Island Free Press: For first time ever, more than 3 million visit Cape Hatteras National Seashore in a year

The Cape Hatteras National Seashore was established as the first national seashore in 1953. [Sam Walker photo]

By Joy Crist, Island Free Press
For the first time in recorded history, the Cape Hatteras National Seashore had more than 3 million visitors in a single year, with a total of 3,099,113 million visitors reported as of November 30, 2021.

The visitation totals for December 2021 are expected within the next week or two, but even without December’s visitors accounted for, 2021 was a record-breaking year with the highest visitation recorded since the National Seashore was established in 1953.

2021’s total of 3,099,113 million visitors tops the previous annual record of 2,923,984 visitors, which occurred in 2002. 2021 actually surpassed this total in October, when 2,937,998 visitors were recorded through October 31.

For comparison purposes, the CHNS hosted 2,645,377 visitors in 2020, 2,607,632 visitors in 2019, 2,590,388 visitors in 2018, and 2,433,703 visitors in 2017. (2020 was also a record year for CHNS, with the highest visitation reported in 17 years. )

Cape Hatteras National Seashore visitation estimates are collected by counting southbound vehicles just north of the Basnight Bridge, and using a multiplier to estimate the total number of passengers heading south. Those estimates are then added to the number of passengers going to Ocracoke Island from Cedar Island and Swan Quarter.

Full-year visitation data for the Cape Hatteras National Seashore is expected within the next 1-2 weeks.