Weddings at Cape Hatteras National Seashore
A Special Use Permit is required for all wedding ceremonies and vow renewals within Cape Hatteras National Seashore, regardless of the number of attendees or length of the ceremony.
For information on the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse Restoration Timeline see information below.
Additional information about wedding locations is provided below.
Types of Wedding / Vow Renewal Permits
Two types of wedding / vow renewal permits are available. One for small, simple weddings and another for larger weddings and weddings with chairs.
NOTE: All weddings with formal chair set-up, arches and/or tables, such as white folding chairs and/or archway provided by a rental company must apply for a large wedding / wedding with chairs permit and provide an application fee of $200 regardless of the number of chairs requested. For example, a 25 person wedding with a formal chair set-up, arch, and/or tables needs a permit for a large wedding/wedding with wedding equipment.
Please submit your application at least 30 days before your requested date. You will receive a response regarding your application within one week of receipt.
Wedding Locations at Cape Hatteras National Seashore
Certain areas of the National Seashore are better suited for wedding ceremonies than others, particularly given the limited parking resources available within the park. Our three lighthouses have different parking space availability. Please note that all of our sites are for wedding ceremonies only; we have no facilities for receptions. However, there are a number of such facilities available privately. Please check some of the links provided below. During nesting and breeding season (spring and summer), some sections of the beaches may be closed to visitors and vehicles to protect nesting species. Given the size of the Seashore, (over 30,000 acres), wedding parties are always able to find a suitable spot for the ceremony.
Bodie Island Lighthouse
Situated approximately eight miles south of Nags Head, NC, this is perhaps the most accessible of the park's lighthouses for most visitors. The site includes a nice expansive grassy area, parking facilities for up 50 cars and restroom facilities. This is ideally suited for larger wedding parties. From the third (3rd) Friday in April until Columbus Day, permits will only be issued for weddings occurring before 9:00 AM or after 6:00 PM daily. No chair, tables, or arch set-up permitted at this location.
Cape Hatteras Lighthouse
The Cape Hatteras Lighthouse is located in Buxton, NC. This is perhaps the most famous of all lighthouses on the Atlantic Coast, and it is the tallest. Thousands of visitors visit this lighthouse on a daily basis during the summer months. While this lighthouse is open to the public from time to time, weddings cannot be performed within the lighthouse itself or on its steps and paths. Continuous public access to the lighthouse is required at all times. Parking and restroom facilities are readily available, and this area is more suitable for larger weddings of up to 25 people. However, the area is less intimate given the great number of people visiting the lighthouse on a daily basis. From the third (3rd) Friday in April until Columbus Day, permits will only be issued for weddings occurring before 9:00 AM or after 6:00 PM daily. No chair, table, or arch set-up at this location. Larger weddings can more easily be accommodated at the beach area just beyond the lighthouse. See the information below on Beach Areas
Cape Hatteras Lighthouse Restoration
Starting in early spring 2021, Cape Hatteras National Seashore will be conducting repair and rehabilitation projects on Cape Hatteras Lighthouse that are expected to last for about two years. The repair projects are expected to result in less visitor access to the Lighthouse grounds and also impact the exterior of the Lighthouse. For example, scaffolding and or fencing placed around the outside of the Lighthouse.
Immediately south of Cape Hatteras, Ocracoke Island must be reached by ferry operated by the North Carolina Department of Transportation. Travel time by car and ferry averages about two hours from Nags Head, depending on the time of day. The ferry operates at different times during the day, and the schedule is published at the North Carolina DOT Ferry Schedule Page. Parking is extremely limited at the lighthouse, and the lighthouse itself is closed to the public. Because the area is immediately adjacent to wetlands and fragile grasses, this site is limited to very small and intimate wedding ceremonies of no more than twelve (12) people.
Ocracoke Island: (Ocracoke Day Use and Pony Pen Beach)
There are a number of sites that are well suited for wedding ceremonies along the magnificent coastline of the Atlantic Ocean. Just north (approximately 4 miles) of the Village of Ocracoke is the day use beach area with parking spaces for 35 cars. During the summer season, it is also a lifeguarded beach. Approximately one mile north of the day use beach is the campground with parking spaces for 50 cars. And, approximately 3 miles north of that is the pony pen area with parking for 25 cars. All provide beach access and spectacular views of the ocean. No chair, table, or arch set-up during life guard season, normally Memorial Day to Labor Day, at Ocracoke Day Use Area.
Hatteras Island: (Old Lighthouse and Frisco Beach)
Adjacent to the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse are a number of beach areas ideally suited for weddings. Entering the park and across from the visitors parking lot is a beach access that leads to a picturesque and large expanse of beach suitable for larger weddings. Most days there is adequate parking for larger numbers of people, and immediately nearby is our new restroom facility. Above that site are the stones marking the original site of the lighthouse. This area and the adjacent beach are also picturesque sites for a wedding. Past the ranger's station, follow the park road leading to the Point and a smaller parking area for approximately 15 cars. This is a beautiful and usually less populous section of beach. Most beach locations provide an excellent view of the lighthouse for special photo opportunities. No chair, table, or arch set-up during life guard season, normally Memorial Day to Labor Day, at Old Lighthouse Beach or Frisco Beach.
Bodie Island: (Coquina Beach)
Immediately east of the Bodie Island Lighthouse is the Coquina Beach Day Use Area with parking spaces for 115 cars. The beach is very popular with visitors to the seashore. Vehicles are not permitted on the beach north of the ramp access. Restroom facilities are available, during the summer and fall months. No chair, table, or arch set-up during life guard season, normally Memorial Day to Labor Day, at Coquina Beach.
Permits for wedding / vow renewals at Cape Hatteras National Seashore do not allow for organized parties and receptions and are typically limited to 2 hours. Venues for receptions and parties may be available in areas of the Outer Banks outside of the seashore. Please see the links below for more information.
The following section outlines the permit conditions for wedding and vow renewals.
Permit Conditions for all Wedding / Vow Renewal Permits
Permit conditions specific to Wedding/Vow Renewal Permits with approval for chairs and other wedding equipment on the beach:
While the National Park Service neither endorses nor promotes public or private business activities, the following sites are offered to assist you in planning your visit to the Cape Hatteras area:
Questions and Additional Information
For questions or information about permits for other types of uses, or if you have any questions about the process or your permit, please contact our Special Park Uses Coordinator at (252) 475-9034 or via e-mail to e-mail us.
Last updated: June 30, 2022