Ocracoke Island, North Carolina
Beautiful Beach on the Lower Outer Banks
Ferry in to Ocracoke
Four Wheeling of the Island
We enjoy outdoorsy vacations and especially on the water. This year we made a return trip to Cedar Island which is a very remote island behind Ocracoke Island – the lower island on the Outer Banks of North Carolina.
Cedar Island is quieter and less expensive, and the ferry for Ocracoke pulls out right from the village on Cedar Island. We hang out on Cedar Island – fishing, crabbing, clamming, and grilling – and then take trips during the day.
Ferry Over for Some Fun
Ocracoke is a fabulous day trip. Well, it would be a terrific place to stay. Ocracoke beach is rated as one of the nicest in the nation. It’s pretty pricey to stay on Ocracoke though, so we do the day trip option. You can also ferry over to Ocracoke from Hattaras Island to the north.
The only way to get to Ocracoke is by ferry (unless you have a boat – of course). It’s only a 40 minute ride from Hattaras with hourly rides. From Cedar Island it takes 2.5 hours with limited trips over. They were doing four runs this summer. If you miss the last one out, you’re there for the night. So, check the schedule and watch the time.
I'd also suggest taking a board game especially if you're taking the longer ride from Cedar Island. Last time we took Yahtzee. This time it was Scrabble. Books would be fine as well, but board games are interactive and fun with families. The inside of the ferry is air conditioned, and they have tables where you put your games out and play.
Lodging on Ocracoke
Coming in from Cedar Island, you dock right in the village of Ocracoke. From Hattaras you enter the protected park land. You can camp along the beach above the village or rent a motel room or a beach house. Renting a house is the most fun, because you can grill and have all the perks of home plus some space. The motels are nice too, and you can get out and stay busy.
Getting Around the Island
You can ferry your car over to Ocracoke. The roads are fine. In the village, drive slow and careful. There are a lot of people walking and riding bikes in the summer.
If you want to get a better look at the island, rent a bike. They have loads of bicycles for rent including tandem bikes and ones that have a pull behind for small kids.
What to See and Do
The village of Ocracoke is beautiful and has many little shops. You can see wonderful island crafts and art or stop by a coffee shop or get ice cream or shaved ice. These are little shops with friendly owners and employees. Don’t expect Wal-Mart – thank goodness.
There are several small restaurants on the island – many featuring seafood. I’ve not had a bad meal on Ocracoke. But I would suggest taking one meal at Jolly Roger. It’s right on the pier. You eat outside and watch the boats. It’s a fun spot. The t-shirts are cute at Jolly Roger, but you go across the road to the motel to buy them.
The little lighthouse is right in the village. It’s the shortest on the east coast at around 75 feet. It’s solid white. There are only a couple of parking spots, but it only take a few minutes to walk up and check out the lighthouse.
You can rent boats or take charters and go fishing. If you’ve not done much fishing or aren’t familiar with salt water fishing, that’s your best bet.
There’s also horseback riding if you enjoy seeing the island that way. You don’t have to know how to ride. They help you out on that and give you an easy-to-handle horse.
The beach is our favorite part of Ocracoke. The sand stretches on forever. The water is a pretty blue color with roaring waves (more on this trip due to a storm out farther to sea). Plus, you have it almost all to yourself if you go further down the road from the village.
You can four wheel up Ocracoke beach. There’s some talk about changing that, but it’s popular currently. You just drive along until you find a spot where you want to hang out. Park and have a wonderful private day of fun.
If you do four wheel down the beach, be sure to take a picnic. This is really isolated. If you go down the beach, you are on your own. They don’t stick beach changing houses and bathrooms out in the middle of nowhere. Go prepared. And know that you’ll end up bringing sand back with you.
To get a feel for the island, pick up a copy of the Ocracoke Observer. It’s a small, privately owned paper. Unlike most mainland newspapers, it has real personality and gives you an idea of what life is like on an island and about the interests and concerns of the islanders.
In my July (2008) issue of the Ocracoke Observer, they cover the recent festival (which was a great success), the ghosts of Ocracoke, some fundraisers, and birding. Aunt Blabby (who does a column) apparently ticked off some business owners when she talked about horse droppings and potatoes. The letters to the editor were mostly about that, and Aunt Blabby said, “I have been subjected to verbal obscenities yelled across Highway 12.” It really doesn’t get much more “small town” than that, and it certainly appears that all residents get a chance to voice their opinions in their own newspaper.
I love real hometown newspapers and enjoyed the issue I picked up. It was free too. Just look around for newspaper boxes. They're easy to find.
Be sure to get out and talk to people on Ocracoke. The locals are friendly and can give you good tips and tell you great stories.
They’ll tell you how to cook seafood too – if you ask. That’s the best way to learn in my opinion. An elderly man who ran a fish stand at Chincoteague Island taught me how to cook and grill seafood years ago. Of course, you can also come here to Yes You Can Grill and click on seafood (where I’m adding all the time). I keep things pretty simple like the fisherman and add the tips that make the difference between having a great meal and a flop.
Back to Ocracoke?
This wasn’t our first trip to Ocracoke Island, and I know it won’t be our last. It’s one of the prettiest places I’ve ever been. The atmosphere is laid back. The folks are real nice on Ocracoke Island. It really feels like a vacation when you go over to Ocracoke. You return home tired but relaxed.