CHNS visits from January-April 2021 shatters record

By on May 27, 2021


Here’s more evidence of the rocket-fueled visitor boom this area has experienced ever since the bridges to Dare County were re-opened on May 16 of last year.

On May 27, the Cape Hatteras National (CHNS) Seashore reported that in the period from January-April 2021, the Seashore hosted 588,904 visits, the highest level for that four-month period in its history.

Not only is it the busiest first four months of any year, it’s also 74,000 visitors (or 14%) more than the next busiest January-April, which occurred nearly a quarter decade ago. Here are the top five years.

  • 2021: 588,904 visits
  • 1998: 514,940 visits
  • 2018: 492,328 visits
  • 2019: 486,750 visits
  • 2007: 452,931 visits

Also, according to the CHNS, there were 254,366 visitors in April 2021 alone. Only three times in the past, has April visitation surpassed the 200,000 mark —in 2021, 1998 and 2019.






  • Zack Bass

    It is going to be a long hard summer for NPS employees. Especially the Maintenance folks who are chronically short-handed

    Thursday, May 27 @ 5:27 pm
  • Tri-Village

    Keep shoving them in. This county has an eating disorder and tourists are its main meal. I know we rely on tourist revenue but enough is enough. Welcome to Myrtle Beach North. The construction of rental properties needs to stop. All businesses are under staffed. Our infrastructure can not maintain this volume for much longer. Its not Memorial Day weekend yet and I know many of us working folks are burnt out. We are over worked, over the houses being destroyed by guests and over the bull sh!t.

    Thursday, May 27 @ 5:40 pm
  • Tri-Village

    Also please stop advertising the Outer Banks in Ohio. Those that work here will understand.

    Thursday, May 27 @ 7:28 pm
  • Dethrol

    What a fantastic problem to have. Great news for every single business (small, medium or large) in our community. Great news for the infrastructure that depends on the revenue from visitors for maintenance and improvement. Reading the recent article here in the Voice about the Dare County budget, we’re building and improving emergency services, purchasing and improving youth services, animal shelter, College of the Albemarle, elections, Sheriff’s Department, etcetera, etcetera. All with absolutely no tax increase and brought to us all, for the most part, by revenue generated by the tourism industry.

    Thursday, May 27 @ 8:29 pm
  • Mike Myers

    Too much development and planning for Tourists only and not enough for folks who live and work on the OBX has pretty much destroyed the area. Greed on behalf of county and town officials has changed the whole area to a point where we will never get it back. My family aren’t native but we’ve been here since the 1970s living year round. I recently sold the family home and property as I was the last one left in my family alive. I have fully moved as of last 2 months and so glad I got out before this years Invasion of Tourists. Yes the area relies on the weekly visitors but it seems like their behavior gets worse every year. The county doesn’t care and OBX Tourism commercials continue all over. I find it funny how they show traffic in the big cities it says BOX then changes to OBX with a pristine empty beach…haha what a joke! The area has become trashed by some, not all, of these rude and obnoxious visitors here during the IN season. Tragically, it seems the IN season is expanding. I wish those natives and locals who stay much luck. My decision was to GTFO. I couldn’t stand it any longer to watch the area decline due to poor planning and lack of care for year round residents and workers. I now have a pretty nice spread with some left over to reestablish myself in the Western part of the State. For those fed up don’t be afraid to relocate if you want to. Life is short. It was a fairly easy process for me and I hope it is for you to relocate.
    No offense to those who decide to stay…To Each Their Own as the saying goes. I’m so glad I left recently and will visit friends on the OBX during the OFF SEASON ONLY if there is an off season left in the future. Take care fellow year round Beach Bums! I mean that term in a good way!!

    Thursday, May 27 @ 9:02 pm
  • Southern Dawn

    @Dethrol Good on you for looking at the glass as half full instead of calling vacationers “tourons.” Thank you.

    @Tri-Village It’s not just Ohio where your beaches are being promoted….The Today Show had “Dr. Beach” and his top 10 list yesterday. Lighthouse Beach is number 5 and Ocrakoke Lifeguard Beach is number 3. Of note, none of the “northern” beaches made the list. No surprise there. We stayed in Salvo a couple of weeks ago. I noticed there were more school age children there than previous years – probably due to a hybrid schedule or the availability of on-line learning. Most of the ramps on CHNS were not crowded – except the Point of course. However, I believe the record highs are due to the rental companies using the tourism trend to hike the prices. The “off” season is now thru early April and prices go up from week to week until the “in” season where they skyrocket. Sadly I also noticed a SAGA sign across from The Fishing Hole. Wind Over Waves II? The charm of your island has always called us OGs from Virginia who do no harm, are very polite and quiet, and leave no footprints but I’m afraid the cats out of the bag and the changes will only get worse every year to where there may be a 3 month “off ” season and the new breed of vacationers may be less mindful and respectful of the fragile, limited resources on the island. I understand your frustration but I don’t think things are going to get any better.

    Friday, May 28 @ 10:14 am
  • Basil

    How does the NPS “count” visitors? Every car that enters from Whalebone Junction and gets off the Hatteras/Ocracoke ferry? You don’t have to stop anywhere obviously so how is it done?

    Friday, May 28 @ 10:23 am
  • Mark Jurkowitz | Outer Banks Voice

    Basil, here is what the NPS told us:
    Visitation numbers 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 added to the number of passengers going to Ocracoke Island from Cedar Island and Swan Quarter. So, a visit is counted when entering the park from either the north or the south. It is not counted every time a person goes to the beach during the day, visits the lighthouses, etc.

    Friday, May 28 @ 3:51 pm
  • Travis

    We are what we are as a community, for better or for worse, and that is one with a tourist driven economy. The biggest political failure is not taking advantage of this for fear “if we increase the tourist tax, they will stop coming.”


    Two spots on the recent Dr. Beach survey. The NPS numbers just released. The swift bounce back after a covid-shortened season in 2020. People want to come here. The beaches are free for all to use. The Parks, lighthouses, the ferries: free. Heck, almost everywhere parking is even free.

    “Free,” as is often the case, means somebody else is paying for it. Keeping the beaches clean is a taxpayer provided service of the municipalities and county. If you don’t think this is a problem, stroll any given stretch of beach at the end of a summer day. There are not trash fairies swooping down every night to pick up after the ill mannered types who leave junk everywhere. Running the parks requires staff. Roads and bridges must be maintained. Mosquitos must be sprayed. Lifeguards must save fools. The list goes on.

    So it would not kill the Golden Goose to hike the tourist tax a percentage or two to help pay for the things we need to continue to provide excellent public service, infrastructure and employees who make it all happen for our visitors.

    Friday, May 28 @ 11:08 am
  • Ben Weber

    As a rental owner and one who would never dare visit OBX in prime season 1) because of the crowds and 2) because of loss of great income. I understand the “native’s” concern. Perhaps, raising the prepared meals and alcohol taxes along with short term occupancy tax would be the quick solution to slowing things down…..but the ironic thing about that is…..the “Native’s” in elected office would oppose that as it would negatively affect their local businesses.

    OBX is in a viscous cycle. The only thing, IMO, that will break it is if Mother Nature clears the decks.

    Friday, May 28 @ 12:44 pm
  • Fred Ashe aka Big D

    As the Great Philosopher Rodney King once said:
    Come on man can’t we all just get along!!
    Nuf Said

    Friday, May 28 @ 8:14 pm
  • Basil

    Thanks for the explanation, Mark J.

    Sunday, May 30 @ 10:50 am