Ocracoke, NC — An Island Respite
The only way to reach Ocracoke, NC, is by ferry, private boat or plane. It wasn’t always thus. For a period of about 82 years, Ocracoke Island was joined to Hatteras Island. Before 1764 the two islands had been separated by Old Hatteras Inlet, which was located midway between Ocracoke Village and the location of the present inlet. When Old Hatteras Inlet closed for good in 1764, Hatteras and Ocracoke Outer Banks were one island and it was possible to travel by land between the settlements. That was all changed September 7, 1846, when a storm blew open a deep and wide inlet that became known as Hatteras Inlet. Today, the lack of a bridge lends the Ocracoke Outer Banks a remote feel, even though it’s only a few miles from Hatteras. People come to Ocracoke, NC, to get away from the world, and the island supports that experience perfectly.
A common question from first-time visitors is, “How do you pronounce the name of this place?” It seems people have been asking that for years. The earliest record of the island’s name, on a map made by English explorer John White in 1585, designates the inlet as “Wokokon.” Subsequent spellings include “Woccocock,” “Oakacock” and “Okercock.” The name derives from the Woccon tribe of Native Americans, who lived in the mainland tidewater and came to the island for seafood feasts in fair weather. The inlet, the island and the village now all carry the name Ocracoke, which, incidentally, is pronounced like the vegetable and the soft drink.
Most of the Ocracoke Outer Banks is undeveloped Cape Hatteras National Seashore. The National Park Service maintains the islands’ beautiful beaches and maritime forest areas, which form the center of Ocracoke, NC, recreation, and a primitive campground and the island’s population of formerly wild horses. Ocracoke Village is a magical place that surrounds a beautiful harbor.
There's No Place Like Ocracoke
Ocracoke, NC, is one place you could correctly use the term “”unique” to describe. There’s simply no other place like it. The many Ocracoke shops are reached by meandering around the island’s back roads, and there’s not one of them that mimics any shop found in multiple locations. Same with the accommodations. Ocracoke Outer Banks hotels, B&Bs and Ocracoke vacation rental houses provide an experience that you honestly won’t find in other destinations. Picture this: You’re standing on your vacation home’s deck, which overlooks the lighthouse with its flashing light, which is reflected in the nearby marsh water, which is under a blanket of stars that are so bright they tease the lightening bugs into trying to outshine them. Ahhh, that’s just Ocracoke.
Most people ride bikes or golf carts or walk around the village, since to go from end to end only takes you about 30 minutes on foot. Any of the Ocracoke restaurants are easily reached on foot or bike, which is a good thing; you’ll need a stroll after eating at most of them because you have a hard time putting your fork down they’re so good. The variety is surprising — Thai, Mexican, crepes, hot dogs, pizza, gourmet, seafood, raw bars, indoor, outdoor. A few watersports outfitters, a little historic museum, a lighthouse and a hiking trail through maritime forest add to the allure of Ocracoke, NC.