10 Best Things To Do In Ocracoke, North Carolina

things to do in ocracoke north carolina
| 6 min read

Ocracoke is popular among outdoor recreation enthusiasts of all ages and is the gem of the Outer Banks owing to its gorgeous beaches and laid-back charm. It is filled with miles of entertaining options both on and off the seashore. Moreover, its physical isolation from the mainland and the rest of the Outer Banks has helped it retain the mystique and magic that surrounds it.

You can explore the beautiful white beaches, hike through the forests on Hammock Hills Nature Trail and Springer’s Point Nature Reserve, and go kayaking on Silver Lake. Besides this, the island has some eclectic and critically acclaimed eateries, a unique and charming selection of shops, and a good nightlife scene. Don’t let the size of the island and the general remoteness fool you. You may think at first that there may not be enough to do, but after an afternoon in town, your concerns quickly change to how you’ll possibly fit everything into your schedule.

1. Visit the Ocracoke Lighthouse

Ocracoke Part 2 007
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Sedna10387 used under PUBLIC DOMAIN

Located to the west of the harbor front, the Ocracoke Lighthouse is a modest white brick tapered structure that is 75 feet (22 metres) tall and shines 14 miles (22 kilometres) out to sea. The lighthouse can be admired from virtually any point in the town.

It is claimed to be the oldest operating lighthouse in the whole of North Carolina. During the summer months, visitors can access the base of the lighthouse, while the top is not open to climbers at any point. Nonetheless, the lighthouse presents some gorgeous photo opportunities and is a fun stop along any Ocracoke Island walking tour.

Ocracoke Lighthouse

Address: 360 Lighthouse Rd, Ocracoke

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2. Hit the beaches

Ocracoke Beach
Source: Photo by user Corey Balazowich used under CC BY-ND 2.0

The beaches of Ocracoke are nationally famous and have earned a number #1 spot on Dr. Beach’s annual ‘Best Beaches in America’ list. The thirteen miles (21 km) of coastline are worth exploring. While there are a number of beaches all throughout, there is a beach with lifeguards that’s found about halfway in between the village and the ferry terminal, just north of village limits. It also has five seasonally-opened beach access ramps for 4WD vehicles.

Also, Ocracoke is renowned on the East Coast, to be one among the best shelling destinations. You never know what might wash up at your feet – sand dollars, whelks, olive shells, moon snails, and even Scotch bonnets all make regular appearances here regardless of the season. Consider scoping out the inlets for more delicate finds. On the Island, virtually any beach excursion can easily turn into a fruitful shelling expedition.

Ocracoke Beaches

Where?: The beaches are everywhere. The beach with lifeguards is located to the north of the Ocracoke Village area.

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3. Breathe in the midst of nature at the Hammock Hills Nature Trails

Tricolored heron

Posted by Yianni Laskaris on Thursday, 29 June 2017

This three-quarters of a mile (~1 km) trail located on NC Highway-12, across from the NPS campground is a scenic tour of the sound side leading to Pamilco Sound. It runs through some of the highest points on the island. There are signposts all along the trail that offer information the area. The trail allows you to spot some stunning water views as well as local birds and wildlife. Spring and fall are best times to view some of the island’s most unique bird species including Red Knots, Sanderling, Black-bellied Plover, and other waterfowl or shorebirds. You can spot maritime woods mammals and marshy amphibians, crustaceans, and reptiles as well. When visitors reach the halfway point on the trail, there is a raised platform to allow them a better view of Pamlico Sound and the marshes that lead up to it.

Hammock Hills Nature Trail

Address: NC Highway-12, across from NPS Campground

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4. Explore flora and fauna at Springer's Point Nature Preserve

Posted by Springer's Point on Wednesday, 31 May 2017

Not too far from the Ocracoke Lighthouse is the Springer’s Point Nature Preserve, a 120 acre (49 hectare) parcel of maritime forest and marshlands. The nature trail is well-tended. The sandy paths with towering oaks, pines, and cedars take you to the Pamlico Sound beach that overlooks Teach’s Hole. The beach is filled with shells and driftwood.

Springer's Point Nature Preserve

Address: Springers Point, Ocracoke, NC 27960, USA (tucked away on the loop road just past the lighthouse)

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5. Go kayaking!

Sea Kayak
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Thruxton used under CC BY 3.0

Enjoy some fun on the open water by renting a kayak or a stand-up paddleboard to explore the beaches that border the village. You could go kayaking at Springer’s Point or the area adjacent to the main Visitor’s Center. Rentals per hour or day are available via a number of of local shops along these beaches as well as by water-sport companies like Kitty Hawk Kites or Ride the Wind Surf and Kayak.

Kitty Hawk Kites

Address: 270 Irvin Garrish Hwy, Ocracoke, NC 27960

Contact Number : +1 252-928-4563

Website: Kitty Hawk Kites

Ride the Wind Surf Shop

Address: 486 Irvin Garrish Hwy, Ocracoke, NC 27960

Contact Number: +1 252-928-6311

Website: Ride the Wind Surf

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6. Sleep under the starlit sky: camp out in Ocracoke

Camping by Sheila Hencher... nice flamingos!

