The National Park Service announced Monday that the seashore hosted 86,991 visitors, 5,000 more in January than during the same month in 2020 and continuing a three-year trend of record-setting January visitation. January 2020 saw 14,000 more visits than January 2019, which was the highest level of January visitation since 2006.
The seashore, Wright Brothers National Memorial and the Fort Raleigh National Historic Site saw more than 3 million combined visits during 2020.Despite almost two months of pandemic-related restricted access to Dare and Hyde counties, the seashore counted 2.65 million visits, the highest number in 17 years and a 1.49% increase over 2019. Visitation exceeded the previous year during eight months of last year, which officials attributed to an increase in regional travel to the Outer Banks and a mostly calm hurricane season.
“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 Superintendent David Hallac of National Parks of Eastern North Carolina in a statement. “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.”
Over the past five years, the National Seashore has hosted 12.6 million visits, an increase of 1.7 million over the previous five-year period.
The 2020 surge comes after pandemic-related closures between March 17 and Sept. 5 at the Wright Memorial and the Fort Raleigh National Historic Site. Park visitor centers were closed during the period and the 2020 season of “The Lost Colony” outdoor drama was canceled.
The Wright Brothers Memorial hosted 10,949 visits in January, making it the busiest January since recordkeeping began in 1979. Although visitation was down 30.5% from 2019, the memorial hosted 277,963 visits last year and visitation increased by an average of 31% over the last four months of 2020, compared to the last four months of 2019.
The Fort Raleigh Site hosted 153,519 visits last year, down 38% from 2019, but also saw above-average fall and winter visitation, with 9,310 visitors in December, a 43% increase over December 2019.
To protect the health of those who live, work and visit and in support of President Biden’s executive order on Protecting the Federal Workforce and Requiring Mask-Wearing, the National Park Service requires masks to be worn by employees, visitors, partners and contractors.
Face masks are required in all park buildings and facilities, including visitor centers and museums. Masks are also required on National Park Service-managed lands when physical distancing cannot be maintained, including beaches and trails.
Officials noted that conditions are subject to change, and 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.