Ocracoke is one of the hardest-to-get-to but most rewarding destinations along the Outer Banks, and visitors who choose to spend their vacation on this small but scenic island will find plenty of relaxing vacation homes to make them feel right at home.
Ranging from 2 bedroom cottages, condos or even mobile homes, and extending to luxury 6 bedroom retreats, the rental homes on Ocracoke Island are as quirky and charming as the personality of the village itself. Often bordered by native landscaping, including clusters of live oaks and cedar trees, and tucked away on the semi-busy side streets of the popular Silver Lake Harbor, the rentals on Ocracoke Island are always close to the local attractions, a quick drive from the beach, and relaxing refuges for weary vacationers who simply want to find a shaded screened porch, stretch out their legs, and just relax.
The Ocracoke Beach Scene
All of the vacation rentals on Ocracoke Island can be found within the confines of the four square mile village, which is located on the soundside southern tip of the island, bordering the clam-shaped Silver Lake Harbor. The rest of the island is protected from development as it is a part of the Cape Hatteras National Seashore, and as such, Ocracoke vacationers will find 13 miles of empty shoreline available at their disposal.
The beaches of Ocracoke, or rather the accesses to the beaches of Ocracoke Island, begin at the town's edge with a long 4WD accessible path that leads out to the island's Ocracoke Inlet bordering waters, and ends at the Hatteras / Ocracoke Ferry Docks, on the edge of Hatteras Inlet. In between are miles of secluded, undisturbed beaches that have made this region a national treasure, and a Dr. Beach's annual "American's 10 Best Beaches" regular, until it was retired after earning the #1 spot.
As one would expect with a world-famous beach, the shoreline here is gorgeous. The ocean beaches generally have a gradual slope, making the waves exceptional for wading, swimming, body boarding and skimboarding, and the beaches are clean and seldom traversed. Both inlet facing beaches are renowned surf fishing locales for avid beach fishermen, although any area in between can serve as good casting spots for seasonal red drum, mullet, bluefish, flounder, and a number of other local species.
The Ocracoke Island beaches are especially famous in regional and national shelling circles, as the lack of foot traffic and the proximity to the Gulf Stream and Labrador Current produces some of the best shelling beaches along the East Coast. Beach wanderers can expect to find whelks, olive shells, conchs that are more common in the southern states, sand dollars, and even the elusive Scotch Bonnet, which is hard to find, and yet ironically is the North Carolina State Shell.
While the allure of the beaches will certainly fill up a lazy vacation day, after hours, Ocracoke visitors will find ample fun activities in the village of Ocracoke itself. Renowned for its galleries, gift shops, restaurants, and local attractions, despite its small size, Ocracoke Village is a treasure trove of low key entertainment. Visitors can take a stroll or a bike trip to the Ocracoke Lighthouse, and then stop by the Springer's Point Nature Preserve for a scenic walk through some of the village's last wild and undeveloped areas. The Visitors' Center and Ocracoke Preservation Society are good destinations to get yourself acquainted with the culture of the area, and a stop by the British Cemetery just off of NC Highway 12 will be a sobering look into the region's history of war and shipwrecks.
Along the "main drag" of NC Highway 12 that borders the harbor and winds through the village, visitors will find a number of restaurants, bars, galleries, and even event venues, (specifically the Deepwater Creek Theater), where nightly entertainment and great eats can always be found. With a bustling beach community easily contained within the four-square mile town limits, visitors will find that good times and great off-the-beach fun are always just a short stroll away.
Types of Rentals Available
Vacationers who are looking for the 10 bedroom oceanfront mansions won't find their dream retreat on Ocracoke Island, however visitors who are looking for a little seclusion and a lot of relaxation will find these amenities in spades.
Because of the simple restriction of available land to build on, the lots within the town of Ocracoke Village are generally quite small, and as such, the cottages and rental accommodations in this area tend to run in the 1-6 bedroom range.
There are a handful of condo units available within the village, which are generally contained within 1-2 story unimposing structures for the feel of a secluded retreat that's close to the local amenities. The majority of the island, however, is comprised of vacation homes and cottages, and these accommodations can be found throughout the village with varying locales and amenities.
