Check out our list of the best things to do in Ocracoke. For a scenic tour of the soundside that leads to the Pamlico Sound, head to the Hammock Hills Nature Trail. This three quarter mile trail is located on NC Highway 12, just across the street from the National Park Service's Ocracoke Campground, … (More)
Learn about the history, geography, population, and area claims to fame with this list of fun facts and trivia. Ocracoke Islands is roughly 13 miles long, but the village of Ocracoke itself is just 4 square miles in area, and is located on the southern edge of the island. Ocracoke is bordered to the west by the Pamlico Sound and to the east by the Atlantic Ocean.… (More)
No need for a rainy day to dampen the fun on Ocracoke Island. These rainy day activities will ensure that vacationers of all ages will have a blast without the beach. Enjoy a little local education on the southern Outer Banks' history and culture with these unique sites on Ocracoke and Hatteras Islands.… (More)
There may not be any major amusement parks or shopping malls on Ocracoke Island, but kids seem to have no problem staying entertained. On your next Ocracoke Island vacation, be sure and visit these fun, educational and altogether engaging kid-friendly Ocracoke activities and destinations.… (More)
The Ocracoke Wild Horses, or "Banker Ponies" are easily Ocracoke's oldest residents, and have been plodding along the island for the last few hundred years. These famed horses are arguably one of the island's top attractions, and can be easily admired by any Ocracoke visitor via a quick trip to the National Park Service's Ocracoke Pony Pen.… (More)
Ocracoke's long history has some interesting highlights, but none of the local legends and legacies are as far-reaching or as popular as the island's local pirates. As the temporary home to a crew of notorious buccaneers, including Blackbeard himself, Ocracoke is the destination of choice for pirate lovers who want to explore the stomping grounds of the island's most notorious residents.… (More)
Ocracoke is separated from the rest of the world by the 20+ mile wide Pamlico Sound, which means that the only way to access the island is via a personal vessel, or more commonly, by a North Carolina State Ferry. … (More)
All of the beaches along Ocracoke Island are part of the Cape Hatteras National Seashore, and as such, National Park Service (NPS) rules and regulations apply to every stretch of shoreline. Keep these following rules, regulations and NPS ordinances in mind to ensure a great day at the beach.… (More)
Thanks to a thriving and active local community, visitors will find plenty to do during their Ocracoke Island stay. Check out these annual events that are held throughout the year, and are sure to add an extra boost of fun to an Ocracoke vacation.… (More)
Cedar Island is the closest mainland region to Ocracoke Island, and serves as the launching point for many Ocracoke visitors who arrive on the Outer Banks from the south, via the Cedar Island / Ocracoke Ferry. … (More)
Ocracoke has a unique history that revolves around pirates, shipwrecks, and offshore battles. Occupied for hundreds of years, this now booming tourism destination has deep roots that run parallel to the history of the country.… (More)
The Ocracoke Island Real Estate market is unique in that while other regions of the Outer Banks experienced a definite "bubble burst" in the latter 2000s, Ocracoke prices remained relatively the same. The reason for this is simple - with just 4 square miles of area to build on, there were only so many properties for sale at any given time. Coupled with the fact that Ocracoke remains one of the most popular destinations for Outer Banks visitors, it's easy to see why this real estate market has steadily risen with its reputation as one of the best beaches on the East Coast.… (More)
Fishing drives Ocracoke Island's off-season tourism economy, as the beaches are world renowned for excellent surf fishing. Because the island is just 12 miles away from the Gulf Stream, anglers will have easy access to big game offshore catches as well.… (More)
The Ocracoke Island Lighthouse may not be the most imposing of the Outer Banks lighthouses, but as North Carolina's oldest lighthouse in operation, (and the second oldest in the United States), it is certainly one of the most beloved. At just 65' ft. tall, it is by far the smallest lighthouse on the Outer Banks, but it still towers over the 4 square miles of Ocracoke Village, and its beacon can be spotted up to 14 miles into the Pamlico Sound and the Atlantic Ocean.… (More)
The Ocracoke Harbor is easily the busiest quarter mile stretch of Ocracoke Island. Consisting of a small, lagoon-like section of saltwater, and lined by a semi-circle of docks, restaurants, shops, marinas and motels, visitors will find that any and all of the activities on Ocracoke Island can most certainly be found harbor front.… (More)
The Pamlico Sound is literally one of the biggest attractions on the Outer Banks, second only to the miles of shoreline and cool blue waves of the Atlantic Ocean. Stretching from the borders of Manteo and the Dare County Mainland all the way to Portsmouth Island and the Cape Lookout National Seashore, virtually all southern Outer Banks visitors will catch a glimpse of the Pamlico Sound at some point during their OBX vacation.… (More)
Springer's Point is a gorgeous nature preserve with a legendary past. Populated for centuries, and open to the public, this small parcel of Ocracoke Island is one of the last undeveloped sections of land on the island, and thanks to extensive efforts by the Coastal Land Trust, will forever remain that way.… (More)
Only a handful of Outer Banks visitors even make the long and arduous trek to Portsmouth Island, but those who do tend to return year after year, and with good reason. This small southern Outer Banks barrier island, located just south of Ocracoke Island on the other side of Ocracoke Inlet, is a rustic vacationer's paradise with unlimited camping options, incredible fishing, and some of the best shelling on the East Coast.… (More)
Ocracoke Inlet is located at the southern edge of the Outer Banks, separating Ocracoke Island from Portsmouth Island and its Cape Lookout National Seashore neighbors. One of the oldest inlets on the entire coast of North Carolina, Ocracoke Inlet is a renowned destination for fishermen, beachcombers, birders, nature lovers, and plain old beach lovers.… (More)
A stay in Ocracoke is a true departure from the real world, as the small island comprises of 13 miles of undeveloped beaches that border a small village that's miles away from the rest of the Outer Banks.
