Looking for Things to do on Ocracoke Island NC?
Ocracoke Island, North Carolina, is a little village at the very bottom of the Outer Banks. This small 16-mile stretch of the island boosts many fun beachy activities, as well as an interesting historical past, and you can’t beat the scenic views, delicious restaurants, and breathtaking beaches.
In the early 1700s, Ocracoke Island played a significant role in the bustling trade route of the time. Due to the shallow Pamlico Sound, large ships couldn’t navigate the waters, leading skilled sailors to settle on the island and transport goods to mainland ports. The island’s challenging waters also attracted pirates, including the infamous Blackbeard. Many pirates used the area as a temporary camp even after his death in 1718.
Over the course of the next two centuries, Ocracoke Island experienced growth and prosperity. It served as a strategic point of entry to the Pamlico Sound during the Revolutionary and Civil War and became a secret training ground for an advanced amphibious division of the U.S. Navy during World War II.
Through it all, Ocraoke has remained beautiful, and though its main source of income these days is through the tourism industry, Ocracoke is still that quiet, peaceful village it always was.
How to get to Ocracoke Island NC
There are no roads going to Ocracoke, meaning you can only get there by boat or small plane, with ferries being the most popular way to travel to the island. Three main ferries run daily headed to Ocracoke. One ferry leaves from Cedar Island, another from Swan Quarters, and the last one from Cape Hatteras. All ferries offer passenger and car options.
Things to do on Ocracoke Island NC
Between the lovely beachy shops and restaurants to the great outdoor activities, there are always fun things to explore on Ocracoke, and we wanted to make this list to make your vacation as relaxing as possible. Here is a complete guide for things to do on Ocracoke Island, NC.
1. Ocracoke Lighthouse
The Ocracoke Lighthouse is one of five lighthouses in the Outer Banks. This particular lighthouse stands 75 feet tall and was built in 1823 to guide ships through the Pamlico Sound.
The beautiful white brick lighthouse is a main attraction in Ocracoke, bringing in thousands of visitors every year. Guests are welcome to explore the base of the lighthouse and check out the grounds. However, no one is allowed to climb the lighthouse for safety reasons. Make sure to add the lighthouse to your things to do on Ocracoke Island, NC.
2. Lifeguarded Beach / Ocracoke Beach
Address: Ocracoke, NC 27960
The Ocracoke Lifeguarded Beach is miles of pristine sandy beaches that can be easily accessed from Ocracoke Village. Lifeguarded Beach is the only beach in Ocracoke with a full-time lifeguard on duty from Memorial Day to Labor Day. It is one of the number one beaches in the Outer Banks because of its space, ample parking, accessibility, and beach activities.
Beach driving is one of the main activities allowed on Ocracoke Beach. If you wish to drive on the beach, permits are required and can be acquired from the National Park Service. You can purchase day permits or seasonal permits. Please note that only 4WD drive vehicles or ORV (off-road vehicles) should be driven in the sand. There are maps available online or at any park visitor center with ORV routes, entrances, exits, and safety information. A beach visit is a must for your things to do on Ocracoke Island.
3. Springer’s Point Preserve
Address: 104 Loop Rd, Ocracoke, NC 27960
Springer’s Point is a charming 132-acre nature preserve on the island of Ocracoke. The island is home to a maritime forest, hiking trails, red cedar forest, grasslands, salt marshes, fish, and lots of other wildlife.
The easiest way to get to Springer’s Point Preserve is to park at the Ocracoke Lighthouse and walk, as there is no parking for the preserve. In the water near Springer’s Point, there is a place called Teach’s Hole, and it’s known to be where legendary pirate Blackbeard died in his final battle with the British Royal Navy.
4. Pony Pen
Address: NC-12, Ocracoke, NC 27960
Similar to the wild horses in Corolla, there are also a handful of wild ponies in Ocracoke. However, the horses in Corolla roam completely free, while the ones in Ocracoke are in a very large (180-acre) pen built around them for their protection. Within the pen, they also have paddocks, stables, and specific feeding times.
Anyone is welcome to visit the ponies, take pictures, and say hi. However, no one except for the National Park Service is allowed inside the enclosure.
5. British Cemetery
During 1942, in the heat of WW2, British ships were patrolling the coast of North Carolina on the lookout for German submarines. The British ship was torpedoed, and sadly all 37 British Royal Navy Sailors were killed. Over the next few days, the bodies of four of these men washed up on the shores of Ocracoke and were buried together in this plot.
Anyone is welcome to visit the cemetery to pay their respects and learn more about the history of the event. Every year the National Park Service, the US Coast Guard, and the British Navy hold a service to honor the men that died.
6. Books To Be Red
Address: 34 School Rd, Ocracoke, NC 27960
Books to Be Red is a cute little bookstore and trinket shop in downtown Ocracoke Village. The store holds a large selection of children’s books, souvenirs, handcrafted gifts, and more.
