The last island on the Outer Banks, Ocracoke Island in North Carolina is full of history, natural beauty, and untamed and raw appeal.
When we started planning our trip to Outer Banks, North Carolina we thought of sticking out to North as most of our friends suggested.
Then we started exploring the majestic barrier islands that spread about 200 miles long. The thought of driving on the thin strip of land running amidst the vast Atlantic Ocean was very inviting to change our minds.
So, we changed our itinerary and included to drive the Outer Banks Scenic Byway all the way to Ocracoke and stay there.
Related Read – 10 Best Things to do in Outer Banks, NC
OCRACOKE ISLAND IN NORTH CAROLINA
Ocracoke referred to as the ‘Pearl of Outer Banks‘ is a small historic fishing village town on Ocracoke Island which is about 15-miles long. It’s a part of the series of barrier islands of Outer Banks, North Carolina.
The island is preserved and managed by the Cape Hatteras National Seashore.
Enveloped by the Pamlico Sound (the lagoon along the North American East Coast) and the Atlantic Ocean, this remote unspoiled island creeps up on you quickly. We dare you to try not falling in love with Ocracoke 🙂
We instantly fell in love with the place. The small roads, serene beaches, breathtaking sunsets, an old lighthouse, mouth-watering food, small airport, warm and friendly people. Ocracoke would never disappoint you.
A BIT OF HISTORY OF OCRACOKE ISLAND
The history of Ocracoke is quite intriguing. It has pirates!
The pirate Edward Teach, famously known as Blackbeard once voyaged along its coast and was caught at the seaward end and beheaded in 1718.
The village flourished once the pirate was dead. And it became the recognized town in 1753.
You can read more about Ocracoke’s history here.
THINGS TO DO IN OCRACOKE
Of course, you are here to relax and rejuvenate and rushing between tourist places is the last thing you’d want to do here. Though, you can indulge in some adventure activities to keep the kids busy.
The historic town itself is an attraction. Stroll around the village to enjoy the good vibes. Start exploring the warmth of the city by renting a bike or golf cart from the hotel.
Conversely, you could just enjoy the quaint lake relaxing, sitting by the docks, watching the gulls fly.
Navigating the town with the Ocracoke Navigator’s audio tour is fun and a learning experience.
Make a stopover at the Ocracoke Lighthouse. It’s the oldest lighthouse in North Carolina and the second oldest in the USA.
The lighthouse isn’t open to the public so you can’t climb it. But can enjoy the white beauty and the mini version of the lighthouse at the entrance.
A 0.2 miles ride past the lighthouse takes you to a lovely nature preserve – Springer’s Point Preserve. It’s a perfect place for nature lovers and bird watchers to spend some peaceful and soulful time with nature while watching different species of birds.
Fishing is one of the most popular activities here. To fish on the beach, you can drive your car onto the shore that needs an Off-Road Vehicle Permit from NPS.
Purchase your permit pass from the NPS desk at Ocracoke Visitor Center.
Kids enjoy flying the kites on the beach.
If you have time and you love being out in the untamed and rough destinations, you can take a Portsmouth Island boat tour from Ocracoke to the wild and quiet island of Portsmouth. We weren’t able to get to Portsmouth because of the time limit.
When in Ocracoke, how can you miss the beaches, that are considered the best in Outer Banks? Head out with your towels, beach umbrella, chairs and a book to sun bask, build castles or walk on the cold wet sand.
The best beach is the Lifeguard beach which has restrooms, water filling stations, and ample parking space.
South Point beach is the southernmost tip of Ocracoke Island.
Last but not least, how can you not watch the sun going down into the ocean while beach vacationing. Enjoy the sunset over the Ocracoke harbor.
HOW TO GET AROUND OCRACOKE ISLAND
The best way to explore the city is on foot or you could rent a bike or golf cart.
We chose the bike with child seats.
Our kids were so excited to be sitting pillion and enjoying the views.
We steered our ways in and out of streets leisurely looking at the beautiful houses, children playing, sitting and watching the sun paint the sky with those warm colors…..just felt the breath of fresh air.
HOW TO GET TO OCRACOKE ISLAND
The only way to reach Ocracoke is by taking a ferry or small plane. We took the free ferry from Hatteras Island that got us to this beautiful island in about 45 minutes.
The North Carolina Ferry crossing is free from the Highway 12 situated along the Outer Banks and takes around an hour.
