Image credit:WikiImages
Cape Lookout may strike seasoned readers of ‘A CITY A WEEK…’ as a mistaken choice since, at least in terms of this blog’s framing device, there is simply no there there.  There’s no city, no town, not even a village.  In fact, if you don’t count raccoons, river otters and shore birds, there’s nobody there, at least nobody permanent.  A few odd 
souls do rotate through on National Park Service duties or NC State’s marine biology program, but otherwise there are no human inhabitants. Mostly it’s just an empty sandy spit at the tip of a chain of islands. 
I usually manage to resist the urge to write about anything other than cities out of that ever-helpful notion of the disciplined approach--to be about everything is to risk being about nothing--however, I can’t quit thinking about a recent trip to Cape Lookout and so have decided to indulge in this ever so slight variation in theme—and it is, ultimately, ever so slight. Cape Lookout has the allure to be found in all great destinations—whether empty and wild or crowded with built things--and that is it cannot be imagined up out of other experiences. It is only truly available at first hand…
The easiest way to introduce Cape Lookout is to envision the map of the coast of North Carolina.  It’s that hook out in the ocean just before the Outer Banks takes their sharp turn westward towards the mainland.  This whole long line of an island is most properly known as South Core Banks.  The Cape Lookout portion begins at the 1859 lighthouse and extends south--all the way to that hook.
The island is an absolute stunner year round.  Great fun for an outing and, in fact, in the summer it is usually jammed packed with folks there for the day.  Its unique allure is most strongly felt, however, in the winter with its miles and miles and miles of beach littered with shells, gorgeous and intact, there for the taking.  There are also other, more mysterious remains such as the ancient and still unidentified shipwreck that is now on the beach—its sudden appearance as mysterious as its origins. 
It takes about an hour—maybe an hour and half—to walk from the lighthouse down to the island’s tip.  The surf keeps up a constant roar.  There’s the sea haze even on bright days.  No company but your companions. It is really truly like a walk out to the end of the world—or perhaps it is more accurate to say to the end of a world, one that is more pristine, less ravaged than our own.  I can’t say I begrudge the modern world even with its burdens but it is nice to take a break from it every so often and feel the profound freshness of a new experience. That is the rare and valuable thing to be found on a winter's day on Cape Lookout.
If you’d like to see for yourself--and don’t happen to own a boat--then there are at least two easy options.  One point of departure is in the coastal village of Beaufort and the other is on the more isolated but equally appealing Harkers Island.  Both ferries are operated by same local concern and schedules can be found by clicking here:
Island Express Ferry Service.