Hiking/walking - 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, and features great birding and gorgeous views of the soundside maritime forest and marshes. For an in-town exploration, take a tour of the 120 acre Springer's Point Nature Preserve, which features a well-tended nature trail that winds to the sound and back.
Biking - Biking is the preferred method of transportation in Ocracoke Village, as the small streets and heavy summertime traffic makes it the fastest way to get around. Explore the historic side streets, like Howard Street that runs parallel to the harbor, or head south out of town where a lonesome bike path adjacent to NC Highway 12 can be found. Bike rentals can be found at a number of local watersports companies and at small kiosks in Ocracoke Village.
Kayaking - Silver Lake Harbor can be thick with maritime traffic, but head west off the main drag to Springer's Point, and you'll find miles of open water to explore. Kayakers can also launch on the southeastern side of the island via a small soundside beach that's adjacent to the main Visitors Center. For rentals, eco-tours and even guided sunset paddles, swing by a local watersports company like Kitty Hawk Kites or Ride the Wind Surf and Kayak.
Birding - Most of Ocracoke's best birding spots are easily located just off of NC Highway 12. Bird watchers can scope out the migrating waterfowl via the oceanside pond that's found .3 miles away from the Hatteras ferry terminal, the Hammock Hills Nature Trail across from the NPS campground, or several roadside parking areas that lead to the beach. Spring and fall are the best times to view some of the island's most unique species, including Red Knots, Sanderling, Black-bellied Plover and other waterfowl or shorebirds.
Surfing - Surfing is enjoyed virtually anywhere along the 13+ mile stretch of beaches on Ocracoke Islands, but newcomers may want to start at the seasonally Lifeguarded Beach that's found about halfway in between the village and the ferry terminal. For convenience, surfers can also obtain a 4WD Driving Permit to ride out to the shoreline and find the best waves within a few miles' radius. Local surf shops like Ride the Wind regularly offer lessons, rentals and equipment for sale
Lighthouses - The Ocracoke Island Lighthouse is the oldest of the Outer Banks lighthouse, as well as the smallest at a modest 75' feet tall. Located just west of the harborfront, the distinctive white brick lighthouse can be admired from virtually any point in town. The lighthouse is not open for climbers, but can be admired up close. A very small parking area is located next to the structure which can only accommodate a dozen vehicles at most, so it's best to visit this historic site on foot or on bicycle.
Fishing - Fishing is arguably Ocracoke's favorite pastime, and a number of great catches can be reeled in just off the beach. Purchase a National Park Service beach driving permit and head to the inlets, (Ocracoke Inlet to the south and Hatteras Inlet to the north), for the best surf fishing conditions. Visitors should note that the inlet beaches and beach access ramps may be seasonally closed due to bird nesting seasons.
Beaches - Ocracoke's beaches are nationally famous and even earned a number #1 spot on Dr. Beach's annual Best Beaches in America list. There are public parking areas throughout the shoreline in between the Hatteras Ferry Terminal and Ocracoke Village, including a seasonal lifeguarded beach with restrooms and showers. There are also five seasonally-opened beach access ramps for 4WD vehicles.
Wildlife viewing - Visitors can spot the Ocracoke Wild Horses at the Ocracoke Pony Pen located just a few miles south of the Hatteras Ferry Terminal. The Hammock Hills Nature Trail on NC Highway 12, across from the NPS campground, is also a good spot for viewing maritime woods mammals and marshy amphibians, crustaceans and reptiles. In the village, Springer's Point Preserve is an easy-to-access and diverse wildlife haven where small lizards called anoles can be spotted around every corner.
Swimming - Many of Ocracoke's local hotels and motels have outdoor swimming pools for guests, but visitors will want to head to the ocean for a refreshing dip in miles of open water. The ocean waters are generally warm from May through October. Springer's Point Preserve also has a small soundside beach that's a little rocky, but has shallow, gentle waters, which makes it ideal for small children.
Camping - There are three campgrounds on Ocracoke Island. The National Park Service campground is located on the outskirts of the town limits and offers 136 sites that are clustered close to the oceanfront. In town, visitors can stay at the Beachcomber Campground and Mart, which is adjacent to the Beachcomber convenience store, or Teeter's Campground, which is close to the harborfront. Both of these private campgrounds offer recreational vehicle sites and hook-ups, and are within walking distance of Ocracoke Village's attractions.