Considered a beach paradise by both national experts and its longtime fans, Ocracoke is truly the Outer Banks destination of choice for beach-goers who want to literally "get away from it all."
A Quick Overview of Ocracoke
Because Ocracoke Islands is literally separated from the rest of the Outer Banks and the North Carolina region, it has a unique culture all its own.
The 13 mile long island is primarily comprised of desolate oceanfront shorelines and wooded soundside regions. The majority of the island is undeveloped, and is under the management of the Cape Hatteras National Seashore. NC Highway 12 runs along the length of the island, connecting the Hatteras Island ferry terminal with the Ocracoke Village ferry terminals to Cedar Island and Swanquarter.
Because of this, day-tippers and beach lovers can typically pick a parking lot or spot along the highway, cross a well-worn sandy path, and access a stretch of beach that may be completely deserted.
Nature trails are found along the soundside at marked parking areas, and this undeveloped stretch of shoreline has a lifeguarded beach, a National Park Service (NPS) campground, and not much else. This environment is fine with longtime visitors who appreciate the solitude, the fishing, and the beachcombing that only a remote island like Ocracoke can provide.
Ocracoke Village is strikingly different than the rest of the island, as it is home to the area's concentration of motels, vacation rental homes, shops and restaurants, and historic sites.
The small village circles around the Ocracoke Harbor and is always bustling in the summer months, when day-trippers from the mainland and the rest of the Outer Banks take the ferry to the island for a full day of sightseeing. The village is home to the famous, white Ocracoke Lighthouse, one of the oldest lighthouses in the Outer Banks, as well as a Visitors Center, a historic British Cemetery and a small history museum.
In addition, visitors will find a collection of seasonally-opened watersports businesses, fishing charters, and waterfront pubs and eateries overlooking the harbor. Art galleries are abundant in the region, as are Bohemian boutiques, surf shops, and residential streets lined with vacation rental cottages and historic residences.
The overall atmosphere is noticeably distinctive from any other Outer Banks region, and lends to its overall charm. Comically known as the place that OBX locals go to vacation, the overall aesthetic is relaxed, unique, and completely appreciative of the surrounding salty environment.
How did Ocracoke get its name?
New visitors are quickly identified by how they pronounce Ocracoke. The correct pronunciation is "Oh-Crah-Coke," and it's a moniker that's been in place for centuries.
The authentic origins of Ocracoke have faded with time, but many folks believe that the name originated, or was deviated from, the original Native Americans who lived on the island, the Wokokon. Despite their long residence on the island, little is known about these original Ocracoke locals, and even their name has produced multiple spellings and pronunciations.
These Native Americans have been referred to as the "Woccocock," "Woccocon," or "Wococon," and later as "Oakacock" and "Okercock." Many historians believe the name eventually devolved into Ocracoke, which clearly stuck as the title for the region.
Of course, there are additional, more colorful explanations for this unique name. A favorite background story among locals and visitors is connected to the infamous Blackbeard the Pirate himself.
Legend has it that during Blackbeard's final battle with the authorities, Blackbeard began to cry "O Crow Cock, O Crow Cock!" from the helm of his ship. As the story goes, Blackbeard was eager for day to break so the ensuing fight between the pirate and the British Navy ships, led by Capt. Robert Maynard, could begin. The fight would inevitably be Blackbeard's last stand, and he would die just off the coast of Ocracoke Village, but the legend persisted that this final rallying cry would inevitably become the small island's official name.
Regardless of origin, Ocracoke is unique from the ground up. From its distinctive name to its distinctive culture that has been carved from centuries of being separated from the rest of the world, Ocracoke remains one of the last wild regions of the coastal North Carolina shoreline.