Hatteras & Ocracoke Islands, NC  - Vacation Travel Guide

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Hatteras & Ocracoke Area Features

Hatteras Village

As one of the easternmost points on the East Coast, Hatteras Island appears to be quite remote. Its namesake village, Hatteras Village, is on the southernmost tip of the island and is seemingly far from anything. However, this historic little town is quite charming and definitely worth the trek to visit. It is bordered by the sound to the west and the Atlantic Ocean to the east with many spots to explore in between. 

For what appears to be a speck on a world map, the village has an impressive local, state, national and even global history. And the culture is seasoned with sea salt, folklore, and a distinctive friendliness.

From the early Algonquian-speaking Native Americans who were known to come to the island for seafood in early times to current-day folk traveling the coastal highway, visitors have been coming to the island for centuries. The nearby waters provide countless activities including swimming in the waves, windsurfing, kayaking, surfing, and fishing. On land, vacationers can dine on fresh seafood, or visit shops and cultural hot spots. Hatteras Village welcomes its visitors who are also the lifeblood of the community and the entire island. Despite its isolation, Hatteras has everything you need to have a true vacation.

To find the island, all you have to do is drive straight, if you can call meandering NC Hwy. 12 “straight.” From Nags Head, you pass through six towns: Rodanthe, Waves, Salvo, Avon, Buxton and Frisco, before entering Hatteras Village. It’s a scenic hour-and-twenty-minute drive from Nags Head and gives you time to shed all your cares.

There are many ways to enjoy Hatteras, but knowing its history will enrich your experience. As mentioned earlier, Native Americans resided, at least part time, on the island and enjoyed a diet rich in oysters and clams. European explorers stopped at the island in the 1500s. Permanent residents claimed Hatteras as home by the 1700s. In the mid-1800s, Hatteras was the site of the first Union-won battle in the Civil War and first safe haven for African Americans in North Carolina. The World War II Battle of the Atlantic’s history is particularly riveting as is the village’s ties to the sinking of the famed Titanic.

The island’s heroes, its surfmen, stand out for their amazing acts of heroism—rescuing sailors stranded in stormy seas. With thousands of ships sinking off the coast due to weather, dangerous shoals, human error and war, the life-savers put their lives on the line regularly. Visitors gain in-depth knowledge of the area’s history by visiting the Graveyard of the Atlantic Museum, located just past the ferry docks. The museum features permanent and changing exhibits as well as year-round programming that bring the island’s illustrious history to life. History has also affected the actual look and feel of the island, with a number of village homes dating from the late 1800s to 1920. The Clifford and Maggie Wade house was fitted with beaded board sheathing and a bedroom door taken from shipwrecks. And twenty-six aging cemeteries can be found within the village, although some are on private property.

The village’s tradition of fishing is alive and well today, with popular island activities including dipping a line in near shore or offshore waters. Located where the Gulf Stream and Labrador currents converge and the Continental Shelf drops off, the island waters teem with meat and sport fish. Proof of world-class fishing, a trophy 810-pound blue marlin caught in 1962 can be seen in an outdoor case outside the village’s library. Whether novice or expert, you’ll find just the right fishing trip in Hatteras Village. No matter which trip you choose, half-day inshore, full-day offshore or a headboat trip, everything is provided, and you’ll fish with some of the most experienced captains and mates in the profession.

Headboats offer a relaxing family-friendly experience that is a perfect way to introduce newbies to the art of fishing. If the water calls you but fishing doesn’t, try an evening cruise in search of dolphins or even a pirate-themed sailing adventure. The marinas can fill you in on all the choices.

Visitors also spend relaxing hours moving from a variety of comfortable modern-day accommodations to the beaches to enjoy shelling, swimming, surfing world-class waves, or trying out any of the many watersports available on the island. You can bring your own equipment or rent what you need at any of the island’s sport-outfitting shops.

Has the ocean air and all this activity stirred up an appetite? Fuel up at island eateries on everything from Outer Banks-style seafood to fresh wraps and deli sandwiches, great coffee and pastries, and Hatteras-style clam chowder! The fixings for a seaside picnic can be ordered as take-out or gathered at one of several island markets. You can also choose fresh fish at the seafood market and veggies and fruit at the local produce stand to prepare at your rental cottage. There are plenty of mom-and-pop shops where you can pick up everything from fine wine and chocolates to bait and tackle for hooking your own meal.

Shopping is an experience all its own in Hatteras Village. Be prepared to discover fine art, handcrafted jewelry, decoys, nautical décor, casual clothing and everything you need for a full and satisfying beach vacation. Don’t overlook the markets for a souvenir such as homemade fig preserves, saltwater taffy and even an island-inspired puzzle.

Events play a role in island life, and checking the events section of this guide will help you discover year-round happenings not to be missed, such as Day at the Docks, the Hatteras Island Storytelling Festival, and many programs offered through the area’s nonprofit and commercial businesses. From art lessons to seafood cooking demonstrations, the culture of the island is yours to explore.

Millions of visitors flock to the island annually—some new, some repeat guests. One thing they all have in common: They fall in love with Hatteras Island and its village, and quickly claim it as their own. Always know that you are welcome in this seaside village, with a pole or a fine meal of fresh fish waiting for you!

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