Harkers Island is a small town of about 1,525 people (as of 2000). It's located in the Crystal Coast region of North Carolina, adjacent to (and sometimes considered to be part of) the Crystal Coast. The island, as with the rest of the Core Sound area, has strong historical ties to fishing and waterfowling.
The only main road to Harkers Island is US-70, either coming northeast from Morehead City and Beaufort, or southwest from Cedar Island and the Outer Banks. From 70, turn on Harkers Island Road, which will lead you straight there. The road winds through some very scenic spots on the way, so take your time and enjoy the trip.
You'll have to have your car to get here, so you'll probably want to use it to get around. But the island isn't huge, so bring your bike with you if you want some exercise. Privately-chartered boats can be hired here to take you to some of the outlying islands.
- Core Sound Waterfowl Museum, 1785 Harkers Island Road, ☎ +1-252-728-1500. The. M-Sa 10AM-5PM, Su 2PM-5PM. Free admission. Locals have been carving wooden decoy ducks for generations, and efforts were made to formally renew this craft in 1987. The museum has exhibits on decoy carving, waterfowl art, oral histories and local artifacts, as well as exhibits and programs on local heritage and a 4-acre freshwater waterfowl habitat area.
- The ghost village of Portsmouth, on the northern tip of Core Banks on the south side of the Ocracoke Inlet. Established in 1793 and once the largest settlement on the Outer Banks, Portsmouth was ravaged by a hurricane in 1899. The settlement was thereafter abandoned, and today you can explore the empty streets. In April, descendants of the settlers gather on the island for a homecoming and dinner on the grounds.
- Shell Point, on the eastern end of the island. A mound of seashells, built by the Tuscarora tribe who used to live on the island, which researchers think may have been the start of a bridge across Core Sound.
- Take an excursion to Cape Lookout lighthouse, completed in 1812 and reconstructed in 1859, which can be reached by ferry from all over the Crystal Coast. It's part of the Cape Lookout National Seashore , covering 55 miles over 3 undeveloped barrier islands. Most visitors reach the lighthouse by taking a privately-chartered 10-minute boat ride from Harkers Island, for around $15 round-trip. The island also has lovely wide beaches for sunbathing, swimming and shelling that can be reached by a 2.5-mile truck ride (called Beach Shuttle, formerly Mule Train) from the lighthouse area: (252)732-4578
- If you want to see more ponies than can be spied on Cape Lookout, take a charter boat to Shackleford Banks instead, or join one of the organized tours from the Waterfowl Museum. Most ferry services will slow down for viewing and picture taking of the ponies on the way to the light house as well.
- The Core Sound Decoy Festival is a two-day event on the first full weekend in December. Highlights are the competitions for decoy carving, decoy painting, and loon calling. Decoys are exhibited and offered for sale; proceeds benefit the Carver's Guild and the local elementary school. Waterfowl Weekend is a free festival that runs concurrently at the Core Sound Waterfowl Museum & Heritage Center and features music, food and the coastal heritage that goes along with traditional decoy carvers' lifestyle.
- Go fishing. There are three main marinas, Harkers Island Fishing Center, and Cape Point Marina
Do you even have to ask? If you want to take home a real piece of Down East memorabilia, look for an authentic carved decoy duck.
- Captain Henry's Gift Store, 1341 Harkers Island Road, ☎ +1-252-728-7316. Open Monday through Saturday; call for winter hours. Owned by a local carver, offering decoys, nautical gifts, baskets, pottery, prints and jewelry.
- Core Sound Waterfowl Museum & Heritage Center, 1785 Island Road, ☎ +1-252-728-1500. M-Sa 10AM-5PM, Su 2PM-5PM. Features the work of local people -- decoys, gifts, sweatshirts and t-shirts, pottery, prints, books and more. Proceeds help support this "people's museum."
Seafood of all types is abundant, but the real specialty around here is Harkers Island clams. They tend to get the gourmet treatment in the larger towns, but here you're more likely to find them as part of a clambake, or in the brothier local version of clam chowder.
- Captain's Choice Restaurant, 977 Harkers Island Road, ☎ +1-252-728-7122. Open for lunch and dinner daily, except Monday (lunch only). Large seafood buffet on Friday and Saturday nights.
Fish Hook Grill, 976 Harkers Island Road, +1-252-728-1790. Open for lunch and dinner daily.
- Harkers Island Tackle, 989 Island Rd, ☎ +1 252-838-1126. 7am-9pm. Tackle,Fresh Bait Frozen Bait Live Bait,snacks, Cold Drinks Rod & Reel Repair.Gifts and more. Family owned and opperated.
Beer and wine are served in restaurants, but if you're looking for something stronger, you'll have to head to Beaufort and points west.
Most people on Harkers Island are either residents, or visitors who are just passing through. Neither group has much need for rented accommodation in the area, and as a result there isn't much to be found. However, if you want to stay on the island longer and soak in the culture:
- Harkers Island Fishing Center Motel and Marina, ☎ +1-252-728-3907. On-site fishing center, marina and ferry ($15) to Cape Lookout and Shackleford Banks. Within walking distance of a restaurant and grocery store. $40 - $55, or $80 for a large house that sleeps 10.
- Cedar Island, if you want to catch a ferry to Ocracoke, is about 1 hour north on US-70. Be sure to arrive at least half an hour before the ferry departs. Reservations are required.
- Beaufort, the beginning of the Crystal Coast region, is about 30 minutes west on US-70.