Stand Up Paddleboarding - Stand up paddle boarding can be effortlessly enjoyed in the calm Pamlico Sound waters just off of Silver Lake Harbor, or along the empty shorelines along NC Highway 12. Visitors will find SUP rentals, equipment and even lessons from local watersports companies like Ride the Wind Surf Shop and Kayak, and Kitty Hawk Kites. A good spot to launch is along the water's edge of Springer's Point Nature Preserve, or via the soundside beach next to the Visitors Center.
Golf - There are no golf courses on Ocracoke Island, and the closest golf course is located in Nags Head, which is about 60 miles and a ferry ride away. With that being said, golf carts are gaining popularity in Ocracoke for getting around town, and rentals are available at kiosks and beach stores throughout the villages.
Scenic spots - Springer's Point Preserve in Ocracoke Village and the Hammock Hills Nature Trail just north of town are both beautiful spots for admiring the local maritime forest and catching a glimpse of the sound. Silver Lake Harbor can't be beat for a romantic sunset, and there are several restaurants and pubs along the waterfront that offer front-row views. For an incredible view of the open waters and neighboring Hatteras and Portsmouth Islands, head to the two inlets via a 4WD vehicle and enjoy the panoramic scene.
Boating - Silver Lake Harbor has plenty of boat slips available for rent, which may even be offered in conjunction with the local hotels and motels. Visitors who want to embark on their own self-guided adventure can contact Restless Native Boat Rentals, while mariners who would prefer a guided sunset cruise or private charter can enlist the schooner WINDFALL II or the Skipjack WILMA LEE. Ocracoke is also home to Portsmouth Island Boat Tours, which offers guided boat and ATV tours through historic Portsmouth Island.
Educational - The National Park Service Rangers Station just north of town offers seasonal programs which include crabbing and clamming adventures, guided tours of the soundside, and other special lectures and presentations. For an in-depth exploration of the town's roots, visit the Ocracoke Preservation Society Museum and Gift Shop, which features a wealth of historic items and a research library.
Museums - Blackbeard Museum at Teach's Hole, located on the northern edge of the village, is a kid-friendly, privately owned museum that has a handful of exhibits and an always popular pirate themed gift shop. Close to the harbor, history buffs can spend some time at the Ocracoke Preservation Society Museum which features an array of special exhibits, historical items, and an extensive research library that highlights the personal history of Ocracoke Village.
Shelling - Ocracoke Islands is typically the best community along the Outer Banks for shelling. Virtually any stretch of beach can produce exceptional finds throughout the year, but the beaches that border the Hatteras and Ocracoke Inlets are considered the best stomping grounds for beachcombers. Named as one of Coastal Living Magazine's best US shelling beaches, shell hunters can expect to find whelks, scallops, helmet conchs, olive shells, augers, and even sand dollars. The surprisingly rare Scotch Bonnet, which is North Carolina's state shell, also washes up on these beaches on a semi-regular basis.
Kiteboarding / Windsurfing - Kiteboarding and windsurfing is popular in Ocracoke on the outskirts of Silver Lake Harbor in the spring and fall months. The oceanside beaches, which feature a gradual slope and typically shallow waters, are also popular with more advanced boarders as well. Rentals and equipment can often be found in the village at Kitty Hawk Kites and local surf shops like Ride the Wind Surf and Kayak. Visitors can hop on the ferry as well to neighboring Hatteras Island, which is world renowned as a kiteboarding and windsurfing Mecca.
Nightlife - Around sunset, head to the waterfront bars for a cocktail over the water. Ocracoke Islands also has a half dozen local restaurants and bars that seasonally stay open after hours, and feature live music or DJs for visitors' entertainment. The island serves beer, wine and liquor, and can serve customers until 2:00 a.m., in accordance with North Carolina state law. Ocracoke also has a number of restaurants and bars that stay open year-round, to the delight of residents and wintertime visitors.
Crabbing - The shallow waters just off the oceanside Ocracoke Island shoreline are often home to a large number of blue crabs, and it's not unusual for swimmers to get their toes gently pinched while wading through the water. Bring a cast net and stick close to shore for the best chance of scooping up blue crabs. The soundside is a good place for crabbing too, and many harborfront or soundfront homes feature small docks form hand lining or dropping a crab pot baited with a turkey leg.