Ocracoke Island, on the outer banks of North Carolina, is a wonderful place to get away from it all.
Visiting Ocracoke Island, NC is like taking a trip back in time. The quaint island is isolated from the mainland with access from ferries at Hatteras Island, Cedar Island, and Swam Quarter or by airplane or private boat.
This island is disconnected from the mainland by the spirit as well as geography. If you can’t slow down here, you’ve got your foot locked on the accelerator.
Ocracoke’s unique character is a function not only of its long isolation but recent development pattern. Since the 1940s, the National Park Service has owned all of the islands except for the 1000 acres that comprise the original village. Consequently, the island has been spared the postwar strip development that plagues most coastal resort development, including Cape Hatteras just to the north.
Ocracoke is an old-fashioned village. If you like, you can park your car for the week and walk bicycle, or paddle everywhere you need to go. That’s living.
Fewer than 800 people live on the island year-round, and the residents are clustered in the southern harbor area in the village. Land north of the village is part of the Cape Hatteras National Seashore and is undeveloped.
Day-Trip to Hatteras & Ocracoke Islands
Looking for the perfect vacation within your vacation? Take a day trip south to beautiful Hatteras and Ocracoke Islands! It’s less than an hour’s drive from Nags Head to Hatteras Island and only two hours to historic Ocracoke Village (including the ferry ride!) The ocean scenery is incredible as you head down Highway 12. Relax and unwind – life takes on a slower pace here. These Islands are rich in history and mystery – scan the seas from the world-famous Cape Hatteras lighthouse – or search for Blackbeard’s treasure.
Said to be the treasure of Ocracoke, Springer’s Point is the last undeveloped spot on Ocracoke Island outside of the Cape Hatteras National Seashore. An island within an island, Springer’s Point is a peaceful oasis of natural beauty in the heart of bustling Ocracoke Village. Crab or clam, fish or feast, or just relax on one of the incredible unspoiled beaches. Spend the day kayaking, bicycling, or sport fishing. Shop in one of the many eclectic stores or dine on local seafood. It’s the perfect day trip to get away from it all!
The village of Ocracoke includes classic beach houses, local restaurants, unique gift shops, small hotels, and bed and breakfasts best visited by foot or by bicycle.
Don’t expect to see chain operations on Ocracoke. Businesses are privately owned and operated. Owners and employees are friendly and charm with smiles and ocean brogue. They’ll share a little island lore or history if asked.
Black Beard the Pirate
Some of the best stories on the island are about Blackbeard the Pirate. The infamous pirate was beheaded near Ocracoke by British naval officer Lt. Robert Maynard in 1718. The death of Blackbeard marked the end of major piracy in North Carolina, but Blackbeard’s legend lives on. Rumors abound that Blackbeard buried his treasure on Springer’s Point on Ocracoke Island; however, no one has ever uncovered his treasures.
Teach’s Hole Blackbeard Exhibit and Pirate Specialty Shop on Highway 12 provides background and history on the pirate, including exhibits, films, and a life-size model of the buccaneer.
Beautiful Uncrowded Beaches
The beaches of Ocracoke are considered some of the most beautiful in the nation. There are no boardwalks and t-shirt shacks – just white sand and breaking waves as far as the eye can see. All total, there are sixteen miles of unspoiled beaches.
Visitors can walk to the beach from the ferry or can drive further down the main road to the 4-wheel drive area. Vehicles can be driven and parked along isolated stretches of the Atlantic for a truly rustic day on the water.
No one is quite sure how the ponies came to inhabit the island of Ocracoke, although there are a number of theories. Some say they swam over from a shipwreck while others assert that they were brought to the “new world” by the Spaniards.
In the 1950s, the National Park Service rounded up the herds and placed them in a fenced pasture area where visitors can visit and see the wild ponies.
The Ocracoke lighthouse was built in 1823 and is one of the oldest standing lighthouses along the Atlantic shore and the second oldest operating lighthouse in the nation. (An earlier lighthouse, built in 1798, was destroyed by lightning in 1918.) The solid white lighthouse stands only seventy-five feet tall, and the light can be seen for 14 miles in good weather.
Visitors cannot go into the lighthouse; however, a wooden walkway off Lighthouse Road is a good spot to take photographs.
- Location: Dare County, off the southwest tip of Hatteras Island, about 15 miles east of the mainland.
- Access: NC DOT ferry, private boat, or airplane. Call 1-800-BYFERRY for reservations. Visit NCFerry.org for a map and schedule.
- Size: About 16 miles long and half a mile wide.
- Ownership: National Park Service. Ocracoke Island is part of the Cape Hatteras National Seashore. Privately owned land is limited to the village of Ocracoke at the southern end of the island, totaling less than 1000 acres.
Kitty Hawk Kites
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With locations from Corolla to Ocracoke, Kitty Hawk Kites is the largest retailer of kites, toys, flags, and wind art on the Outer Banks. You’ll also find a leading selection of quality resort apparel, footwear, t-shirts, sweatshirts, sunglasses, gifts, adventure and beach gear and more. See ad for coupon.
This 2-hour dolphin tour departs from Whalebone Watersports on the causeway in Nags Head. Aboard the 40-foot pontoon boat, you will observe bottlenose dolphins, pelicans and osprey. This is a great trip for families and people of all ages! Book online or call for reservations.
Kiteboarding lets you harness the power of the wind. High thrills and easy to learn. And there’s no better place to learn than the Kitty Hawk Kites Kiteboarding Resort on the sound at MP 40 in Rodanthe. Expert, certified instructors, luxury on site accommodations, restaurant, pro shop, gear rentals, and free launch site. Call or book online. See ad in this magazine for coupon offers.
Float behind the tow boat on the sound and feel the freedom of flight at up to 1,200 feet. This fun, family-friendly activity lets riders enjoy the beauty of the Outer Banks from a bird’s-eye view. Single, double and triple rides with certified captains and professional mates… Parasailing makes vacation memories that last a lifetime. Book online or call. See ad in this magazine for coupon offers.
Whalebone Water Sports Center
Kayak tours and rentals, dolphin tours, kayak fishing, jet ski rentals, and the most beautiful sunsets on the Outer Banks! There’s a little something for everyone. Let them help make your vacation the experience of a lifetime. Book online or call. See ad in this magazine for coupon offers.