Ocracoke Guide Sections:

Ocracoke Listings

A resident blogger writes that one the best things about Ocracoke is "the feeling of being on island time...slow and relaxed...casual and as carefree as you desire," which pretty much sums up the pace of this out-of-the-way and unique place. Some call it "heaven, "paradise" and "magical," - the "Pearl of the Outer Banks."

Horse riding along NC12 in Ocracoke

Standing apart physically and esthetically from all the other barrier islands of North Carolina's Outer Banks, Ocracoke Island is a combination of a quaint historic unincorporated village and undeveloped Cape Hatteras National Seashore.

An NCDOT ferry heads out of Ocracoke

How to get to Ocracoke

The island is accessed only by air or water, with two ferries carrying passengers from the mainland to the village, on the south sound side, and one ferry from Hatteras Island to Ocracoke's northern shore. Its physical isolation from the mainland and the rest of the Outer Banks has helped it retain the mystique and magic that surrounds its founding by ship pilots, sailors and scoundrels like Blackbeard the Pirate who lost his head in 1718 off Ocracoke's coast. Some say it was he who gave the island it's name, while waiting for dawn on that fateful day. Hoping to escape his pursuers, they say, he prayed "O Crow Cock, O Crow Cock" in vain.

Hatteras/Ocaracoke Ferry - If you're headed to Ocracoke Island from the North , you'll need to catch the ferry in Hatteras Village for a ride to the North end of Ocracoke Island. This route runs surprisingly early, late, and frequently. Lines can still be long in Summer, so plan to get to the terminal early in season. Schedules and fees are available online.

Ocracoke/Cedar Island Ferry - If you're coming in from the South, you'll find a ferry terminal at the Northeast edge of Cedar Island on NC 12. Schedules and fees are available online.

Ocracoke/Swan Quarter Ferry - If you're coming in from the West, Take 264 to the Swan Quarter ferry terminal. This ferry ride traverses the entire Pamlico sound. Schedules and fees are available online.

Ocracoke Island Airport - If you've got access to a small plane, this public-use airport is available during daylight hours.

Where to Stay in Ocracoke

Hotel space in the Ocracoke village is often limited, so you'll want to be sure to book plenty of time ahead of your trip. The island also offers camping facilities at two village campgrounds and one near the ocean run by the National Park Service.

The 65' tall Ocracoke Island Lighthouse

Ocracoke Attractions

Ocracoke Village - At the South end of Ocracoke Island encircling Silver Lake, just about everywhere you'd want to visit is accessible by bike or a short walk in Ocracoke Village. It's a great destination for those who want get away from highways and traffic, put away the car, ignore the TV and cell phone and just enjoy a lazy, laid-back vacation. But what you won't find are chains and franchises. Though the village has many restaurants, offering a variety of styles and fares, and oodles of cool, eclectic shops, all these businesses are owned and operated by residents.

Many restaurants along the shore of Silver Lake in Ocracoke

Wildlife and Wild Ponies - Ocracoke is also well-known for its wildlife attractions, which include the island's herd of ponies, believed to be descendants of Spanish Mustangs, and the many migrating birds that make the island a birdwatcher's paradise. The National Park Service in Ocracoke offers nature trails, guided walks and interpretive programs for exploring the island and includes Turtle Talks, Evening Campfires and Seashore Arts for the kids. Shell collectors and history buffs alike will want to take advantage of Ocracoke's day trips by ferry, crossing Ocracoke Inlet to now uninhabited, but intact Portsmouth Island, once the largest settlement on the Outer Banks.

Ocracoke Island Lighthouse - The Ocracoke Island Lighthouse may not be the most imposing of the Outer Banks lighthouses, but as North Carolina's oldest lighthouse in operation, (and the second oldest in the United States), it is certainly one of the most beloved. At just 65' ft. tall, it is by far the smallest lighthouse on the Outer Banks, but it still towers over the 4 square miles of Ocracoke Village, and its beacon can be spotted up to 14 miles into the Pamlico Sound and the Atlantic Ocean.

Silver Lake in the center of Ocracoke Village

Boating, Fishing, and more - There's also plenty to do for those who crave activity, with dozens of boat charters, fishing and water sports available on the lake and sound. And it's just a short drive from the village to the 16 miles of pristine seashore for sunning, surfing, swimming and surf fishing.

