Ocracoke Island, NC: Pirates, Ponies & Pubs

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Usually when we sit down to write a post about a destination or experience, it just all falls out word after word, but trying to put into words and explain to you the essence of Ocracoke Island without you having actually traveled there yourselves, feels like an impossible task.

The thing is Ocracoke is just a wonderful place, you don’t want to do it an injustice with wimpy words and sad adjectives. We’ll do our best, but this is your disclaimer: if you want a secluded destination, for solitude, sunshine, and relaxation put Ocracoke on your to- visit list. It’s just perfect!

Getting Here:

Wether you come from the North or you come from the South there is ONLY one way to get to Ocracoke and that’s by boat. Yep, you heard that right! No bridges or roads to this island just daily ferry service to get you, your car, your bikes or any thing else you’d like to bring along, across the wide water and onto this secluded bit of wonderfulness!

Coming from the North the ferry terminal at Hatteras Village, provides free service to Ocracoke. As this is a free service, ferry times cannot be reserved. During the busy summer season ferries to and from this terminal fill up fast, so get in line early and be prepared to wait!

Coming from the South you have two ferry options that will take you to Ocracoke, you can either access the terminals at Cedar Island or Swan Quarter. Both of these departure locations charge a nominal fee to get you across to the Island. The good news is these are both reservable ferries ( reservations highly recommended).  These rides are a good bit longer then the ride from Hatteras to Ocracoke, so make sure you bring some reading material or a card game to pass the time!

NC Ferry Schedules 

Stay:

There is a multitude of adorable bed and breakfasts, inns, and hotels on Ocracoke, but in classic Venture Wild style we of course always prefer the campground. There are several available on the Island but in our honest unpaid opinions the sites managed by the National Parks are the best especially if you’re traveling on a budget.

NPS campground sites on Ocracoke will cost you $28 per night ($14 for access pass holders), and are situated just behind the dunes, giving you quick easy walking access to the ocean at anytime you please.  The downside is that compared to other campsites, sites are rather close to each other, and the campground itself is a bit far from the village, but easily manageable by bicycle. The only other word of caution, is that showers here are cold water only, fine on a hot summer’s day, just worth being forewarned about!

Like all things on this tiny Island space is limited, so be sure to make your overnight accommodations well in advance of your visit to avoid any unnecessary stress! NPS reservations can be made here.

Play:

Its probably hard to imagine that an Island that is only 16 miles long can have as much to do and to be done on it as Ocracoke but you won’t find yourself struggling to pass the hours on this tiny little hamlet.

Pirates– One of history’s most legendary pirates of all time plundered and pillaged in the waters surrounding Ocracoke during the Golden Age of Piracy.  To this day the Island still hold remnants of its practical history with ‘Teach’s Hole” Inlet, named so for Edward Teach, better known by many as Blackbeard.

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Ponies– If pirates weren’t exciting enough, the island is also home to a herd of wild “Banker” ponies; named so for the Outer Banks which they inhabit. These ponies are believed to be the descendants of equine survivors of shipwrecks in the late 1500’s. As the Ocracoke’s human population grew, the safety of the ponies and their impact on the island’s ecosystems became a great concern and in the 1950’s they were corralled and now reside on a protected portion of acreage maintained by the Park Service.

 

Lighthouses- On an tiny island jutting out towards the Atlantic Ocean, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that you’d find a lighthouse here. In fact the Ocracoke Island Light is the second oldest functioning lighthouse in the United States, dating back to 1823. Unfortunately the light is not climbable but the grounds can be visited at any time.

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Explore by Bike– This tiny little island is the perfect place to pack the car keys away and stretch your bike riding muscles. Almost all of the island is easily accessible by bicycle, and is the ideal way to wander the village. The artsy local vibe you’ll find in all the shops, will inspire you and leave you in awe, of the amazing talents of the inhabitants of this incredible island!

There are lots of location for bike rentals across the island, or bring your own! Walk ons for bikes are free of charge for ferry goers no mater which direction you travel from!

Pubs & Grub:

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Usually, with an island this small with such limited access when it comes to food choices it’s a cross your fingers and hope for the best sort of situation. But like all things on Ocracoke the restaurant choices, and varieties will surprise, and delight you!

Howard’s Pub– This is THE classic Ocracoke dining experience. Let’s be frank, this is not going to be a James Beard award winning chef prepared meal, what it is going to be is a super fun atmosphere, ice cold beers, and portion sizes to feed hungry island explorers. Everyone on the Outer Banks knows Howard’s Pub, and its very likely that if you ask any local where to eat on the Island they’ll tell you Howards.

The Magic Bean– We stumbled on this awesome little coffee shop purely by accident and holy moly are we glad we did. Serving up delicious steaming cups of organic responsibly sourced coffee, as well as smoothies, the Magic Bean is the absolute best place on the island for a cup of joe. This quaint little cafe also doubles as a local style think tank, and you’re sure to run into some friendly local faces while you’re there!

More Info…

The Ocrafolk Festival takes place every year in early June, and is without a doubt probably one of the very best small festivals we have ever attended. With a great variety of artisans, and performers, all gathered together to celebrate are and folk culture, if you’re trying to figure out the best time to visit, this is it!

Have you been to your own little hidden away island getaway? Share away!!

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