Fodor's Expert Review Shackleford Banks
Wild, wooded, and undeveloped, this 7½-mile-long barrier island, the southernmost part of Cape Lookout National Seashore, is made even more magical by myriad seashells along the shore and about 100 free-roaming horses. Folklore offers two reasons for the Banker Ponies' presence. One tale claims they swam ashore from a long-ago Spanish shipwreck, but some locals say early settlers first put these horses to pasture on the island. The horses may look friendly, but it's best to view them from a distance. The island hosted various settlements in the 1800s, but storms drove residents inland. Today, gravestones here and there are the only remaining evidence of the people who lived here. Island access is by ferry only, from Beaufort and Harkers Island, and although primitive camping is allowed (at no fee), there are no amenities aside from composting toilets. Amenities: toilets. Best for: solitude; sunrise; sunset; swimming; walking.