7. Rent Ocracoke Island Golf Carts
Getting around Ocracoke is much easier if you have a vehicle because, although small, things are spread out enough to where you can’t really walk. Now bringing your car on the ferry is always an option. However, it is also extremely easy to rent a golf cart through Ocracoke Island Golf Carts to make your vacation simple and hassle-free.
Ocracoke Island Golf Carts has four and six-passenger open-air golf carts that are available to rent by the hour, the day, the weekend, or even weekly.
8. Hammock Hills Nature Trail
Address: Unnamed Road, Ocracoke, NC 27960
Hammock Hills Nature Trail is a ¾ mile-walking trail with diverse scenery and beautiful views. The trail will bring you through the pine forest and give you stunning views of the Pamlico Sound and salt marshes. Hammock Hills Nature Trail is an easy-going, family-friendly trail. Dogs are welcome on leash.
9. Ocracoke Preservation Society Museum
Ocracoke Preservation Society is a non-profit museum to preserve and shares the in-depth history of Ocracoke. The museum has a fascinating array of relics from the past, period decor, paintings, other rotating exhibits, and a gift shop.
10. Outer Banks National Scenic Byway
Address: NC 12, Ocracoke, NC 27960
The Outer Banks National Scenic Byway is a 138-mile drive that includes 21 coastal villages, two ferry rides, and all the best ocean views you can get. It is considered one of the most beautiful stretches of road in North Carolina.
The byway starts in Whalebone Junction in Nags Head and finishes in Beaufort, North Carolina, with Ocracoke Island being roughly the mid-point of this drive.
11. Shopping at Mermaid’s Folly
If you are looking for that perfect souvenir or beach-themed gift, then Mermaid’s Folly is a great place to explore! They have lots of sea-related clothes, trinkets, collectibles, and more.
12. Zillie’s Island Pantry
Address: 538 Back Rd, Ocracoke, NC 27960
Zillie’s is the go-to for all your beer and wine-related needs. They have a massive selection of wines, beers, and microbrews from all around the world, including local North Carolina offerings. You can also find a nice arrangement of cheeses, deli meats, cigars, and small snacks to purchase as well. Take your goodies to-go or enjoy them on their outdoor patio.
13. Native Seafood Fresh Market / Ocracoke Beach Outfitters
While many of the restaurants in town serve locally caught seafood, it’s nice to buy some to create your own delicious seafood meals! Native Seafood Fresh Market is the stop for all the best locally caught seafood, including crabs, clams, oysters, and more.
14. Tradewinds Bait & Tackle
No one knows fishing better than Tradewinds. When it comes to Ocracoke’s unique surf, inshore and offshore, Tradewinds has all the best tips, all the best gear, general information, and more. The store has been a staple of Ocracoke since 2006 and provides not only knowledge and gear but also permits and licenses that are needed to fish in the area.
15. Ocracoke Island Discovery Center
For everything you might need to know about Ocracoke, then you can visit Ocracoke Island Discovery Center.
The center is located near Cedar Island and Swan Quarter Ferry Docks and has everything from maps, and ferry schedules, to educational exhibits, souvenirs, restrooms, and more.
16. Kitty Hawk Kites
Kitty Hawk Kites is a chain store with locations throughout the Outer Banks. They provide all the gear anyone might need to surf, kiteboard, windsurf, and kayak, including games, toys, kites, and more. They also are a great company to go through for any group kayak trips/tours, boat tours, hang gliding experiences, and other outdoor adventures.
17. Ride The Wind Surf Shop
Since 1985 Ride the Wind Surf Shop has been providing Ocracoke and its guests everything they might need for surfing the waves. They provide gear, gear rentals, kayak tours, paddleboard yoga sessions, and even surf lessons.
18. Moonraker Tea Shop
Moonrakers’ provides a lovely variety of loose-leaf teas, spices, tea accessories, gifts, and hot and iced beverages to go. Moonraker is a great shop to stop in, say hi to the wonderful owners, and buy some unique teas.
19. Little Rituals
Little Rituals is a holistic wellness shop and safe gathering space for like-minded people. They offer goods and services in a warm and tranquil environment. If you are looking for some new crystals, relaxation products, stones, jewelry, bath products, or anything in that area, you must visit this shop.
Drinks and Restaurants on Ocracoke Island, NC
We cannot cover them all, but here are some great options for you to enjoy for drinks and food while enjoying the things to do on Ocracoke Island.
Dajio is a delightful Southern-style bistro with creative culinary takes on your favorite classic dishes. Not only do they serve delicious food, but they also host live music, and they have one of the best outdoor patios in town.
✅ Flying Melon
Address: 181 Back Rd, Ocracoke, NC 27960
Flying Melon is a family-friendly restaurant that serves fun Creole and Southern dishes, including locally caught seafood. They have a large wine selection and a very comfortable environment.
