A friend of mine recently wanted to plan a trip to Ocracoke, and asked for advice. This is what I told him….
Ocracoke is a marvelous journey off the edge of the map. Gone is commercialized beach. Gone are franchises. Gone are traffic lights. It is a strange place so remote that it is where Blackbeard hid from the Royal Navy (unsuccessfully). It is said if the world ended, Ocracoke would hear about it two days later. There is 13 miles of National Park Service (NPS) undeveloped beach. The sand is soft and white. The ocean is wonderful, with strong enough waves for a little surfing. The island abounds in wildlife. You may see dolphins, birds, and certainly sand crabs. Ocracoke’s history is as old as the United States - from early colonies, to pirates, to the civil war, to lots of activity during World War II. The people who live there are isolated most of the year; some of them welcome the business of tourism, others not so much.
My favorite thing to do at Ocracoke is the 1.5 hour dog walks at sun rise along essentially deserted beaches. Next, is swimming at the life guard beach. Next is just tooling around on my bicycle. I also usually set up a jig saw puzzle on the porch, where I can watch people walk by. It is a marvelous place to do nothing with no agendas - some people like that - some people hate it.
This is not a high end tourist destination. This is a bucolic beach town where people sojourn for rest and relaxation. Things happen as they may here.
Beaches: There is 13 miles of National Park Service (NPS) beach at Ocracoke. It is marvelous. It is wonderful for beach combing (looking for shells) and walking dogs. On the southern part trucks can drive on; I don’t ever go down there. The life guard beach is near town and on the bike path.
ALWAYS SWIM at the life guard beach. Several people die each year on OBX in the rip tide. ALWAYS SWIM at the life guard beach.
You can bring your dogs on the beach everywhere except for that very small portion inside the life guard flags (just sit outside the life guard flags - no worries). But beaches can be very hot for dogs so be careful. Also some parts of the beach may be closed because of birds or turtle nests.
The sand is soft and white. The life guard beach has a parking lot that is rarely full. There is a beach house and a long boardwalk from the parking lot to the beach. At the top of the dune is a nice sitting deck where one can sit and watch the surf. The pony pen beach has the same type of board walk with the same type of deck at the east end.
There are two good sound beaches. One is Springer’s Point (Southern side, on Loop Rd, near the light house). It requires a nice walk through the woods and opens up to some nice sound beach, without waves and without heavy currents. There is no parking here. This is where I believe Teache’s Hole is (the last battle of Blackbeard)
The other is a little sound beach in South West corner, near the mouth of the harbor. There is a sign that says “Private, Please be Respectful.” In other words, its private, but you are welcome. There is enough parking for a few cars, and a bike rack. It is a very short walk, and a small beach. It is a beautiful southern view of Portsmouth Island across the inlet. Again, there are no waves and no real currents. It is shallow for several hundred yards out.
· Flying Melon - newly rebuilt - apparently good for brunch
· Back Porch Restaurant - good for seafood
· DAJIO - nice, sort of nuvo cuisine
Everything is going to be a bit more expensive.
· Jolly Roger has seats on the harbor where you can have a burger and watch the sunset. The lower deck accepts dogs. Very popular
· Smacnally’s is also on the harbor. A small place that serves burgers and I think seafood. Sometimes it has live music and always a good crowd. Looks like a nice place
· Jason’s is a good pizza joints or other simple food. Been several times and liked it.
You may like Howard’s Pub. Howard’s Pub advertises up and down the OBX and is the destination of a lot of day tripping tourists.
El Faro is new and haven’t seen a lot of cars in the parking lot.
· Ocracoke Pizza is owned by Smacnally’s I think and is very decent.
· You can also do take out pizza at Jason’s.
· Thai Moon is good BUT order one degree spicier than normal. Normally I order hot; at Thai Moon I only order mild. She takes a long time to prepare the food but its good.
· Eduardo’s Food truck - so successful they got a new food truck this year. I like this place.
· Crepe Truck outside of Back Porch. It wasn’t open when we were there, but when it is open, it is good.
· Ocracoke Coffee on Back Road has a wonderful front yard where you can sit, drink a long cup of coffee, read the newspaper, play a game, or watch people go by.
· Zillies - has a wonderful porch where you can sip wine and cheese. Try the Thursday wine tasting but make a reservation early (like contact them now) if you are interested.
· Live Oak Coffee on the harbor
· Obviously there are golf carts for rent.
· You could rent a 4 wheel drive and drive out on the beach. I think you do this through Howard’s Pub. You will see the 4 wheel drives parked on the road there. But driving on soft sand is quite difficult.
· Anything - through the real estate office
· I always rent bikes from the guy across from Community Square. He is a nice guy and its much less of a hassle. If the surf is up, he will be out surfing. He has a tiki hut where he sells ice cream.
· Note that if your family brings their own bicycles, they will get salt water on them and sand. They will rust. I love my bike so I always bring it - and clean it daily. But it is really really easy, and cheap, to rent bikes down in Ocracoke.
· You can rent scooters, and jet skiis
· Kayaks and paddle boards
· Community Square there is a little ice cream spot
· Slushie Stand has a big porch where you can sit and watch the harbor
PLACES OF INTEREST
· Ocracoke Preservation Society - a little Oracoke museum
· NPS Information Center - they will give different talks there throughout the week. You can pick up a newspaper at the information center that has the talks listed.
· Ocracoke Light House
· British Cemetery
· There are cemeteries all over the island. Kind of surreal as a vacation spot amongst burial grounds.
· Go over and see Oyster Creek neighborhood (north side) some time. Man made canals and higher end houses. Every house has a dock from which they can motor boat out to the sound. Very sweet.
· Pony Pens. NPS will give regular talks here. Check with NPS Information Center for times.
THINGS TO DO
· Walking Ghost Tour of Ocracoke - tells lots of curious tales of Ocracoke. Lots of fun
· Ocracoke Opry - by the hippie artists - filled with more stories and local music
· The Ocracoke Opry people use to have a pirate show for kids, but didn’t have it this year. Look to see if they have brought it back.
· On the west side of the island, near the coast guard station, is a civil war marker and some benches. It is a grand place to sit and watch the sun set.
· Take a boat over to Portsmouth, a sister town to Ocracoke, deserted in 1970s. The NPS has kept the town up. The beach is supposed to be marvelous and great for Beach Combing. I have never gone - partly because of the dogs and partly because the mosquitos are suppose to be terrible.
· Charter a sailboat ride with Captain Jack (I think that’s his name).
· Go fishing
· Village Craftsmen - for high end arts and crafts
· Rag Picker - t shirts and souvenirs
· Variety Store and Hardware Store
Local radio is WOVV 90.1 and is kind of fun to listen to.