Cape Hatteras National Seashore and Wright Brothers National Memorial had the highest levels of visitation this January 2021 than any other January on record.
At the seashore, January visitation records have been broken the last three years. In January 2021 the seashore hosted 86,991 visits, an increase of 5,000 visits over January 2020 and 14,000 more visits than January 2019, the National Park Service said in a news release. Prior to 2019, the highest level of January visitation occurred in 2006.
Wright Brothers National Memorial hosted 10,949 visits in January 2021, making it the busiest January since recordkeeping began in 1979.
2020 Visitation Statistics
In 2020, the seashore, Fort Raleigh National Historic Site, and Wright Brothers National Memorial hosted over 3 million combined visits.
Cape Hatteras National Seashore
Despite almost two months of pandemic-related restricted access to Dare and Hyde counties, the seashore still experienced 2,645,477 visits, the highest number in 17 years and a 1.49% increase over 2019.
In eight out of 12 months, last year, visitation was higher than the previous year. An increase in regional travel to the Outer Banks and a mostly calm hurricane season likely contributed to the very busy summer, fall, and winter visitation.
Over the past five years, the seashore has hosted 12.6 million visits, an increase of 1.7 million visits over the previous five-year period (2011-2015).
“It was a challenge for the seashore’s team to handle such a significant increase in visitation and I’m proud of our staff’s work to rise to the occasion,” said David Hallac, Superintendent, National Parks of Eastern North Carolina. “I also want to thank all the seashore’s volunteers, partners, and local communities. Since the seashore’s establishment, our communities serve as our partners in managing the parks – they help to provide important safety information and park information, report concerns, and contribute to a high level of visitor satisfaction. Their efforts have not gone unnoticed and we appreciate the teamwork.”
Fort Raleigh National Historic Site
Fort Raleigh NHS on Roanoke Island hosted 153,519 visits last year, down 38% from 2019. The decrease in visitation was influenced by the almost six-month pandemic-related closure of the park’s visitor center and canceled season of The Lost Colony outdoor drama.
After the reopening of the visitor center on September 5, 2020, the park experienced above average fall and winter visitation. For example, the park hosted 9,310 visits in December 2020, up 43% from December 2019.
Wright Brothers National Memorial
Wright Brothers National Memorial in Kill Devil Hills hosted 277,963 visits last year, down 30.5% from 2019. Like at Fort Raleigh National Historic Site, the visitor center was closed due to COVID-19 safety precautions from March 17 to September 5, 2020, which potentially contributed to an overall decrease in visitation.
Park visitation increased by an average of 31% over the last four months of 2020 versus the last four months of 2019.
Visitor Safety in 2021
Visitors to these three national park units should be aware that to protect the health of those who live, work, and visit national parks and National Park Service (NPS) facilities, and in support of President Biden’s Executive Order on Protecting the Federal Workforce and Requiring Mask-Wearing, NPS implemented a mask requirement for employees, visitors, partners, and contractors.
Face masks are now required in all park buildings and facilities, including visitor centers and museums. Masks are also required on NPS-managed lands when physical distancing cannot be maintained, including beaches and trails.
As conditions are subject to change, visitors should check park websites and social media channels for details on operations before they visit. Park rangers are on duty to provide information, protect visitors and park resources, and uphold this requirement.