One of the allures down the Outer Banks is the wild horses at Shackleford Banks. Truly a sight to see, these majestic creatures can be seen roaming the shoreline and make their home in the maritime forests of the remote island for shelter. Viewing these horses should not be missed during your visit to the Crystal Coast.
Where did they come from?
How are they maintained?
Federal regulations have been strict in ensuring that these horses remain wild and have little to no interactions with people whatsoever. Feeding, touching, teasing or frightening the horses, or any other wildlife at Shackleford Banks is illegal and could disrupt the herds’ wellbeing. Completely self-sustained, the horses survive on the marsh grounds feeding on grass and various vegetation. For water sources, they sustain themselves off of ponds and pools filled with naturally occurring fresh or brackish water, however they will dig to create their own water sources when they sense rain or dewy mornings.
What’s life on the island like?
How do I see them?
Shackleford Banks is the southern-most barrier island in the Cape Lookout National Seashore and is only accessible by ferry or boat. Once you get there, feel free to roam the island to see if you can catch a glimpse of them grazing or galloping along the coast. Because they are wild, it’s recommended that you stay a safe enough distance away given that horses could become frightened and unstable. Binoculars or zoom lenses (for photo enthusiasts), are a good idea to view the horses without putting yourself in harm’s way. These horses have also sometimes (rarely) been known to approach visitors. Nevertheless, the horses mainly keep to themselves and stay occupied along the dunes and marshes. There is no “best time” to catch the horses out in the open, however, horses in general tend the graze during cooler temperatures of the day (morning, evening).
Looking to check out a guided tour of Shackleford Banks to check out the horses? Currently there are two tours by the Crystal Coast Ferry Service and the Port City Tour Company. Both offer opportunities to see the horses, go shelling, fishing or hiking.