While many vacation rental homes within Ocracoke Village are located along small residential streets that are covered in local foliage, a wide selection are located by the water, either adjacent to the Pamlico Sound, or bordering Silver Lake Harbor itself, and featuring incredible views of all the harbor front action. Visitors who want to be able to enjoy an over-the-water sunset every night should keep an eye out for these waterfront accommodations, while explorers who simply need a comfortable place to stay in between beach trips will find more than enough accommodations available within the village itself.
Homes range in all styles and price ranges, from 1-3 bedroom mobile homes and cottages to multiple-story beach houses with 5 bedrooms or more, private pools, and even game rooms. While other areas of the Outer Banks may have plenty of expansive homes to choose from, Ocracoke Island essentially only has a handful, and long-time visitors wouldn't have it any other way. The village landscape of small but accommodating cottages only adds to the small-town charm, and when it comes to rentals, Ocracoke Island is essentially an ideal vacation destination for small families and couples, as opposed to large family gatherings and reunions.
The cottages themselves can range from historic turn-of-the-20th century structures to new construction, and may feature a shaded screened porch or deck to relax in the afternoon and evening saltwater breezes. Kitchens, cozy living areas, and inviting bedrooms all come standard, and visitors who are renting a smaller Ocracoke Island cottage are often surprised at how many amenities can be fit into such a small space.
Above all else, Ocracoke Island visitors are advised to book early, especially for the prime summer weeks and for waterfront accommodations, as with limited space, the vacation rentals tend to full up quickly. Check with local property management companies, or vacation rental by owner websites, to see what cottages and accommodations are available that fit your aspirations of the perfectly quiet and enjoyable retreat.
Benefits of Ocracoke Vacation Rentals
The benefits of an Ocracoke vacation rental are hard to define, as they are just as unique as the vacationers who choose to drop anchor at this small soundside town. For some folks, an Ocracoke vacation rental is close to all the hustle and bustle of a thriving yet small portside community, complete with access to some of the region's best art galleries and restaurants. For others, an Ocracoke vacation rental ensures a place to rest in between trips to one of the most revered shorelines along the Outer Banks, located just a 10-15 minutes' drive away.
Regardless of your expectations, an Ocracoke vacation rental is ideal for visitors who want to vacation in a remote coastal area with its own unique charm, drive to beaches that are world-renowned, and enjoy walking-distance access to a cluster of attractions, activities and dining options that are located all around the town.
As an added bonus, visitors who stay for a week on Ocracoke in an Ocracoke vacation rental will enjoy ample time to simply lean back and relax. The accommodations in this area are designed for lazy afternoons or evenings on a shaded porch, just thinking about nothing in particular, and enjoying the open water views or the occasional street traffic. Visitors who want to truly unwind, and disconnect from the rest of the world, will find a weeklong stay in Ocracoke Island a breath of fresh air. Miles away from the rest of the mainland, and from the rest of the Outer Banks for that matter, the vacation rentals on Ocracoke Island are secluded little paradises that are open to anyone with a week or two of relaxation time to spare.
Considerations of Ocracoke Vacation Rentals
The drawback to Ocracoke vacation rentals are their relative location. Ocracoke Island can only be accessed via a ferry ride, either from Swan Quarter or Cedar Island on the mainland, or from the free ferry that crosses over on an half hour or hourly basis across Hatteras Inlet.
There are no national chain or large box stores whatsoever, including grocery stores, pharmacies, hardware stores, and other services that are commonly found along the Outer Banks, and as such, supplies are somewhat limited. While there are several grocery stores that carry all the staples from paper towels to vegetarian baked beans, visitors who anticipate the need for a large number of supplies should consider stopping at a chain grocery store before arriving. One is located in Avon on Hatteras Island, and there are several on the mainland close to the Cedar Island and Swan Quarter crossings. (Bring coolers for frozen goods, as both of these ferry runs from the mainland are about 2.5 hours long.)
