Ocracoke Island Attractions and Activities
Ocracoke boasts North Carolina's oldest lighthouse still in operation. Also the shortest at just 75 feet tall, the Ocracoke Lighthouse was constructed in 1823, with 5-foot thick solid brick walls tapering to 2 feet thick at the top. The white mortar is its identifying "daymark", which was reportedly made of lime mixed with salt, spanish whiting, rice, glue, and boiling water. Electrified in the early 1900s, the 8000 candle power beam can be seen 14 out to sea. The lighthouse runs automatically, but is staffed by the National Park Service during the summer. Parking is very limited, so walk or take your bikes!
This nature preserve, maintained by the North Carolina Coastal Land Trust, provides walking paths through beautiful maritime forest. Find your way to the soundfront beach overlooking Teach's Hole, and see where Blackbeard lost his head in his final battle with Robert Maynard. A favorite of birdwatchers, Springer's Point provides 120 acres of pristine salt marsh, grasslands and tidal red cedar forest favored by water birds such as white ibis, herons and egrets. Bring your bike or walk, as there is no parking available. Springer's Point is off Loop Road near the lighthouse, less than a mile from the Silver Lake Motel and Inn.
Ocracoke was on the front line of WWII's Operation Drum Beat, when German U-boats sank Allied shipping in the Atlantic. When the bodies of four British sailors washed ashore, the islanders buried them in a corner of the village cemetery. In 1976, the plot was bought by the state and leased to the British government for $1. The Union Jack flies over the cemetery at all times, and there is an annual ceremony honoring these fallen heroes. The cemetery is well-maintained and worth a visit.
Legend says that today's ponies are descended from spanish mustangs left behind by explorers in the 16th and 17th centuries. The ponies may have escaped shipwrecks on the shoals of Carolina, or been deliberately thrown overboard to lighten the load. The ponies were permanently penned in 1959. Today the herd numbers nearly 30 horses. The pen is on Hwy. 12 between the Hatteras/Ocracoke ferry and the village.
Located across the inlet from Ocracoke, Portsmouth was once the largest settlement on the Outer Banks. The Civil War and savage storms played a big part in making it the "ghost" village it is today. Partially restored, it offers the ultimate in solitude. It is accessible only by boat, and be prepared for mosquitoes. Repellent is a MUST! Call the Austin's at 252-928-5431 to book a trip.
Ocracoke Preservation Society Museum, near the ferry docks in the village is a refurbished Ocracoke house built in 1890. It has a history research library and information on fishing. There is also a gift shop. Open daily. Teach's Hole (928-1718) on the Hwy. 12 in the village houses a pirate exhibit focusing on Blackbeard. It also has old weapons, maps and costumes of the period.
Ocracoke Area Activities
The diversity of birdlife on the island makes it a "birder's paradise". It is a wintering ground for tundra swans, Canada geese and over 25 species of ducks. In the summer, herons, egrets and ducks make their home here. During Spring and Fall, many migratory birds stop in for a quick visit to Ocracoke.
A dock or pier is a good place to catch Blue Crabs, but anywhere along the shore will do. Tie a fish head or raw chicken leg to a piece of string and let it go in the water. Sit quietly while the crabs gather, then scoop them in a dipnet and place them in a bucket. Nets can be purchased at many island shops. Steam crabs until they turn red. Meat is sweet and tender.
Around 4:00 p.m. when the charter boats return from a long day's fishing expedition, islanders and visitors alike line up at the docks to view the days catch, such as tuna, wahoo and dolphin. The boats also land billfish such as blue and white marlin and sailfish, but release most as a conservation measure. Look for the white and blue flags on the boats.
Kayak around Ocracoke on an eco tour or follow Blackbeard's trails. Take a trip to Portsmouth Island by kayak and paddle with the dolphins along the way. Tour the creeks of the island with experienced guides. Kayak tours are available at several locations on the island. Rates vary but average around $35 per person. Group rates are available. A fun-filled day or just an hour.
Sailing the waters off Ocracoke may make you decide to leave it all behind and and move here permanently! You can play with a school of dolphin or just let the wind billow the cobwebs out of your mind. Charters are available at several locations along the harbor and cost around $10 - $15 per person.