Hatteras & Ocracoke Islands, NC  - Vacation Travel Guide

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Hatteras & Ocracoke Area Features

Welcome to Ocracoke Island

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. It may only be accessible by boat or by air, but it 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. Visitors may need to be prepared to wait to cross the Hatteras Inlet during the peak season, and early or late travel is recommended to avoid high congestion. But don’t worry—the ferries almost always run until midnight. Look for the new passenger ferry schedule to go online in Summer 2018.

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. Established in the early 1700s, this little town was a bustling seaport that excelled in shipping goods throughout the Outer Banks. 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. Visitors are still captivated by the modest buildings and exhibits showcasing the simple, small-town life that once flourished on the island. Getting here can be difficult since Portsmouth Island is only accessible by taking a short ferry ride or by booking an ATV/boating excursion. It’s fun to walk around this ghost town—just be sure to bring bug spray!

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 in a golf cart! Museums and exhibits worth exploring are located in and around the village. 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.

Ocracoke Fun Facts:

  • Ocracoke has a “slow down and relax” vibe. The posted speed limit in Ocracoke is 25 mph—everywhere.
  • The local dialect is considered to be extremely close to English from Revolutionary times. It is called Ocracoke Brogue.
  • With its latitude on the 35th parallel north, Ocracoke is the same distance away from the equator as desert countries such as Morocco, Algeria, and Iraq. Fortunately, Ocracoke is much greener!
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