The Beach - If you dream of secluded beaches, look no further than Ocracoke Island. The beaches of Hatteras Island are managed by the National Park Service as part of the Cape Hatteras National Seashore. Here are some things to know about Rodanthe beach policies:

  • Pets are allowed on a leash no longer than 6ft, year-round. Pets are prohibited on designated swimming beaches. Service animals are allowed at all times.
  • Fireworks are not permitted in Ocracoke.
  • Beach fire permits are required. Print, sign and keep your paper permit with you (permits available here). From May 1 to November 15, beach bonfires are only allowed at Coquina Beach, the villages of Rodanthe, Waves, Salvo, Avon, Buxton, Frisco and Hatteras, and the Ocracoke day use area. From November 16 - April 30, Beach fires are allowed throughout the park. Fires are allowed from 6am - 10pm. An adult must be present. Fires must be on greater than 3 feet in diameter. Fires must be built and maintained below the high-tide mark and 50 feet from any vegetation. Fires cannot be left unattended, and must be extinguished upon end of use. The area must be cleaned up.
  • Beer is allowed on the beach. Wine and liquor are not officially permitted. Please drink responsibly.
  • Metal detecting is NOT allowed within National Parks.
  • There are no lifeguard stations in Ocracoke.
  • It is illegal to walk on the dunes, and it is also illegal to pick live sea oats growing on the beaches.
  • Fill in any holes you dig. Holes in the sand can be a hazard.
  • Be mindful of Noise. Most communities consider a violation of the noise ordinance to be any sound that can be heard from inside a nearby residence, and any load noise after approximately 11:00 p.m.
  • No glass on the beach. Be mindful of glass bottles. Alcohol is allowed on all beaches, but if at all possible, stick to cans and plastic to save future beach-goers from any bare foot injuries.
  • Surf fishing is allowed. A fishing license is required in North Carolina and can be obtained before your vacation via the NC Marine Fisheries and Wildlife website, or a fishing license can be purchased at most any tackle shop on the Outer Banks.
  • 4x4 Driving on the Beach - The beaches of Hatteras Island and Ocracoke Island are managed by the Cape Hatteras National Seashore. Permits are required, and can be purchased online and sent via mail, or in person at one of the following locations: Coquina Beach office, Cape Hatteras Light Station, and the Ocracoke Visitor Center. Each vehicle must have its own permit. Vehicles must be registered, licensed, insured, and have a current safety inspection if required in home state/country. Vehicles must have low-pressure tire gauge, shovel, jack and jack support board. A spare tire, first-aid kit, fire extinguisher, trash bags, flashlight and tow straps are recommended. ATV's are not permitted. Night driving is generally allowed from November 16 through April 30. See current access ramps and beach closings by visiting this page and clicking on the "daily beach access map". Obey all posted signs.

Ocracoke History

Those who love history will find a lot of it compacted into the village's 9.5 square miles. With structures dating back to the early 1700s, the village was added in 1990 to the National Register of Historic Places, with its 1823 lighthouse, several commercial buildings and over 100 historic homes included in the listing. Its surrounding waters having witnessed thousands of shipwrecks, the island's locals can tell you about building and home parts that came from some of those floundering vessels. Also of historic significance is the village's British Cemetery, the final resting place of sailors on a British boat sunk offshore by a German sub during WWII.

NC12 heading South on Ocracoke Island

Setting aside all it has to offer, says the town's official website, Ocracoke's "step-back-in-time charm" may be its most sought after attraction.

Photos of Ocracoke

      A fishing boat rides into Silver Lake in Ocracoke A relaxing sail across the wide Pamlico sound

The Lost Colony

The Lost Colony

In July of 1587, 117 English men, women, and children came ashore on Roanoke Island with a commission from Elizabeth I to establish a permanent English settlement in the New World. Just three years later in 1590, when English ships returned to bring supplies to the settlement, they found the island deserted with no sign of the colonists except the single word, “CROATOAN,” carved into the surface of an abandoned structure and the letters, “CRO,” scratched into the bark of a tree. After nearly 450 years, the mystery of what happened to the colonists remains unsolved.