Other than the simple absence of a couple modern day conveniences, however, Ocracoke has virtually everything a visitor could possibly need for a great vacation. There are sandwich shops and fine dining establishments, pizza places and even a well-reviewed Thai take-out place, and everything in between from DVD rentals to kayak tours across the harbor.
While brand new visitors may at first feel limited by the number of services and amenities a four-square-mile vacation destination that is separated from the rest of the world in all directions by water can provide, it soon becomes clear that Ocracoke Island has virtually everything a visitor could need, from bait and tackle to used paperbacks, and all a visitor has to do is relax and sink back into the island style life.
Tips and Tricks for Ocracoke Vacation Rentals
- While many vacation rentals are available throughout the year, homes and cottages that are waterfront tend to fill up quickly, especially if they provide exceptional access to the Pamlico Sound or Ocracoke's Salver Lake Harbor. In any case, there are a limited number of vacation rentals available on Ocracoke Island, so visitors with an exact arrival date or criteria for accommodations should book as early as possible, and at best, a year in advance. The good news is the further away from your arrival date that you book, the more time you have to plan for and look forward to your Ocracoke vacation.
- Keep an eye out for A/C capabilities when renting an Ocracoke vacation rental. While most homes and cottages certainly have A/C, some cottages may have central heating and air while others may have a wall unit or two to cool down the essential areas of the house. If you're cold natured, and need a completely cool space, especially in the summer months, don't be afraid to call your vacation rental company to confirm your potential vacation rental can do the job.
- Ocracoke Island visitors don't have to own a 4WD vehicle to enjoy the beaches. There are a half dozen paved parking areas located throughout the 13 mile stretch of shoreline in between the village and Hatteras Inlet, including a lifeguarded beach, and several parking areas with public bathrooms and / or outdoor showers. On Ocracoke Island, none of these beaches are ever exceptionally crowded, and for a stretch of sand that is completely deserted, visitors always have the option to simply pull off of any stretch of NC Highway 12 to explore a new region of shoreline. Just be sure the area where you pull your vehicle over is somewhat hard and packed down, to ensure you don't get stuck in thick sand that and borders the side of the road.
- On Ocracoke Island, getting there is half the fun. The ferries from the mainland are long but relaxing portions of a road trip that require no driving, and allows everyone in the family to get out of the car, stretch their legs, and enjoy the open Pamlico Sound views. For visitors arriving from Hatteras Island, the main highway that winds through the region, NC Highway 12, is generally a stress-free two lane drive that passes through some of Hatteras Island's most scenic areas before arriving at the Hatteras / Ocracoke ferry docks, and a subsequent and quick 40 minute free ferry ride. Either way, while extra driving and planning is certainly involved, the trip is just as fun as the destination, and visitors will enjoy a few miles of wide open scenery to help them get into a vacation state of mind.
- Speaking of ferries, visitors who are renting a weekly Ocracoke vacation rental, and who plan on accessing the island from the mainland, should be sure and book their reservations well in advance. The Cedar Island and Swan Quarter routes generally run between 2-6 times a day from both sides, depending on the time of year, so reservations are encouraged, especially during the prime summer weeks when many visitors may be itching to hit Ocracoke Island. Reservations can be made easily online at http://www.ncdot.gov/ferry/ or by calling 1-800-BY-FERRY.
The vacation rentals on Ocracoke Island are as diverse and quirky as the long-time vacationers who call them their home away from home. Serving as a private oasis in a destination that's almost literally off the map, these properties can range from quiet 1 bedroom condos and cottages to extensive 6 bedroom estates with all the bells and whistles of a typical luxury Outer Banks vacation rental.
The real draw for most frequent Ocracoke Island vacationers is the joy of staying in a location so remote that it can only be accessed by a boat or state-run ferry, and delving into a culture that has been separated from the mainland for thousands of years. In addition, an Ocracoke Island vacation rental can be the perfect excuse to fall off the grid altogether for a spell, relax, and enjoy the easy-going pace of living on island time. On Ocracoke, vacationing and island time isn't just a marketing phrase, it is a way of life, and frequent visitors are happy to climb on board and enjoy the rewards of sitting back, hanging out on the beaches, and essentially doing nothing.