Shackleford Banks is a 2,500 acre barrier island located across Beaufort Inlet from Atlantic Beach. Part of the Cape Lookout National Seashore, Shackleford Banks is famous for the wild Shackleford Horses that roam the uninhabited island.

The origin of the Shackleford Horses is steeped in mystery, with the most common legend telling the story of Spanish Mustangs swimming ashore from their wrecked ship. What is known is that the horses are the direct descendants of a 400 year old line of Spanish Horses that are linked by a specific genetic marker.

Today the Shackleford Horses number just over 100, and are closely monitored by the Park Service. They freely roam their island and provide visitors with the rare opportunity to view wild horses in their natural environment.

The island is accessible via boat or ferry, with various passenger services and tours operated from Morehead City, Beaufort and Harkers Island. In addition to the horses, Shackleford Banks offers pristine shelling, fishing and camping adventures.
​Blackbeard and other infamous pirates were known to have passed through Beaufort Inlet at will, while successive wars with Spain, France and Great Britain during the Colonial Period provided a constant threat of coastal raids by enemy warships. Blackbeard's ship, the Queen Anne's Revenge "QAR" is thought to have been discovered in shallow water right off the park in the Atlantic Ocean and is being recovered. Beaufort was captured and plundered by the Spanish in 1747 and again by the British in 1782.
General information on the herd, behaviors, and park management can be found in the Shackleford Horses brochure. You can also download our answers to Frequently Asked Questions about Our Local Wild Horses, PDF files.

Pets are allowed on the beaches of Cape Lookout National Seashore, but must be kept on a leash at all times. Pet size, breed or training does not matter.
The leash requirement is for all islands including Shackleford Banks. Don't tell anyone but there's some sweet swell over there for the surfers also.
Island Ferry Adventures
Passenger only ferry service to Shackleford Banks. Pets okay, call first. 
Beaufort, NC Phone: (252) 728-7555


Lookout Express
Passenger only ferry service to the Cape Lookout Lighthouse 
and Shackleford Banks. Pets on leash are accommodated. 
Beaufort, NC Phone: (252) 728-7827