When coming from down South or west, you can take the toll ferry from Cedar Island or Swan quarter which takes about 2 ½ hours.
The ferries to and from Cedar Island and Swan Quarter run 2-3 times a day and you can make reservations in advance online.
There is a long waiting queue for the ferry from Hatteras during peak season, so plan to come about 1 hour early. Please check the ferry schedule and reservations here
You are allowed to take your car onto the ferry.
If you think Outer Banks is only for summer, think again. Read Complete Guide to Outer Banks in Winter and enjoy the offseason.
WHERE TO STAY IN OCRACOKE
When you are looking in Ocracoke for a home away from home, Ocracoke Harbor Inn is a great choice.
During our visit in spring, we booked the standard room for 1 night and enjoyed our stay. The room was comfortable and immaculate with a balcony overlooking the spectacular lake.
The room has basic amenities like coffee maker, refrigerator, hairdryer. The microwave is available in the office which can be used if required.
Wi-Fi is available in the room to remain connected which is helpful as mobile connectivity is very weak.
The staff at the office was warm and extremely helpful, sharing some interesting stories and history about the island.
In fact, one of the interesting facts we got to know was there is British soil on Ocracoke. No, it’s not a British embassy, but a cemetery where some World war II sailors put to rest.
Every year there is a ceremony where US Coastguard and British royal navy officers join to honor them.
There is complimentary continental breakfast, good for the start of the day which you can enjoy sitting on benches outside by the docks.
Relax in evenings watching the sun go down, or have fun barbecuing with friends at the grill available by the waters.
The aroma of the grilled meat, corn and veggies wafting away might be inviting to surge your appetite.
A room costs around $200 and the prices may vary by the season. You can rent a bike at the hotel for $6 per hour.
Find the best deals and special offers on beautiful places to stay in Ocracoke, NC here.
OCRACOKE RESTAURANTS – WHERE TO EAT
Ocracoke has way many good places to eat, for such a tiny and remote island. Some of our recommendations are –
Eduardo’s Taco Stand
It is said, ” Way to a man’s heart is through his stomach“. But if the food is fresh and mouthwatering, it surely will reach a woman’s heart as well. Precisely that’s what happened when we ate a scrumptious meal at this Mexican food truck – Eduardo’s taco stand in Ocracoke.
This quirky little truck is the best place to eat on Ocracoke. The menu includes Seafood, Mexican, and Fusion cuisines mostly.
If I have to define Eduardo’s, I’d say – Food Artist! Eduardo and his family are friendly and joyful people. Ask for recommendations and they are ready to help.
Food so fresh and mouth-watering that makes you crave for more. The best part is its grab-and-go aspect.
I mean if you are in a hurry to catch a ferry, can grab tacos and eat on the go. How convenient it is! And in case you have enough time in hand, sit back, relax and relish the meals at one of the picnic tables there while enjoying the views of beautiful and rustic Ocracoke Island. Isn’t it a win-win situation? 🙂
The wide menu ranging from Yummilicious burritos, tacos, quesadillas, enchiladas, nachos and much more. They even had an option of mango salsa. The food prices were reasonable.
Nice picnic tables alongside the truck is a great place to savor your meal.
Highly recommend veggie nachos – nachos topped with a handsome amount of grilled veggies, beans and melting cheese. It came along with guacamole and sour cream.
When on Ocracoke, try yummy snacks at quirky Eduardo’s Taco Truck. Kids are sure to love the food.
P.S. Eduardo’s Taco Stand only accepts cash.
Set in a lovely restored building, Dajio Restaurant has beautiful indoor as well as outdoor seating.
Their menu changes with the seasons as they believe in serving the finest food made with love and fresh local ingredients from the sea and organic backyard garden.
Try their daily specials to get the authentic feel of the place.
TIPS FOR VISITING OCRACOKE ISLAND
- The mobile connectivity is limited, although hotels and cafes have WiFi. Not having the mobile connectivity worked to our advantage as we could enjoy our laid back vacation in Ocracoke to the fullest, no tring tring.
- Don’t forget to bring insect repellent and sunscreen.
- Don’t drive on the beach without a permit. It’s a federal offense and if they seize you driving without the permit, you not only pay the fine but also feel embarrassed. Make sure to buy the permit from the visitor’s office.
It was hard to bid adieu to this picture-postcard place which now holds a special place in our hearts. We took our ferry from Ocracoke to Swan Quarter which took us 2 hours 15 minutes to come out of sight, but never out of mind.
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