Established in 1753, Portsmouth Island was one of largest settlements along the Outer Banks, but changing shipping routes, Civil War, and a lagging economy caused many people to leave and never return. The last residents remained until the early 1970s, and shortly after, the village fell under the care of the National Park Service and the Friends of Portsmouth Island.
Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, many of the buildings on Portsmouth Island have been restored. Visitors can explore the church, Coast Guard station, schoolhouse, and post office for a glimpse into old island life. You can peek into the windows of some of the old homes where the interiors look as if villagers went to run errands and never returned.
There is a Visitor Center with exhibits on the island’s history. Restrooms are available, but potable water and food are not. Visitors are encouraged to bring plenty of water and snacks, plus sunscreen and insect repellent.
A decent walk from the village, you’ll find Portsmouth Island’s beach. Here you’ll find serious solitude, excellent surf fishing, and outstanding shelling.
Visitors can be dropped off at the beach for a day of shelling and relaxation, take a guided walking tour through the village or explore Portsmouth and surrounding islands on a boat tour.