Special Use Permit - Camping (Groups)

Very few places are left where you can camp directly on the beach; Cape Lookout National Seashore is one such place. All camping within the park is primitive beach camping: there are no designated campgrounds. Groups of 25 or more require a permit for camping. Camping is limited to 14 consecutive days. Because it disturbs vegetation, do not camp on top of the dunes. For more information on camping in the park, visit our Beach Camping webpage.

Groups are welcome to camp with their vehicles; however, vehicles must be kept on the oceanside beach seaward of the primary dunes, not between or on top of dunes. Drivers must follow the regulations for off-road vehicles (ORVs) outlined on the Beach Driving section of the website. Vehicles are not permitted on Shackleford Banks. Parking permits are required for vehicles located in long-term parking lots. No vehicle may be left unattended for over 24 hours without a permit or in any area other than the long-term parking lots. For more information, visit the Long-Term Parking Permits webpage.

Permit Application Procedure

Requests for a permit application may be made in person at the Harkers Island Visitor Center or via telephone, email, or letter. The application form may be downloaded from the Special Use Permits webpage. A completed application and the non-refundable application fee are required before an application can be processed. Park contact information is:

Special Use Permit Phone: 252-728-2250
Cape Lookout National Seashore FAX: 252-728-2160
131 Charles Street Website: www.nps.gov/calo
Harkers Island, NC 28531 Email: CALO_SUP@nps.gov

The information on the application will be used by NPS staff to evaluate the impact of the proposed activity on park resources and visitors. Allow at least two weeks (10 business days) for processing. Requests which involve multiple locations, complex logistics, or coordination with other visitor activities will require a minimum of 15 working days to process. Projects which require environmental or cultural resource evaluation must be submitted not less than 30 days before the start of proposed activities. Applications are processed in the order in which they are received.

Applications will be returned to the applicant if submitted incomplete, cannot be approved as submitted, or are received without payment or without a social security or Federal Tax Identification Number. This greatly extends the time required to process your permit.


Please indicate the specific location on the application. The Special Use Permit does not allow your camping activity to restrict other park visitors from your chosen location nor does it guarantee you a specific site.

The following areas are restricted for camping (are generally not available for camping):

  • Harkers Island Visitor Center / Administrative Site
  • Portsmouth Village
  • Cape Lookout Light Station complex
  • Cape Village (including the Cape Lookout Coast Guard Station)
  • Property held under private lease
  • Great Island and Long Point Cabin areas
  • Long Term Parking areas

Cost Recovery

The authority for the National Park Service to recover and retain costs associated with managing special park uses is found at 16 U.S.C. 3a, 16 U.S.C. 460l-6d, and 31 U.S.C. 9701. Charges established for a Special Park Use under this authority are intended to recover costs associated with managing that activity and not to generate revenue beyond actual cost.

Special Use Permit for:
Application Fee
Administrative Fee

25 to 49 persons

50 or more persons



No Fee




Application Cost: Must be submitted at the time of the initial application. This is a non-refundable payment.

Administration Cost: Payable when the permit is approved and prior to beginning the event. This is a non-refundable payment.

Monitoring Cost: If the event requires NPS supervision for resource protection or the health or safety of visitors, the cost* will be estimated and payable when the permit is approved and prior to beginning the event. The scope and complexity of the permit activity will determine the level and type of supervision. The fee includes employee travel time to and from the event location.

*Generally a $50.00 per hour per monitor charge is the rate for monitoring.

Federal procedures (31 USC 7701) requires your Social Security Number or Tax Identification Number on the back of all checks accepted for deposit. You must supply your Social Security Number or Tax Identification Number in order for your check to be accepted and your application to be processed.



If your application is approved, a Special Use Permit will be prepared and mailed to you for signature. Upon receipt, please review, sign, and return the permit to our office for the Superintendent's signature. After the Superintendent signs the permit, a copy of the permit will be forwarded to you. This should all be done well in advance of your chosen date. The approved, signed permit copy must be in your possession at the time of the event.

Terms & Conditions

To maintain park natural and cultural resources and quality visitor experiences in addition to the standard terms and conditions, the following conditions and requirements apply to Special Use Permits for Group Camping:

  1. Unless otherwise specified in this permit, all camping must conform to the laws regulations, and policies specified in 36 CFR 2.10 and the Cape Lookout National Seashore Superintendent's Compendium.
  2. Permittee will be responsible for security and orderly behavior at the event. Permitee will assure all participants follow all rules and regulations in regards to the proper and safe use of Cape Lookout National Seashore.
  3. This permit does not grant an exclusive right to use NPS facilities or property, or allow permittee to displace any person(s) occupying the area covered by this permit.
  4. Permittee shall remove all solid waste generated by this event. The area will be left as it was prior to the event; no litter or abandoned equipment will remain.
  5. Restroom and dock use cannot interfere with normal park visitation.
  6. Permittee will provide adequate first aid equipment and trained personnel to handle minor first aid needs.
  7. Permittee shall report any and all accidents involving personal injuries or property damage to the Superintendent, Cape Lookout National Seashore within a reasonable time, but never more than 24 hours after the incident.
  8. Camping must be at least 100 yards away from the lighthouse and 100 feet away from any dock, shade shelter, restroom or other structures. Tents generally should not be set up on vegetation.
  9. Permittee may actively load and unload from vehicles temporarily stopped along the back road. Vehicles must be removed immediately once loading and unloading are complete. Vehicles left on the back road will be ticketed.
  10. Any significant change in type and/or scope of event within National Seashore boundaries must be submitted to Superintendent for review prior to such changes.

Other stipulations may be added depending on the specific nature of your request.

Last updated: January 11, 2022

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Mailing Address:

131 Charles St
Harkers Island , NC 28531


252 728-2250

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