Museum Hours

Monday - Saturday 10:00am-5:00pm

Sunday 2:00pm-5:00pm

Willow Pond Loop Trail Hours: Dawn-Dusk

Location and Directions

Located adjacent to the Cape Lookout National Seashore Visitor Center with convenient access via the passenger ferry to Cape Lookout Lighthouse and Shackleford Banks. 


Physical Address     |    1785 Island Road  Harkers Island, NC 28531
Mailing Address     |    P.O. Box 556  Harkers Island, NC 28531



 General Admission   |   Suggested Donation of $5
Museum Members, Students and Children   |    Free


Complimentary parking is available on site

What to Do, Expect, & Experience


The Main Gallery

At the heart of Core Sound Museum & Heritage Center is the Main Gallery, home to a permanent collection of life and culture, past, present, and future, in Down East Carteret County. The Main Gallery is a diverse and dynamic exhibition including:

Workboats of Core Sound
Fishing: Water Quality and Fishing Gear
Core Sound Hunting — Decoys and Firearms

Gathering Room (First Floor) 

Designed in the style of hunt clubs that once lined the Outer Banks, the Gathering Room honors the legacy of the Museum's founding board chairman — Billy Smith — whose leadership and stature in the community and state helped lay a foundation upon which the Core Sound Waterfowl Museum & Heritage Center was built. 

The Gathering Room is home to the Janice & Billy Smith Collection and the Roy Willis Collection and is filled local and regional decoys and hunting memorabilia and includes Louisiana decoys and fish by Earl Federine, Tan Brunet, Jude Brunet, and Jimmy Vizier.

Down East Community Displays (Second Floor) 

The second floor represents community displays that informally interpret the history and life of individual communities in the Core Sound area. The exhibit includes Cedar Island, Atlantic, Sea Level, Stacy, Davis, Williston, Smyrna, Marshallberg, Gloucester, Straits, Harkers Island, Otway and Bettie, as well as, ancestral communities of Salter Path on Bogue Banks and the Promise Land in Morehead City, and the historic communities of Portsmouth Island and Diamond City on Core and Shackleford Banks.

Each display showcases and interprets each community's life and history and includes artifacts, reproductions, photographs, scrapbooks, copies of archival documents, and audio clips.

The content for these informal displays and interpretive materials are produced primarily by community representatives. 

The Library

The Library is home to more than 400 books and periodicals, including rare and out of print copies, on regional wildfowl, waterfowl, hunting, birding, carving, boatbuilding, commercial fishing, folklore, art, storms, firearms, maritime history, quilting, community life, and more.  Many of the books are available for checkout to our members.

To make a book donation, please contact us. Monetary contributions may also be made for the acquisition of books, by donating to the library. Books can be given in honor of and in memory of friends and family. 

Many thanks to Emily Monk Davidson for her generosity and commitment to this most important part of our museum.

The Cape Lookout Research Room

The Core Sound Waterfowl Museum & Heritage Center is honored to be home to the Cape Lookout Reading Room – dedicated to the memories of Capt. Josiah Bailey and Les & Sallie Moore.  

The Cape Lookout Reading Room serves as a public archive for oral histories, relating to the cultural traditions, natural history and people of coastal North Carolina, collected through the museum and her partner agencies.  

Open by appointment, visitors, students and researchers have access to over 25 years of oral history recordings and transcripts. The museum serves as a repository for collections of the Cape Lookout National Seashore, Outer Banks History Center, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s Southern Oral History Program and other regional oral history research.

In addition to oral histories, the archive includes a collection of community and scholarly work, photographs and publications relating to the Core Sound region and rural coastal communities of North Carolina.  

The Jean Dale

The 40 foot fishing vessel, the Jean Dale, is more than a wooden boat, she reflects the heritage and tradition of the Core Sound people. 

Representative of the world famous flared bow, she is the story of Harkers Island. Encompassed in the fine craftsmanship and artistry of Brady Lewis' design are the essential elements that defined life on Harkers Island in the mid-1900s. The vessel's history reflects the talents and strength of a community of people who for generations have made a life for themselves and their families with that same style and ingenuity. 

Willow Pond

The Core Sound Waterfowl Museum & Heritage Center’s Willow Pond and surrounding interpretive trails offer young and old alike a new opportunity to learn! 

Now, with increased appreciation for waterfowl and the changes in environmental conditions along the coast, the new focus for Willow Pond will be education, beauty, and providing a "safe harbor" for migrating waterfowl and shorebirds. This natural, freshwater pond allows the museum's interpretive programming to include the complete story from live ducks to decoys, the importance of providing clean and safe areas for our wildlife, and work toward increasing knowledge and appreciation for our natural coastal communities.

Carving Demonstrations in David's Room

Dedicated in memory of David Lawrence — carver, artist and friend of the Core Sound Museum — David's Room serves serves as home to carving demonstrations among Lawrence's art, carvings, and tools.  

We hope you will take time to sit and visit with our carvers to learn more about David, his craft and his heritage while you are here. 

Changing Exhibition Gallery

The Changing Exhibition Gallery hosts constantly changing exhibits featuring art, photography, community exhibits and other special presentations. Please check the event calendar for upcoming exhibitions. 

The Lookout Tower

"From here you can see forever!"  That's how you will feel when you take the elevator to the Lookout Tower's magnificent view of Core Sound, Back Sound, Barden's Inlet and the Cape Lookout Lighthouse. And Core Banks to the east and Shackleford Banks to the west will remind you how close the great Atlantic Ocean is to our Down East communities. 

It is the closest you can possibly get (without boarding a boat) to experience Cape Lookout's beauty and history. We hope you will visit often!


The William Ellis Smith, Jr. Learning Center

Our children's area and reading skiff is a favorite place for museum visitors under the age of 12. This corner stays busy throughout the year, especially during the summer, where reading, science, and craft activities draw pre-school aged kids to come play, learn and explore.

Our thanks to the William Ellis Smith family for their support of educational programming for local children.