Ocracoke, located in the southern most point of the Outer Banks, is the definition of seclusion. The only way to get to the island is either by one of the three daily ferries, by private boat or by plane. One ferry is free and will take you to Hatteras Island; the other two are toll ferries, located in the village, which take you to either Swan Quarter, North Carolina or Cedar Island near Atlantic, North Carolina on the mainland. The Hatteras Ferry disembarks on the northern end of the island, and Route 12 runs to the village. Ocracoke Island Airport is for small crafts only. Tourism drives the local economy, and the locals are very welcoming. The village is located on the island’s southern soundside around a small sheltered harbor called Silver Lake. A second smaller residential area is built around man-made canals called Oyster Creek.
The island is part of the Cape Hatteras National Seashore, which means all but 1,000 acres, which comprised the original village, is owned by the National Park Service. As a result, it has been able to keep its original look and feel despite the pressure from tourism. There are 16 miles of beautiful secluded beaches for you to pick your favorite spot. Staying here takes on one of three forms: rental houses, a hotel, or camping. For the campers, there are two privately owned campsites as well as one owned by the National Park Service, which have facilities for both RV’s and tents.
Fishing also plays a role in the local economy both on a commercial fishing level as well as charter boat fishing. Charter boats will take you either to the Gulf Stream and the ocean or to Pamlico Sound. In either case, you can rest assured that you will enjoy a full day of fishing. The island is also located on the eastern flyway, and the area is a haven for birdwatchers. Hunting is also permitted in season.
The village of Ocracoke was included in the National Register of Historic Places in 1990 where over 100 homes and several historic commercial buildings were included. The most famous of these structures is the Ocracoke Lighthouse, constructed in 1823. It is the oldest operating lighthouse on the east coast, and second oldest lighthouse in North America.
You will also notice that the locals have their own dialect, or brogue, which some historians believe may have its roots in Elizabethan English. On characteristic phrase is “high tide” pronounced “hoi toid”.
The island also has a rich history. It was not permanently settled until 1750 because of its remoteness. As a result, up until 1750, it was a favorite anchorage of pirates, and none more famous than Edward Teach or Thatch, but more widely known as Blackbeard the Pirate. It was here in November of 1718 in a battle in Teach’s Hole, a channel to the west of where the present day village is located, that Blackbeard met his demise.
Ocracoke is a unique experience on the Outer Banks. Whether you plan to spend the week or just take a day trip to the island from Hatteras, you will be entranced by the beauty and seclusion of the island. In addition, the historical sights and pirate history is worth the trip.