Island Express Ferry Service

Island Express Ferry Service

Boat Tours • Ferries
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7:30 AM - 7:00 PM
Monday
7:30 AM - 7:00 PM
Tuesday
7:30 AM - 7:00 PM
Wednesday
7:30 AM - 7:00 PM
Thursday
7:30 AM - 7:00 PM
Friday
7:30 AM - 7:00 PM
Saturday
7:30 AM - 7:00 PM
Sunday
7:30 AM - 7:00 PM
About
Island Express Ferry Service is the ONLY ferry service out of Beaufort and Harkers Island, NC that is authorized by the National Park Service to drop passengers off at Shackleford Banks and Cape Lookout. Shackleford Banks is the southernmost barrier island in Cape Lookout National Seashore. Shackleford Banks is a pristine island with one of the best shelling beaches in North Carolina. Famous for the wild banker horses that roam the uninhabited island, this is one of the few places in the eastern United States where wild horses can still be seen. Enjoy the beauty and tranquility of Cape Lookout, famous for the Cape Lookout Lighthouse Station. While you are there, take time to collect some of the most beautiful shells in the world. Bird watch, swim in the ocean, climb the lighthouse, or ride our famous Beach Shuttle. There is something for everyone to enjoy on this island paradise. Island Express Ferry Service is an authorized National Park Service Concessionaire. Although our name has, at times, been confused with smaller services that do not go to Shackleford Banks or Cape Lookout, there is only one ISLAND EXPRESS FERRY SERVICE. Be sure to add an S for Services when looking for us online.
Beaufort, North Carolina
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Awards
Travelers' Choice
2022

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Island Express Ferry Service
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Travelers talk about
(241 reviews)
Detailed Reviews: Reviews order informed by descriptiveness of user-identified themes such as cleanliness, atmosphere, general tips and location information.
Popular mentions

5.0
1,011 reviews
Excellent
908
Very good
66
Average
14
Poor
12
Terrible
11

Jesse S
2 contributions
Nov 2021
My wife and I joined our daughter - in - law, her mother and our 3 grandkids on a trip to Cape Lookout Lighthouse and island to hunt seashells on 11/01/21. We took the 11:15am ferry from Harker's Island to Cape Lookout and returned on the 3:45pm ferry. Captain George and 1st Mate Randy were outstanding - both in their professionalism operating the boat and assuring everyone's safety and their hospitality. They helped us locate the best spots on the island to find the best shells. On the return trip they allowed our grandchildren to steer the boat and called them Junior Captains. They also took the time to go quite a distance out of their way to show us a school of bottlenose dolphins surfacing the water. It made for a really cool experience for us all. Jesse S.
Written November 4, 2021
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.

robertc258260
Norfolk, VA23 contributions
May 2020
We have always used Island Express Ferry Service going to Cape Lookout. This week, IEFS started a new service of providing ATV rentals on Cape Lookout. You can rent them for either 1/2 day or a full day. When we heard about this option, we wanted to be among the first to rent one. We found the arrangements and rental to be exceptionally easy. The ATVs are great to drive and can get you to parts of Cape Lookout which typically require long treks by foot. For those who want to cover more areas on the island and do it conveniently while still enjoying shelling, swimming and "Oxygen Therapy", the ATVs are a great choice. If you compare other ATV rentals on Cape Lookout, you actually get more time on the ATVs with Island Express Ferry Service for the money. This service also opens up more independence for those who might not be as mobile by foot. Overall, great option with a great ferry service.
Written May 16, 2020
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.
Thank you so much for your review! We're glad you enjoyed our new rentals, they are a great and easy way to see more of the island! We hope to see you again soon!
Written May 18, 2020
This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of Tripadvisor LLC.

