Hatteras & Ocracoke Islands, NC  - Vacation Travel Guide

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Hatteras & Ocracoke Area Features

Welcome to Ocracoke Island

It may only be accessible by boat or by air, but Ocracoke Island is a special place at the southernmost part of the Outer Banks that is definitely worth exploring. Most visitors to the island take their car onto the ferry that runs between Ocracoke and Hatteras. The ferries run often, but they can only transport so many vehicles at a time—so during the peak season, be prepared to wait to cross the Hatteras Inlet. Early or late travel is recommended to avoid high congestion. And don’t worry—the ferries almost always run until midnight. Once here, Ocracoke Island offers 12 miles of wide, tranquil beaches, quaint shopping and dining in Ocracoke Village, and stimulating folklore involving one of history’s most storied pirates. There is even a little plot of land that is leased to England. The British Cemetery honors our fallen allies who helped defend the American coast from U-boats during WWII.

The most popular residents of Ocracoke are the Banker ponies, theorized to be descendants of horses that arrived with the Spanish explorers in the 16th century. Over time, the Ocracoke Banker ponies evolved to become a breed unto themselves. They are unique in that their bone structure is different from any other breed. They were once a free-roaming herd but in the 1950s, the need to pen them became apparent for their own well-being and to prevent overgrazing. These beautiful creatures can be seen in the Pony Pen off Highway 12 on the outskirts of Ocracoke Village.

While on Ocracoke, visit the former stomping grounds of the infamous pirate, Edward Teach—better known as Blackbeard. In the early 1700s he and his crew ferociously plundered ships traversing the colonies. He was an intimidating character with a deplorable reputation who could easily scare his opponents. He anchored his ship in waters near the southern tip of the island, now known as Teach’s Hole. It has a great vantage point that served the pirates well in detecting approaching vessels. Nowadays, visitors can walk through Springer’s Point Nature Preserve and imagine themselves among the pirates that once walked this land, drinking their rum and maybe even burying their treasure.

Another glimpse of the past can be had by visiting Portsmouth Village, which lies just across the Ocracoke Inlet. It’s only accessible by taking a short ferry ride or an ATV excursion to the uninhabited Portsmouth Island. Established in the early 1700s, this little town was a bustling seaport that excelled in shipping goods throughout the Outer Banks. However, during the Civil War, many of the townspeople fled to the mainland and Portsmouth’s population declined. Those who remained worked at the United States Life-saving Station and as fishermen. However, isolation and hurricanes continually dwindled the island’s population. Now, aside from the tourists who walk its sandy paths, the little town is silent. The modest buildings and exhibits showcasing the simple, small-town life that once flourished in the area continue to captivate visitors.

After exploring the past, return to the laid-back lifestyle of Ocracoke Village. This quaint harbor town is home to eclectic shops, restaurants and activities. The village is only about a mile long, so it is really easy to get around by walking, biking or even by cruising a golf cart! Museums and exhibits are located in and around the village that are worth exploring. Stop by the Ocracoke Preservation Museum and see the Ocracoke Working Watermen’s Exhibit to learn more about the history of the island and its people. Pirate-themed gifts and stories of the notorious pirate Blackbeard can be discovered at Teach’s Hole Blackbeard Exhibit. And while in town, don’t forget to stop by the Ocracoke Lighthouse to stroll around its picturesque grounds.

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