Island Express Ferry Service

Island Express Ferry Service

Island Express Ferry Service
5
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
Meets animal welfare guidelines

Awards
Travelers' Choice
2023

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(243 reviews)

Most Recent: Reviews ordered by most recent publish date in descending order.

Detailed Reviews: Reviews ordered by recency and descriptiveness of user-identified themes such as wait time, length of visit, general tips, and location information.

Popular mentions

5.0
5.0 of 5 bubbles1,037 reviews
Excellent
931
Very good
66
Average
14
Poor
13
Terrible
13

robertc258260
Norfolk, VA23 contributions
5.0 of 5 bubbles
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 as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.
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, NC2,035 contributions
4.0 of 5 bubbles
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 as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.
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.

lestim_12
Creedmoor, NC6 contributions
5.0 of 5 bubbles
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 as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.
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.

RJohnson
Ocala, FL8 contributions
2.0 of 5 bubbles
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 as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.
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.

Melissjo
Atlantic Beach, NC36 contributions
4.0 of 5 bubbles
Jun 2020 • Family
My son (13) and I love to search for seashells at the beach so we decided to tryout Cape Lookout. We were not disappointed! We took the ferry from Harkers Island to Cape Lookout ($18) then jumped on the beach shuttle ($13) that took us to “the point”. Worth the $$!! Found some great shells with the bonus of beautiful beaches plus the light house. Will definitely do this again. Be sure to check the tide schedules and try going at low tide for your best shells! Wear your bathing suit as we went into the water to gather some of the larger, prettier shells!
Written June 24, 2020
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.
We're glad to hear that you had a great time at Cape Lookout! You can find some of the very best shells at the point! We hope to see you again soon!
Written June 25, 2020
This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of Tripadvisor LLC.

chazman
Springfield, VA50 contributions
5.0 of 5 bubbles
Sep 2020 • Friends
We took the first Island Express ferry of the day to Shackleford Banks (island). Captain Amy and first mate Taylor were very helpful, courteous and friendly, making the 20 minute trip very enjoyable. Captain Amy provided a very informative talk on the way, especially about the wild horses and the island history. The beaches on the island were very nice especially for shell seekers. We were able to see 4 of the wild horses at their favorite watering hole. If you are visiting the area I recommend taking a day to visit the island using the ferry service of Island Express.
Written September 27, 2020
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.
Thank you for your review! Our staff always strives to make each trip as fun and informative as possible! I am so glad that you got the chance to see some of the wild horses on Shackleford Banks, and hope to see you again soon!
Written September 29, 2020
This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of Tripadvisor LLC.

Jesse S
2 contributions
5.0 of 5 bubbles
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 as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

Joe F
Greenville, NC111 contributions
4.0 of 5 bubbles
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 as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.
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.

Theron M
Fort Myers, FL6 contributions
1.0 of 5 bubbles
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 as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.
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.

mcvot66
Cobbs Creek, VA11 contributions
5.0 of 5 bubbles
May 2021 • Couples
We took the ferry over to Shacklefords. Recommend making your reservation on line especially during tourist season and on weekends. My interest was shelling and we timed our visit for receding tide. Great shelling located on the Atlantic side. My husband wanted to see the horses which were easy to find but keep a safe distance. The ferry ride itself was nice. On the ride over, there were only 6 of us (we took the first time slot available) and captain was laid back and allowed us to ask him questions. The trip back was packed and that captain gave us a narrative talk. Both captains were great and were able to engage according to number of passengers.
Written May 16, 2021
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.
Thank you for taking the time to give us a review! We are pleased that you enjoyed your time aboard with us.
Written May 18, 2021
This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of Tripadvisor LLC.

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Island Express Ferry Service - All You Need to Know BEFORE You Go (2024)

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