Ocracoke Island is the kind of place that hardly exists anymore. Picture a totally undeveloped beach, a tiny village of unique houses and eclectic shops, and a quaint waterfront area with a charming white lighthouse. No stop lights, hardly any cars at all, no fast food, no chain stores. That’s Ocracoke.
Ocracoke Island lies south of Hatteras Island along North Carolina’s Outer Banks, and is accessible by two ferries, one for bikes and pedestrians, and one for cars. Hunter and I spent a day there when I went to pick him up from my mom’s house on Hatteras Island after his two month stay. (Our family is moving to Hatteras in five short weeks!!) After not seeing my kid for two months, a day trip to Ocracoke was a perfect trip for us to spend some time together.
We rode the high speed passenger ferry, which takes you from Hatteras Village to the harbor of Silver Lake on Ocracoke. I’m not sure why it’s called Silver Lake, since it’s not enclosed, but nonetheless, the ferry dropped us there. The trip takes about 45 minutes and the ferry itself is part of the fun. You can sit in the air conditioned cabin and enjoy the view from floor to ceiling windows or sit up top in the open air and feel the breeze. It costs $5 per person and a dollar extra if you bring your bike.
Once you arrive in Ocracoke, you are waking distance from all the action. A lot of people rent bikes or golf carts. There are far more people walking, riding bikes, and puttering around in golf carts than there are in full sized vehicles.
Just steps away from the ferry dock is the museum for Ocracoke Island, which packs a ton of history into a tiny, historical home. It’s a must see, but unfortunately it was closed due to Corona virus while we were there.
A new feature on the island is the free trolley that takes you in a big loop around the village and allows you to hop on and off at predetermined spots. We did the whole loop and then circled back around to what we wanted to see.
I’ve been to Ocracoke more times than I can count, because I grew up just north on Hatteras Island. I don’t have much interest in the tourist shops because I’m not looking for a souvenir, but there is one art gallery that is worth a look for sure. Down Creek Gallery has something in every price range and has a ton of unique coastal themed art. I like to go in and have a look even if I don’t need anything. It’s also owned by a friend of mine, so I get to say hi!
My favorite activity on Ocracoke is a visit to Springer’s Point, which is a little soundside cove with a narrow sand beach. You have to hike a short way through the maritime forest to get there, and it’s a bit off the beaten path, but Springer’s Point boasts some very unique history.
During colonial times, the most famous pirate of all, Blackbeard, used this spot as a launching pad for his plundering activities. From Springer’s Point, it’s just a hop, skip and a jump down to the inlet where he could cross into the ocean, raid a passing ship, and then slip back through the inlet and disappear into the cove. Blackbeard would eventually be killed in the sound just off of Springer’s Point at a spot called Teach’s Hole. When you’re sitting on the beach or wading in the shallow water, you can picture the Queen Anne’s Revenge and her infamous captain rocking gently at anchor just offshore.
For lunch we stopped at Eduardo’s, a taco truck with outdoor seating and amazing food. It’s a little pricy, but it’s worth it. Hunter had the tacos de asada and I had the grilled shrimp tacos. We treated ourselves to a Jarritos soft drink, something I rarely do because it’s unhealthy sugar water, but it was so refreshing on a very hot day!
We spent some time walking around the village looking at houses and little shops. Last year Hurricane Dorian devastated Ocracoke. Almost every home on the island flooded, and the island was wrecked. You can still see evidence of the destruction as you walk around the village. People are rebuilding homes and businesses, but it’s a long process.
Next up we checked out Ride The Wind surf shop in the village. Hunter picked out a hat for his souvenir and informed me that he wants a surfboard for Christmas.
By the time we headed toward the ferry dock to catch the 3 pm ferry back to Hatteras, we were hot and tired. It was in the 90’s that day and we had been walking around outside for 4 hours. Hunter was begging for ice cream, so we stopped into an ice cream shop across from Ride the Wind surf shop. Because of Corona, we had to sit outside and only got to enjoy the A/C for long enough to order. Instead of ice cream, Hunter chose a fresh squeezed orange slush.
I can’t even describe how good that slushy was. We were so hot and we had to wear our masks any time we were around other people, which just added to the feeling of sweltering. The slushy had finely chopped ice, fresh orange juice, and a hint of sweetness. Drinking it cooled us down about 10 degrees; at least that’s how it felt!
After the slushy we walked back to the ferry dock and boarded for the ride home. We didn’t do some of the more touristy things, and still had a fabulous day. If you’re ever in this area of the Outer Banks, Ocracoke is a must see. There’s nowhere like it!