Cape Hatteras National Seashore

Cape Hatteras National Seashore

Visitors to Hatteras and Ocracoke Islands will simultaneously be visiting the gorgeous Cape Hatteras National Seashore. One of the largest preserved parcels of the Outer Banks, the National Seashore stretches across 70 miles of shoreline, encompassing seven villages on Hatteras Island, and providing visitors with miles of undisturbed, scenic beaches as well as some of the prettiest natural drives on the East Coast.

Wild Horse Adventure Tours

Wild Horse Adventure Tours

Wild Horse Adventure Tours has been voted the #1 tour company in the USA by TripAdvisor. Feel the ocean breeze and taste the salty beach air as you cruise the Outer Banks beaches in our exclusive OPEN AIR, 13-passenger Hummers with one of our seasoned guides in search of the Colonial Spanish Mustangs! With the added capabilities of our custom designed open air Hummer H1s, we venture into three previously inaccessible and distinct ecosystems teeming with wildlife of all types! New exclusive rights to the Wild Horse Sanctuary in Swan Beach allow us to view the horses in their natural environment.

Ocracoke Harbor

Ocracoke Harbor

The Ocracoke Harbor is easily the busiest quarter mile stretch of Ocracoke Island. Consisting of a small, lagoon-like section of saltwater, and lined by a semi-circle of docks, restaurants, shops, marinas and motels, visitors will find that any and all of the activities on Ocracoke Island can most certainly be found harbor front.

North Beach Watersports

North Beach Watersports

Located at the beautiful Inn at Corolla Light,  family owned North Beach Water Sports is operated by a retired Coast Guard Licensed Master Captain. We provide a mix of excitement and scenery. Your mind will be captivated by the beauty that surrounds.

Coastal Provisions Oyster Bar and Wine Bar Cafe'

Coastal Provisions Oyster Bar and Wine Bar Cafe'

What began in 2006 as a gourmet market has evolved into one of the area’s top restaurants featuring an indoor and outdoor Oyster Bar, and Wine Bar with over twenty wines available by the glass. The lunch menu showcases their amazing sandwich creations of house roasted deli meats on fresh baked ciabatta bread and creative condiments, a variety of seafood tacos, and a selection of steamed or crispy fried seafood.  For dinner, choose from a great selection of small plates, fresh local seafood, prime and natural steaks, and of course their famous award-winning crabcakes.  The dining room is surrounded by their extensive wine shop selections, available at regular retail prices with no corkage fee.

Kayaking

Kayaking

Recreation in the Outer Banks centers around the water, so it's no surprise that almost every town on this stretch of North Carolina coastline, from Corolla to Ocracoke, offers kayaking tours, adventures and rentals to seasonal visitors. With so many watery avenues to explore, from small marshy canals littered with wildlife, to crushing ocean waves for extreme ocean kayakers, kayaking on the Outer Banks can cater to all types of vacationers, from novices to experts.

Donutz on a Stick

Donutz on a Stick

Stay, Play and Eat- Donuts, Ice cream and coffee treats!  Family Friendly, Duck's newest dessert shop features treats you've never tasted before!  Try their warm donutz on a stick with 35 toppings! They'll melt in your mouth!  Plus, try the 9 flavors of Tastefully Twisted soft serve.  Frozen yogurt, hand dipped and homemade ice cream flavors too.  Unique coffees and flavored-milks that will satisfy the whole family.  Mix-and-match candy and much more.  Take your picture with a 6ft Duck or show your skills on the Chalkboard Wall.  Come to Duck and bring the carnival to your mouth!

Graveyard of the Atlantic Museum

Graveyard of the Atlantic Museum

More than 2,000 shipwrecks sunk off the Coast of North Carolina in what’s called the Graveyard of the Atlantic. With all that history floating around, it was only natural to build a museum to honor and preserve the maritime culture of the Outer Banks. A state-of-the-art structure, the year round museum houses and displays artifacts, and presents a variety of exhibits and interprets the rich maritime culture that includes war, piracy, ghost ships and more. Artifacts include thoseex from the USS Monitor, which sank 16 miles off the Hatteras coast. The lobby features the stunning and original, 1854, First Order Lens from the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse. Current hibits include those on piracy and the Civil War on Hatteras Island.