If you are visiting the Carteret County NC communities on the coast and want to explore our many barrier islands, then this guide should help you get started. Please consider sharing this article on the many social media sites like Facebook and Twitter so that others can learn about the area, and use the comment form at the bottom to have discussions with us and others.
- Bogue Banks
One of the largest islands in the county and is 25 miles long. This land mass sits directly across from Morehead City NC and is separated by Bogue Sound. The communities and municipalities that make up this area are Atlantic Beach, Pine Knoll Shores, Indian Beach, Salter Path, and Emerald Isle. Highway 58 runs the entire length of the island and the communities are accessible by 2 bridges, one in Atlantic Beach and the other in Emerald Isle. During the busy Spring, Summer, and early Fall months Bogue Banks doubles in size.
- Shackleford Banks
This area sits just off the coast from Harkers Island and Beaufort and is home to a small herd of wild horses that visitors to the area love to see. This area is only accessible by boat or pedestrian ferry and is a popular area in the Spring and Summer months for locals to hang out on the beach. The area is also a popular beach fishing area and for boating. The entire land mass is maintained by the National Parks Service. A pedestrian ferry is in service from Morehead City, Beaufort, and Harkers Island.
- Cape Lookout National Seashore
This area sits just adjacent to Shackleford Banks and is maintained by the National Parks Service. The area is only accessible by boat or pedestrian ferry and is a world famous tourist destination for visitors who come to see the lighthouse, to take nature hikes along the sandy beaches, and to fish and dive. Additionally, there are cabins for camping, tours, and significant historical structures to the coastal region of the county. There are known to be over 200 shipwrecks just off the coast of Cape Lookout Seashore.
- Harkers Island
This area is in the Eastern part of the county and is accessible by vehicle along Highway 70 and then Harkers Island Rd. The area is a residential community and best known for it’s rich commercial fishing heritage. This community is home to several pedestrian ferry operations that take people to the many barrier islands in Carteret County NC.
- Sugarloaf Island
This area sits a few hundred yards off the downtown waterfront area of Morehead City and is uninhabited. It is a popular area for boaters who love to sit on the sandy beaches and watch things happen in downtown. This area is good for boaters who want to stay in protected waters and not venture too far offshore. Sugarloaf Island is also where the city shoots off fireworks on July 4th.
- Radio Island
This area sits near the Morehead City to Beaufort bridge and is a popular area for locals and tourist to enjoy the sandy beaches that is also a perfect swimming area for children who can’t handle ocean waves. Radio Island is also a great place for fishing and diving, or just hanging out on the beach watching the boats pass by.
- Carrot Island
This area sits a few hundred yards off the downtown waterfront area in Beaufort NC and is home to the Rachel Carson Wildlife Reserve. This land mass is only accessible by boat or kayak and is the perfect location to see area wild horses, abundant shorebirds, and other nature and wildlife scenes.
- Cedar Island
This area sits in the Eastermost portion of Carteret County NC along Core Sound and is accessible by Highway 70. Cedar Island is also where visitors to the area can catch the ferry to Ocracoke. This community is largely residential with a strong commercial fishing heritage and culture. The community is also home to many of the wild banker ponies that make up the Southern Outer Banks.
- Portsmouth Village
This area is a remote barrier island between Cape Lookout and Ocracoke that is only accessible by ferry or private boat. It was once a working village and port with significant historical importance. Today, it is a popular tourist destination for people who love beach fishing, diving, nature photography, coastal wildlife, and boating.
- Browns Island
This area sits in Core Sound in the Eastern part of the county. This land mass is inhabited by a small herd of wild horses and only accessible by private boat. While not a very well known tourist destination or visitors area, the area is great for those that want to get lost, and who love fishing, diving, snorkeling, and viewing nature.
In addition to the areas we mentioned in this article, there are dozens of other smaller land masses that make up the larger Cape Lookout National Seashore. These smaller barrier islands in Carteret County NC are too numerous to mention in this article, but we do provide you pictures and images below that gives someone visiting Eastern NC a mental image of the surrounding area when planning a boating or camping trip.