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Ocracoke Island

Ocracoke has become a delightful tourist destination – no longer only the quaint fishing village it was born as. Visitors will find restaurants to suit many tastes, a variety of hotels and inns, art galleries, musical venues, gift shops, a handful of bars, a fisherman’s co-op and a wonderful local museum with summer Porch Talks. All this excitement coexists quite well with an historic village and an undeveloped beach. Summers on Ocracoke Island bustle with people and activity. Traveling by foot or bike is the way to get the most out of island life, though boats, of course, play a prominent role.

In spite of its remote location, Ocracoke Island has services and amenities similar to other small American towns – a gas station, garage, several grocers, a liquor store, hardware store, bank, health clinic, several spas, volunteer fire department, public K-12 school, two Protestant churches, a Catholic congregation, a day care facility, a monthly newspaper and a library—but unlike most smaller places, here you’ll also find a community-run radio station, a meditation group and a focus on holistic health. Work for most islanders relates to tourism, and it’s not uncommon for an islander to have two or more jobs in the summer. Ocracokers are disinclined to attach status to employment; the person who cleaned your cottage may teach high school during the winter, and a classically trained musician may be bagging your groceries.

The year-round population is around 800. People choose to live on Ocracoke for the homemade music and pot-luck suppers, the natural beauty, the thrum of summertime, the quiet of winter and because it’s home and always has been. Islanders feel strongly connected to their history, their people, the land and water. Living well on Ocracoke means sharing fish and fish stories, helping a neighbor prepare for a hurricane, gossip in the grocery aisle, grieving together when a community member dies, dressing up for the Fourth of July parade, starry cold winter nights and knowing how to fix your own plumbing.

Visitors who don’t mind a few bugs and appreciate solitude and self-sufficiency will find much to enjoy on Ocracoke. The pace of island life has quickened in the past few decades, but the ethos of independence and humor that served earlier generations remains.

The most isolated of the Outer Banks villages, Ocracoke is only accessible through ferry, airplane or private boat. The quaint town is ranked as one of the top ten beaches in the world by Dr. Beach (Stephen Leatherman). On his Today Show appearance, he described the white sands and clean waters of Ocracoke as a "real getaway" beach. Ocracoke was also ranked as the second finest beach in America in 2005. And it's true beauty and unspoiled beaches hold true to its reputation. The village is located around the Silver Lake Harbor, a beautiful seaside harbor. The original residents of the scenic beach were a group of Native Americans from the Wocon tribe. When explorers came to the shore, many used the land to raise livestock such as sheep. Yet, pirates also have a history on Ocracoke as it is said that the famous pirate Blackbeard died here in 1718 while fighting in a naval battle.

The Ocracoke Lighthouse, the shortest lighthouse along the North Carolina coast, is one of the oldest beacons still active in America. The lighthouse was essential during the maritime history as it helped guide many ships around the infamous Diamond Shoals. For the hundreds who were not fortunate to make it safely into port, the residents salvaged wood to build homes with - which you can see by visiting the historic district. Only a little more than one third of Ocracoke isn't protected by Cape Hatteras National Seashore property and this helps to keep the island from being built up. While the off season population remains stable and provides a small town beach community, the influx of summer travelers continues to grow each year.

 

Ocracoke

Most of the island’s activities are of the best variety – free: Quiet walks on the beach, day or night, fishing and clamming, or strolling around the village. Summers bustle with people and activity. Traveling by foot or bike is the way to get the most out of island life, though boats, of course, play a prominent role.

You won’t have trouble finding fun here. From an air tour to a fishing trip to a kayak tour, there are numerous recreational opportunities available that will help you get to know Ocracoke Island and its people a little better.

You will find restaurants to suit many tastes, gift shops and a handful of bars. The accommodations on Ocracoke Island are individually run and therefore have a lot of character. There are no chain hotels – only homey bed and breakfasts, small motels, elegant inns, and luxurious condominium-style suites.

Ocracokeguide.com mirrors the book Ocracoke Walking Tour & Guidebook. It’s your personal guide to this enchanting village. The Guidebook is available online. In addition to the complete guidebook of Ocracoke Island, the book includes a specially mapped out and well-planned tour all around the village detailing historic homes, buildings and sites.






Ocracoke Light Station is on the National Register of Historic Places.

A Brief History of Ocracoke

The beaches of Ocracoke Island have been named #10 on the 1999 list of top beaches. The list is compiled by Stephen Leatherman, a Florida International University coastal geologist who rates beaches nationwide.

