farthest into the ocean. Visiting Cape Point (as long as it’s not closed during bird-nesting season) is an essential Outer Banks experience, and the National Park Service has a campground close by. Buxton offers several accommodations, shops, restaurants and outfitters along with many county services, ball fields, the islands’ schools and the community center known as the Fessenden Center. Frisco is much quieter and predominantly residential, but there are a couple of galleries, a coffee shop and a few other businesses and campgrounds. There’s also an airstrip here. It’s perfect for that feeling of getting away from it all.

Chicamacomico Life-Saving Station

23645 N.C. Highway 12, Rodanthe
(252) 987-1552

The Chicamacomico Life-Saving Station is the nation’s largest and most complete existing example of the life-saving stations that were built along the Atlantic coast in the late 19th century to attend to shipwrecks and to rescue survivors. The 1874 Station was the first operational Life-Saving station built in North Carolina, serving until 1954. Chicamacomico has been partially restored, thanks to numerous volunteers who formed a nonprofit organization to save it, and it is now a fine museum and historic site; all structures are original buildings.

On a visit here you’ll see the 1874 Station, the 1911 Station, two cookhouses, water tanks and cistern, a stable, a tractor shed, the smaller boathouse (now the Visitors Center) and a village home built in 1907. In the museum, you’ll learn about the U.S. Life-Saving Service and some of the rescues that occurred here. Artifacts, uniforms, rescue equipment, displays and video presentations abound, and self-guided tours help complete your knowledge of place and history. These stations have many stories to tell. Life-Saving crews at Chicamacomico performed many daring rescues, including one of the greatest rescues of WWI, that of the British tanker Mirlo in 1918. When the Mirlo was sunk by the German submarine U-117, Chicamacomico’s crew rescued 42 of 51 British sailors. The gift shop is full of unique nautical items and works by local craftspeople plus books and old-fashioned toys.

Check their website for special program information, admission fees and hours of operation and to see what is happening on any given day. Chicamacomico is a 501 (c) (3) nonprofit raising all of its own funds; it has no federal, state or other budget. 

Graveyard of the Atlantic Museum

59200 Museum Drive, Hatteras Village
(252) 986-2995

At the end of N.C. Highway 12 just past the ferry docks, the Graveyard of the Atlantic Museum attracts a lot of attention with its ship-like building, porthole windows and curved timbers. One of three North Carolina Maritime Museums operated by the North Carolina Division of Cultural Resources, the museum focuses on the maritime history and shipwrecks of North Carolina’s Outer Banks, often called the Graveyard of the Atlantic. Exhibitions cover five centuries with shipwreck artifacts and memorabilia on display. Changing exhibits tell dramatic tales of lifesaving, piracy, maritime culture and underwater heritage.

View the original 1854 Cape Hatteras Lighthouse Fresnel lens, the Enigma machine from the U-85, the bell from the Diamond Shoals Lightship, artifacts from Blackbeard’s Queen Anne’s Revenge and exhibits exploring Hatteras Island during the Civil War including artifacts from the Monitor. Discover Hatteras’ amazing link to the Titanic. See unusual artifacts that have washed ashore as well as vintage diving and sportfishing fishing equipment. 

The museum features year round programming for people of all ages. Enjoy creating coastal crafts and listen to presentations by experts in maritime history, food, art and culture. 

From April through September, hours are Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.  From October through March, hours are Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.  Admission is free; donations are appreciated. Discover fun, beautiful and educational souvenirs, books and gifts in their Meekins Chandlery Gift Shop with hours corresponding to Museum hours.  

Hatteras Village

On the southern end of Hatteras Island, Hatteras, or as the locals call it, Hatteras Village, is known for its ties to offshore fishing. The village borders Hatteras Inlet, giving recreational and commercial fishing boats an easy route to the Gulf Stream and the inshore fishing grounds. Hatteras has several marinas where commercial and recreational boats dock, making this a great place from which to book an offshore charter. Several Hatteras Island motels, plenty of vacation rental homes and restaurants support the fishing and vacation industries. Hatteras also offers quite a bit of shopping, from art galleries to jewelry shops to clothing boutiques. For a fascinating look at the island’s storied maritime history, check out the Graveyard of the Atlantic Museum. The ferry to Ocracoke Island leaves from Hatteras Village.

Rodanthe, Waves and Salvo

Known as the Tri-Villages, the communities of Rodanthe, Waves and Salvo border one another on the north end of Hatteras Island (just south of Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge). The locals know where the villages begin and end, and while the distinction may not really be important to the visitor, it is very important to someone who grew up here. All three villages are small but filled with vacation rentals, campgrounds, small motels, restaurants, shops and watersports outfitters.

Rodanthe is home to the Chicamacomico Life-Saving Station Historic Site, one of the nation’s most complete life-saving sites. Visiting the restored station offers a great history lesson about the service that preceded the U.S. Coast Guard. There’s also an oceanside fishing pier in Rodanthe. Waves is home to two of the Outer Banks’ largest kiteboarding centers and their attendant amenities like restaurants, accommodations and shops. Salvo is the quietest of the three villages, predominantly residential and perfect for a quiet vacation.