The sea, once it casts its spell, holds one in its net of wonder forever. --Jacques Yves Cousteau

H2O Captain is an authorized holder of a commercial license approved by the National Park Service for tours of Shackleford Island and Cape Lookout!  For your assurance and safety, travel with H2O Captain a permittee of the NPS!

Approximately 4+ Hour Tours and Excursions.  Announcing 3 new tours!  Please see EXCLUSIVE EXCURSIONS below.


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HorseLinda3400BWB Repeat - Boat, Walk, Beach...Repeat

THE Customer's favorite, the trifecta of excursions (Boat Walk Beach), with a destination right dab in the middle of Shackelford Island. This is truly an "Instagramable" day and our most popular tour!  CLICK HERE https://h2ocaptain.com/tours/wild-horses-of-shackleford for more in-depth info on these incredible animals living in the wild.

We first cross the Beaufort Inlet, a natural passageway into the Atlantic Ocean, then travel approximately 4+ miles on the protected waters along Shackelford Banks to historic Whale Creek/Gehrman's Pond.

Captain Mark will lead you on a guided land tour utilizing a circuit trail to the ocean side of the island. On this hike/walk through a maritime forest, grasslands, and dunes, Captain Mark expects to enjoy seeing the famous wild Shackelford Banker Horses.

Then, as if we were the first people to sight the ocean you will arrive at a heavenly beach to discover, most likely by ourselves. Identifying marine shells, including the Scotch bonnet which is the official state shell of NC, will be our activity, and appreciating the sheer beauty of the dunes and waves will be our companion as we walk along this beach. Then, and almost without notice, we will head back into the dunes for a dramatic scene of the sound with its picturesque colors. 

Keith Rittmaster and Captain MarkA dip in the water along the protected waters of Shackleford on a hot day is delightful for families of ALL ages!

Back in the boat, Captain Mark will take you through the north end of Middle Marshes of The Rachel Carson Estuarine Reserve (RCR) up the entire Taylor Creek along historic Beaufort’s Front Street. From Lennoxville Point west to downtown you will have the town on your right and the RCR on your left. We have often seen wild horses on these islands as well.  Regular price.

Photo right:  Meeting at USCG Station Ft. Macon (March 5, 2020) with Keith Rittmaster (R), Director of Bonehenge Whale Center in Beaufort, NC. with Captain Mark Sonder, Flotilla Commander holding the bottom jaw bone of a bottle-nosed dolphin!  Photo top:  a wild Shackleford Banker Horse on the side of our trail!


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On The “Outside” 

Cape Lookout Lighthouse

This excursion is more susceptible and dependent upon wave heights, air temperature, and wind speed. Local mariners & lore will tell you about going on “The Outside.” This is pure ocean-spanning as we travel in unprotected waters first to The Cape Lookout Bight then to the Cape Lookout Lighthouse.

With the Cape Lookout Lighthouse as our backdrop, and with his local knowledge, Captain Mark will take you to this ever-shifting sand area at The Bight. Look onto the ocean, breathe the air, take a dip on either side Ocean or the waters leading to Barden Inlet, this is what an ocean trip on The Outside is all about! It’s always a gift when we find a pod of bottle-nosed dolphins going to or coming from The Cape.

An abundance of shorebirds and shellfish species line the shore. We will find many and hope to identify some as we walk both sides together.

Then it is on to the Cape Lookout Lighthouse itself, with its Lighthouse Keepers quarters, now turned into a small museum. The iconic landmark is a 163-foot high lighthouse located on the most southern point in The Outer Banks. It flashes every 15 seconds and is visible at least 12 miles out to sea. It is one of the very few lighthouses that operate during the day. It became fully automated in 1950.

We go back the way we came along the ocean shore of Shackleford Banks in the hopes of seeing the famous wild Shackleford horses walking along the beach. We may also visit the Beaufort and/or Morehead City waterfronts on our return. Please note if the ocean is angry the day of your excursion, we would travel to the Cape on the protected waters of “the inside.”  Regular price.

For more information on the Cape Lookout Lighthouse and National Seashore, please CLICK HERE https://h2ocaptain.com/tours/cape-lookout-national-seashore


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EXCLUSIVE EXCURSION - A 3 Island Tour: Sand Dollars, Wild Horses, and a Lighthouse Oh My!!! 
Sand Dollar Island Beaufort NCDepending on the time of day and the level of the tide, we will cross the Beaufort Inlet, a natural passageway to the North Atlantic Ocean to cash in on Sand Dollars which you will find in the shallow water and/or beach as you walk on your own to find these gems on this vanishing island. This island is underwater at high tide!

We will then get back into the H2O Captain boat and anchor just a few yards from the beach off Shackleford Banks in a place that the ferries cannot get into! We are here to walk on two different trails (30 minute walk total) as well as the ocean beach (great shelling) to view in their natural habitat, wild horses as well as to do some shelling. Official H2O Captain Shelling Bags will be given to each party!