Enroute to Roanoke Island, Sir Walter Raleigh's 1585 colony in their flagship, "Tiger" ran aground on a sand bar in Ocracoke Inlet and was forced to land on the island for repairs. The name Ocracoke is undoubtedly Indian in origin. It was shown on the earliest maps as "Woccocon". In 1715, the name had become Ococcock and soon after shown on maps as Ocracoke.

Established as a port in 1715, Ocracoke grew in importance until 1787, when 697 vessels reached North Carolina through Ocracoke Inlet. Ships had to be brought over the bar.


The British Cemetery on Ocracoke Island

Around 1715 the Colonial Assembly set aside over 20 acres of land for the use of pilots. These pilots were greatly hampered in their work by pirates, who made peaceful commerce almost impossible along the North Carolina Coast.

The most notorious was a Captain Drummond, who used the name Edward Teach or Thatch, but those aware of his past knew him as the infamous pirate Blackbeard. He was a tall man with a bushy black beard that inspired his name. Blackbeard roamed from the Caribbean to the Virginia Capes robbing ships. In November 1718, Blackbeard was finally captured near Ocracoke by Lt. Robert Maynard of the British Navy. Commanding a sloop sent by the Governor of Virginia, he killed the pirate in a bloody duel and captured 15 crewman. Blackbeard's death marked the end of large scale piracy on the Atlantic Coast.

Ocracoke was not recognized as a town until 1753, when 20 or 30 families lived there. It was a favorite place for sports fishermen and hunters who delighted in its isolation. During the revolution, the hazardous waters of the Outer Banks prevented British warships from guarding the inlets. Many supplies for Washington's army were shipped to Ocracoke for "lightening", or transfer to light craft which could ply the shallow waters of the sounds.

The first lighthouse was built in 1798 on Shell Castle rock, abreast of the inlet. It was destroyed by lightning in 1818. The present lighthouse, one of the oldest still in use on the Atlantic Coast, was built in 1823. by Noah Porter for $11,359.35. At seventy-five feet, it is the shortest lighthouse on the North Carolina coast and can only be seen for 14 miles.

During the Civil War, the fourth-order lens was destroyed but the new lens installed in 1864 remains working today. The Ocracoke Lighthouse is the oldest lighthouse still in operation on the Eastern Coast of the United States. It has survived numerous storms over the years. While the lighthouse is not open for climbing,you can walk up along the fence, close to the light.

For many years wild ponies, numbering up to a thousand, roamed the Island. Their origin is unknown to us. Many legends exist about how the Banker Ponies came to Ocracoke Island. One story credits Spanish explorers De Soto or Cortz as having brought them as they searched for gold on their way to Mississippi and Mexico. Another story suggests that the ship "Black Squall" was carrying a circus troup and animals when it went through the area during a storm. All circus workers and all but two horses survived. Historians say the most probable story is that the ponies arrived with Sir Walter Raleigh and were left on Roanoke Island at the time of the mysterious Lost Colony disappearance.

As the Outer Banks became more accessible, many ponies were sold. Cape Hatteras National Seashore was established in 1953 and only 12 ponies were in existence at that time. A pen for the ponies was esblished where they are now kept on a range about 7 miles north of the village.

In the center of the town of Ocracoke is a beautiful little harbor, originally called "Cockle Creek" known now as "Silver Lake". Many sandy lanes and streets remain throughout the village. The National Park Service has preserved over 5,000 acres on the Island, including 16 miles of beach, for the enjoyment of visitors.


For More Information, Visit the Official Website of the Ocracoke Business Association:
www.ocracokevillage.com

Day-Tripping to Hatteras & Ocracoke Islands

Looking for the perfect vacation within your vacation? Take a day trip south to beautiful Hatteras and Ocracoke Islands! It’s less than an hour’s drive from Nags Head to Hatteras Island and only two hours to historic Ocracoke Village (including the free ferry ride!) The ocean scenery is incredible as you head down Highway 12. Relax and unwind – life takes on a slower pace here. These Islands are rich in history and mystery – scan the seas from the world-famous Cape Hatteras lighthouse – or search for Blackbeard’s treasure. Said to be the treasure of Ocracoke, Springer’s Point is the last undeveloped spot on Ocracoke Island outside of the Cape Hatteras National Seashore. An island within an island, Springer’s Point is a peaceful oasis of natural beauty in the heart of bustling Ocracoke Village. Crab or clam, fish or feast, or just relax on one of the incredible unspoiled beaches. Spend the day kayaking, bicycling, or sport fishing. Shop in one of the many eclectic stores or dine on local seafood. It’s the perfect day trip to get away from it all!

For more information about Hatteras & Ocracoke Islands, be sure to check out Sunny Day's Guide to Hatteras & Ocracoke.

 
Day-Tripping to Hatteras & Ocracoke Islands
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