Posted by Ocracoke Island on Monday, 19 August 2013

There are three campgrounds in Ocracoke. The National Park Service campground, located several miles outside the town’s limits, offers a hundred and thirty six sites clustered close to the oceanfront. This is a seasonally operational campground and is bordered only by beaches and sand dunes, ideal for those who just want to bask in the glory of nature.

If you prefer something closer to town, you can camp at Beachcomber Campground and Mart or Teeter’s Campground, close to the harbor front. Both of these sites are within walking distance to all the town’s major attractions.

All three sites feature on-site amenities including water and local shops and convenience stores nearby for easy supply runs.

NPS Campground

Address: 4352 Irvin Garrish Hwy, Ocracoke

Contact Number : +1 252-473-2111

Website: NPS Campground

Beachcomber Campground & Mart

Address: 990 Irvin Garrish Hwy, Ocracoke

Contact Number : +1 252-928-4031

Website: Beachcomber Campground

Teeter's Campground

Address: 200 British Cemetery Rd, Ocracoke

Contact Number : +1 252-588-2030

Website: Teeter’s Campground

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7. Visit Silver Lake Harbor

Beautiful sunset in OcraHoke

Posted by Judee Fleming Hoke on Monday, 10 July 2017

About to get real...

Posted by Matt Saunders on Saturday, 15 July 2017

Take in a spectacular sunset at Silver Lake Harbor, which can’t be beat for a romantic sunset. There are several restaurants and pubs along the waterfront that offer front-row views of this beautiful sight as well as small sections of picnic tables and benches in the less crowded areas which are ideal for you to take in the picturesque view of the water. Spotting pelicans, Herring Gulls, and even cormorants is also common here.

The stretch of land along the harbor is generally crowded with people and has a number of shops and restaurants. You can pop into the local art galleries, chic boutiques, or small cafes. Also, there are a number local tours, charter fishing businesses, and even kayak and boat rentals available right off the docks. Set up along the harbor’s perimetre are also small stands offering kayaks and bicycles for rent as well as small treats like ice cream, frozen lemonade, and more.

Silver Lake Harbor

Address: Ocracoke Harbor, Ocracoke, NC

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8. Go fishing and crabbing

Posted by Gecko Sportfishing on Thursday, 9 April 2015

A number of great catches can be reeled-in just off the beach including blues, drum, croaker, spot, and mullet. You could also purchase the National Park Service beach driving permit and head to the inlets for the best surf-fishing conditions. In addition, you could hire fishing charters from Silver Lake Harbor. As for crabbing, the shallow waters just off the oceanside shoreline are home to a large number of blue crabs while the sound-side is good for crabbing too.

The beaches of Ocracoke Islands are home to among the biggest surf-fishing tournaments in the Outer Banks. The Annual Ocracoke Invitational Surf Fishing Tournament is held in early May, lasts 2-5 days, and this tournament has been going strong for 30+ years with some coveted prizes to be won.

Fishing and crabbing

Where?: Almost all the beaches as well as the Ocracoke Harbor

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9. Experience more challenging water sports!

And he's UP!!!

Posted by Ride The Wind Surf Shop on Wednesday, 18 June 2014

The pounding surf and temperate waters are perfect from May to October for activities such as parasailing, kiteboarding, surfing, paddleboarding, wind surfing, and other activities. The island has a handful of fantastic surfing beaches, and miles of open Pamlico Sound waters that are perfect for windsurfers and kiteboarders. There are rentals and lessons available via a number of water sports operators.

Ride the Wind Surf Shop

Address: 486 Irvin Garrish Hwy, Ocracoke, NC 27960

Contact Number: +1 252-928-6311

Website: Ride the Wind Surf

Ocracoke Parasail Inc

Address: 365 Irvin Garrish Hwy, Ocracoke, NC 27960

Contact Number: +1 252-928-2606

Website: Ocracoke Parasail Inc

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10. Delve into history at the Preservation Society Museum

Posted by Ocracoke Preservation Society on Monday, 17 July 2017

The museum, open from early spring to early December, gives you a glimpse into the life on Ocracoke Island in the earlier times and has exhibits depicting the history and cultural heritage of the region. Each year, the museum features rotating exhibits and during summers, they also hold free museum tours and porch talks. Apart from this, a mid-week “Create-a-Craft” program is held for children, at the end of which, each child leaves with a handmade island souvenir.

“A great little nugget of history and charm! A must see if you go to the island. They have a wealth of information to make your stay more fun and the island history come to life.”Ria Smith on Facebook

Preservation Society Museum

Address: 49 Water Plant RD, PO Box 1240, Ocracoke, North Carolina

Contact Number: +1 252-928-7375

Website: Preservation Society Museum

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Come on aboard!

Despite its rather small size, Ocracoke has ample accommodation options to suit every category of visitors. From housing a number of private vacation homes and condominiums scattered throughout the village to bed and breakfasts and half a dozen motels and hotels, visitors are spoilt for choice. For the more adventurous, the three campsites could also be your home for your entire stay here!

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Any must-sees we missed? Tell us about them in the comments section or write a post here to help out fellow travelers!
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Mehak is a young student from India majoring in Finance. Travelling is something that has always fascinated her, she intends to solo travel the world. She enjoys reading about anything and...Read more

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