Back on the boat again we will head to the 3rd island at The Cape Lookout Lighthouse all along protected waters. You will be able to get right up to the Lighthouse as well as to tour the Lightkeepers home, now a small museum. We go back onto the boat for the last time to view the 3 islands (a 3 island bonus for a total of 6 islands!) that comprise the Rachel Carson Preserve, as well as the Beaufort and Morehead City waterfronts. What a day! Depending on how long you wish to spend on each island, this tour can take up to 6 hours.

Please note: This excursion is available only during certain times and tides and departs from Atlantic Beach. Call first BEFORE booking online to make sure the tide levels are favorable to this trip. 202-369-1063.  Special Rate:  $749 for up to 4 passengers. $30 for each additional passenger 5 and 6.


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EXCLUSIVE EXCURSION - Double Trouble: Shack Attack and a Lighthouse!! 
Wild Horses of ShacklefordLearn about the history of whaling on Shackleford Banks and the people that used to live here while looking for the wild horses either at Whale Creek or taking 2 nature walks through the maritime forest, grasses, and dunes of this beautiful island. Swimming is always welcome whether for families of all ages on the protected side or a bit more rugged on the ocean side.

We get back into the H2O Captain boat to navigate to the Cape Lookout Lighthouse or the Cape Lookout Bight via the protected waters. The Bight features the confluence of Barden Inlet and the ocean just inches apart. Wonderful swimming here as well as shelling. The Lighthouse features, yes THE Lighthouse, as well as the Lightkeepers house, now turned into a small museum.

On our return to Atlantic Beach, we will cruise through the Beaufort waterfront / Rachel Carson Preserve as well as the Morehead City waterfront. This excursion will last approximately 4-5 hours.  Special Rate:  $599 for up to 4 passengers. $30 for each additional passenger 5 and 6.


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Cape Lookout Lighthouse at DawnThis excursion is our most adventurous one as we leave our Atlantic Beach location 1.5 hours prior to first light! In the still of the night (or early morning as the case may be) we will head out of the Beaufort Inlet into the wide-open North Atlantic Ocean in complete darkness and travel to The Cape Lookout Lighthouse. Have no doubt as you will be delivered there BEFORE dawn to take fantastic photos as the lighthouse gets illuminating and radiates from the rising sun! We will head back via the inside creating a huge circle and taking you through the Beaufort and Morehead City Waterfronts. You will return to Atlantic Beach knowing that you were the first humans to be at Cape Lookout on this very special day!

Please note: This excursion will only run with calm seas and calm wind. This trip is not temperature dependent, so wear your woolies if you feel the dark hours will be too cold for you.

Special Rate: $999 for up to 4 passengers. $200 non-refundable deposit should trip not run due to a rough ocean, OR you can change your excursion for one of our other excursions later the same day and receive the difference in cost back to your credit card.


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'Round We Go! 
Round We Go Beaufort Rachel Carson ReserveThis excursion was designed for the visitor looking for a shorter tour.  Feel like some Atlantic Ocean waves today? How about the sights and sounds of the bustling historic town of Beaufort while passing by the Rachel Carson Preserve? This cruise will amaze you with sights of The NC Maritime Museum, Duke Marine Laboratory, Radio Island, location of U.S. Marine Amphibious landings, USCG Station Ft. Macon, Beaufort Inlet, Shackleford Banks with a possible sighting of wild horses, the Rachel Carson Preserve and its Boardwalk, North River, Taylors Creek, Town of Beaufort along all of Front Street, and Carrot Island.  Wow!  Regular price. 


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EXCLUSIVE EXCURSION - Lunch in Swansboro and the ICW (Intracoastal Waterway)
Lunch In SwansboroThis is approximately a 5+ hour day. Captain’s Choice for lunch. The cost of lunch will be borne by passengers. The Captain will eat by himself.
Experience this classic East/West portion of the North/South ICW for approximately a 50-mile round trip tour. View various islands in either high or low tide as well as Carteret Community College, The Emerald Isle and Atlantic Beach Causeways (which we will travel under), Pelletier Creek, Spooner Creek, Jumping Run, Gales Creek, Broad Creek, Sanders Creek, Goose Creek, Deer Creek, and the mouth of the White Oak River.  Excursion carries a special rateof $549 for up to 4 passengers.


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1st Mate Lucky the DogDon’t see your dream voyage? Want to explore another nearby area, for example up to Oriental for lunch, area rivers, etc. Please tell us where you wish to go and or what you are looking for and we’ll try really hard to make it happen. Captain Mark's License allows him to take you out as far as 100 nautical miles (115 miles) from the coast in any vessel up to 100 Gross Tons.

In addition, Captain Mark has obtained a TWIC license (Transportation Worker Identification Credential). The TWIC program provides a tamper-resistant biometric credential to maritime workers who require unescorted access to secure areas of port facilities, outer continental shelf facilities, and vessels regulated under the Maritime Transportation Security Act of 2002.  Let Captain Mark know as he is looking to assist our passengers looking for even more adventure!

Cost dependent upon job description.

Photo right:  H2O Captain's 1st Mate...Lucky the Dog