by Judith Bailey on the Hidden Gem of Ocracoke NC
Even locals of the Outer Banks, NC sometimes want to get away and those of us who live on the northern beaches often make the trek down to Ocracoke Island for a nice weekend trip.
The ferry is truly cheap thrills, or actually, free thrills. Where else can you walk around on the upper deck to view the islands of the inlet while your car is being towed along?
It is a great experience, all by itself. Some people are tempted just to drive down, take a ferry, turn around and get back on another ferry -- and do that all day long (ha, ha).
But Ocracoke Village is worth seeing, so keep going. On the way to town is the wild pony pen. I would have given you a picture of that but twenty mosquitoes mobbed me when I got out, so I said a quick hello to the ponies and jumped back in the car. You can drive around and see the village in about five minutes but that takes all the fun out of it and the streets are very congested so this is not recommended. The best plan is to rent a bicycle and travel around to the sites. Or, if you are really fit, walking works, too. I opted for the bike as I like to cycle anyway. There are several bike rental places.
I always park near the Cedar Island ferry dock opposite Berkley Manor and I picked the bike rental nearest the parking lot. Silver Lake is not really a lake -- it's a beautiful little bay off the sound, but it's a pretty name for a prettier place. And you can use the "lake" to orient yourself in your travels. You can see the lighthouse from the ferry dock and by hugging the "lake" on the side streets find it easily. After that, a must-see is Howard Street. It is a SLOW or NO vehicle pathway best walked to be appreciated.
At the end of it is the Village Craftsmen store, a good place to round up treasures for the folks back home.
Also interesting to visit is the British Cemetery, a little bit of England (literally) here in the US, commemorated when British seamen were killed during WWII.
And speaking of history, Ocracoke NC has lots of it. From the earliest days, this little island has always been an important place. Native Americans called it Wococon, or "Sacred, Powerful," in Algonquin.
It was home to families whose menfolk were called "pilots," who steered large freight vessels through the treacherous inlet and were paid for their insider knowledge. George Washington commissioned the lighthouse that is still a beacon to sailors.
In the early 1700's (for about a year) Edward Teach, aka Blackbeard, terrorized the sea lanes until local residents got fed up and requested his capture.
Wild ponies and free roaming livestock were a feature of early settlement and gave rise to the many picket fences all over town. They weren't for keeping animals in, they were for keeping animals out. Many remain, especially down Howard Street and give an old-time Victorian feel to the place.
Visitors to our northern Banks are always looking for the beach which always mystifies the locals since our island is only a mile wide.
On Ocracoke Island it is even more difficult to locate since the signs are small. The only clue I had was a picture of someone swimming. Be careful to observe National Park signs as some areas are restricted to preserve bird and turtle nests. In previous days the beach was famous for its width but has been greatly reduced by erosion.
Ocracoke NC can be very crowded during season so fall is the best time to make the journey. You may think you have arrived at the edge of the world but you haven't gone that far -- Ocracoke NC is just a world all its own.
A good place to eat is Jason's Restaurant near the Post Office. The prices are reasonable and there is something for everyone. It is on Irvin Garrish Highway on the way into town. Call ahead for hours of operation.