Lois P
Candler, NC2,081 contributions
Jul 2020 • Couples
I felt like the rates were very fair. This is the only NPS sanctioned ferry service to Shackleford Banks. They also have trips to Cape Lookout/South Core Banks from Beaufort or Harker’s Island. We paid $18 round trip. You can also rent a four-wheel drive Kubota vehicle on Cape Lookout for $100 half-day or $175 full day. They also have a beach truck for an extra fee that will take you to the point. The captains & crew that we had were friendly & skillful. The currents can be pretty rough around the cape, so take your Dramamine in you get seasick. You can take two carryon items per person. We even saw one couple carrying scuba gear. We took chairs, fishing gear & a small cooler. You can take a private charter to either destination, and I have done that as well. I recommend the ferry. Save some green. My only caution is that they may cancel or change the schedule on you last minute. Thus could be due to expected bad weather conditions or to not having enough people to justify the trip. I recommend booking early in your trip so you have a chance to reschedule if needed. You have to find your own parking in Beaufort. Harker’s Island has plenty of free parking at the visitor’s center.
Written July 31, 2020
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.
Thank your for your review! Our captain and crew always try to make each passengers' trip as comfortable and pleasant as possible! We hope to see you again soon!
Written August 1, 2020
This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of Tripadvisor LLC.

Chevyguy33
Graham, NC26 contributions
Jun 2022 • Family
This was a very mixed experience for us. Definitely depends on which boat you end up on as far as the quality of the experience. We had young children but wanted to take a quick trip to the lighthouse so they could see it up close. We scheduled a quick turnaround ferry ride so we could get back in time to feed them lunch and to nap. Heading there it was just a boat ride, young boat captain and older assistant who did the bare minimum but got us there safely.

We had a nice time at the lighthouse and we headed back for our scheduled return trip when we noticed our 2 year old had lost a personal item. My wife and kids continued to the dock while I searched for the missing item. We knew they needed to keep the boats on schedule so it was a very fast search by me. I was running to the dock where my wife and kids were waiting and they were telling the same young boat captain and older assistant that I was looking for an item and would be there shortly. What did they do? They drove off while my daughter yelled for them to wait and was crying. She was so upset by their rudeness.

So we had to wait an additional 30 mins for the next boat. The upside is we apparently got their “A” crew (middle age captain and assistant) on the later boat as they were very friendly and helpful and even let all the kids on the boat take turns “driving” the boat.

It was a very mixed experience that the one boat didn’t bother to help us and drove off while my daughter cried but thankful to get to meet the other crew that “gets it” and enjoys their job.
Written June 15, 2022
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.

lestim_12
Creedmoor, NC6 contributions
Jun 2020
Friendly, efficient and knowledgeable staff. Ferry captain was cautious and alerted us to some choppy conditions and let us know ahead of time his intentions for keeping us safe by slowing down at times and navigating the rough conditions. His crew was super friendly and personable, too.
Written June 12, 2020
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.
Thanks for your review! Our captains and crew always strive to make our passengers' trips as pleasant and safe as possible!
Written June 13, 2020
This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of Tripadvisor LLC.

Dhahran19802018
Durham, NC12 contributions
May 2022
The Island Express Ferry service from Harkers Island to Shackleford Banks and Cape Lookout was fast and efficient. We enjoyed the ride. Be prepared to get wet if the weather is rainy because the boat is open to the weather.
Written May 27, 2022
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.

Theron M
1 contribution
Jun 2021
Flew 5 hours and drove 3 to get to the ferry to see this amazing island. Called ahead and asked if a reservation is needed. Told No need to reserve. Told ferry runs every 30 minutes.

Arrived 1030 on June 23rd. Nobody there. The nice people at the museum said the ferry wasn't running that day due to conditions. Which is the opposite was told on the phone, as I didnt want to drive all that way for nada.

Dissapointing is not the word.

Will never go back.
Written June 30, 2021
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.
The decision to halt service for June 23rd was made at 6:45am that morning. It was determined that the winds leftover from Tropical Storm Claudette were too high and created dangerous sailing conditions. The safety of our crew and passengers is our top priority and we will not sail if it puts them in danger. Once the decision had been made to halt service it was posted on both our website as well as our Facebook page at approximately 7:00am. If you called the day before the information you were told at the time was accurate. We do not require reservations but we do recommend them and our ferries do run every 30 minutes, weather permitting. We do hope you reconsider and will sail with us again in the future. -Captain George A.
Written June 30, 2021
This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of Tripadvisor LLC.

Darcie E
1 contribution
Aug 2021 • Family
My 2 year old and I went yesterday morning for the 10am ferry. We were greeted by Mark (I believe is his name) who is the 1st mate. I'm 25 weeks pregnant and was carrying our bags and wrangling my very excited daughter. He was so sweet and gentle with her. He helped her on thw boat for me and took my stuff to put it on and then offered to take a picture of us once we got going. The captain was Shaelynn ( I'm probably butchering her name, so sorry) she was hysterical and so very sweet. We had this crew both there and back. My daughter would not stop talking about her when we got to the beach. She said she is magical and she wants to be a captain now when she grows up. When we got back on the ferry to leave the captain let her steer the boat (with her help) while we were in the no wake zone. Even after she was so interactive with her, having her look for landmarks along the way to "help guide us back" to the dock. The two of them made our experience so comfortable, easy and fun. I wish that I had brought cash with me to tip them. I will remember for the next time. I hope in the future we end up with them again! Incredible experience overall. It was easy to book our reservation, find the ferry and so easy and stress free once we got on there and back.
Thank you!!
Written August 12, 2021
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.

RJohnson
Ocala, FL8 contributions
Jun 2020 • Family
Really quick and easy ride over to the island. The island was a lot of fun. The captain, however, was pretty miserable. I cannot remember her name, but her 1st mate was chase and she picked up from the island at the the half hour on 6/24/2020.. She was extremely snippy and gruff and made it an uncomfortable ride there and back. She was butting heads on the way there with a family, which was awkward. Then a boy moved seats to see better and she snapped at him to find a seat. It’s not necessarily what she said but how she would say things. While I understand he should be seated and it’s a safety thing, there was no reason she couldn’t make the request kindly. The kid wasn’t misbehaved in any way. As for the family I gave her the benefit of the doubt and assumed the family was being difficult due to having to wear a mask (I even defended her and said she is just doing her job)! Then on the way back she yelled/snapped at a bunch of young kids who were excitedly talking when they saw an animal while she was trying to address everyone (they didn’t realize she was trying to get everyone’s attention). She was just unnecessarily nasty in her tone and approach to people.
Written June 24, 2020
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.
I am sorry that you feel this way. After doing some research and calling passengers on the same trips, it seems to me that this was due to safety measures. Masks are required on all trips, and captains are responsible for making sure that everyone has a mask on the vessel. Captains are also responsible for making sure that all passengers, while approaching to dock vessels, are sitting down. The captain who was on your vessel that day, going and coming back, has an impeccable safety record, and safety is our top priority aboard all our vessels. I am sorry that you feel the captain was harsh on the vessel, however we need to keep control on the vessel. Having a good time on the trip is of utmost importance to us also, however safety is top priority. Thank you for your feedback, Captain George A.
Written June 25, 2020
This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of Tripadvisor LLC.

Joe F
Greenville, NC105 contributions
Feb 2021
My wife and I used this ferry service on Saturday February 27 to access shackleford banks and Beaufort inlet. The roundtrip cost is $18 per person. I recommend going early, then setting your return trip for the latest ferry possible. That way, you can stay on the beach as long as you want, and come back at your convenience, because you are allowed to return early. They discourage a visitor from overstaying and missing their indicated return ferry trip. It is a convenient way to see the beach. You can take beach chairs, coolers, fishing gear, and other items you may need.
Written February 28, 2021
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.
Thank you for your review! We are so glad to hear you had a great time and we hope to see you again soon!
Written March 3, 2021
This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of Tripadvisor LLC.

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Island Express Ferry Service (Beaufort) - All You Need to Know BEFORE You Go