✅ Old Salt Sandwiches
Old Salt Sandwiches is a must try during your trip to Ocracoke. They have some of the best burgers in town, including shrimp burgers, hot dogs, chicken sandwiches, and kids’ meals with a souvenir beach pail and animal crackers. They even have meals for your dog too, so the whole family can enjoy.
✅ Jason’s Restaurant
For years, Jason’s Restaurant has been a staple in Ocracoke. Located on the north end of Ocracoke, the restaurant is only open seasonally and serves delicious pizzas, seafood dishes, subs, salads, wings, and more.
✅ Howard’s Pub & Raw Bar
Howard’s is a busy seasonal pub with casual dinners, including burgers, seafood, sandwiches, and other pub fare. They also have a great selection of Ocracoke memorabilia, T-shirts, and bottled beer.
✅ 1718 Brewing Ocracoke
1718 is the premier brewery on Ocracoke, and they craft beer to perfectly match your beach festivities using locally sourced ingredients. They also serve a wide variety of small plates, tacos, and sliders, and they host live music, open-mic nights, comedy nights, and more. You don’t want to miss out on 1718 Brewing!
✅ Plum Pointe Kitchen
A popular counter service style restaurant with an interesting variety of foods from American to Asian and everything in between. Everything is handmade, and the menu is constantly changing.
✅ Breeze Nightclub & Bar
The Breeze is an exciting late-night club in Ocracoke that hosts live music and serves excellent drinks at a great price.
✅ Sweettooth / Fig Tree Bakery & Deli
A newer business on Ocracoke that has delicious deli sandwiches, breakfast sandwiches, fresh salads, and a fun variety of homemade treats. This is the perfect place to get mouthwatering homemade fudge, chocolate candies, and ice cream, and they also serve coffee drinks and hot chocolate.
✅ Eduardo’s Mexican Cuisine
Address: 10 Lawton Ln, Ocracoke, NC 27960
Located by the Ocracoke Harbor Inn, Eduardo’s is a window-service food truck with perfectly made authentic Mexican street eats, breakfast foods, and local seafood. Everything is flavored wonderfully, and there are benches outside to sit and enjoy your meal.
✅ SmacNally’s Waterfront Bar and Grill
SmacNally’s is a lively seafood/burger restaurant with a wonderful open-air patio on the water. SmacNally’s has been serving Ocracoke since 1999, and they have a fabulous menu. Guests can enjoy live music while looking out onto the harbor, and dogs are welcome on the patio.
✅ The Fudge & Ice Cream Shop
The Fudge is located in the Community Square, and they have a wonderful variety of ice cream flavors, including soft serve, ice cream sundaes, and more. They also have fudge, cookies, and cupcakes for sale at the counter.
✅ Helios’ Hideaway
If you’re in the mood for authentic Mediterranean cuisine, then you’ll definitely want to check out Helios’. Helios’ Hideaway serves everything fresh and homemade, including homemade pitas, pizzas, falafel, side dishes, salads, and more. They have lovely shaded outdoor seating so you can enjoy your fresh Mediterranean food in the salty sea air.
✅ Thai Moon
Thai Moon is a carry-out-only, authentic Thai restaurant with all your favorite Thai dishes and sides. Considered some of the best Thai food in the Outer Banks, everything is made fresh and homemade and served at a decent price.
✅ Ocracoke Coffee Company
Address: 226 Back Rd, Ocracoke, NC 27960
Ocracoke Coffee Company is a local favorite coffee shop. Apart from being that perfect small-town coffee shop, they have wonderful breakfast foods, coffee drinks, smoothies, small bites, and nice, cozy outdoor seating.
✅ The Slushy Stand
The Slushy Stand is sort of an all-in-one ice cream parlor that has 21 flavors of ice cream, gelato, bagels, muffins, coffee, smoothies, and bike rentals. That’s right! Not only is this the perfect place to grab a refreshing treat, but it is also a popular bike rental spot in town that provides you with easy transportation around the island.
✅ Sorellas Pizza & Pasta
Sorella’s Pizza and Pasta is a classic authentic Italian restaurant that simply does food right. They have a nice variety of specialty and custom pizzas, pastas, salads, and sides, and everything can be taken to-go.
✅ Ocracoke Oyster Company
If you are in search of fresh, locally caught oysters and other seafood, then come on by Ocracoke Oyster Company. They also serve traditional American BBQ from their fig wood smoker. This is a great family-friendly environment with lots of outside patio seating, lawn games, a full bar, and so much more.
Things to do near Ocracoke Island, NC
Looking to explore other parts of the Outer Banks besides Ocracoke? Here are some must-sees not far from Ocracoke that you can add to your things to do on Ocracoke Island, NC.
✅ Portsmouth Village
Address: Portsmouth Village, NC
Portsmouth Village was once a fishing and shipping village on Portsmouth Island right below Ocracoke. The village is now a protected historic and archeological site with a visitor center. Visitors are welcome to take a boat to the island to see the exhibits on what life was like for the fisherman and their families all those years ago. There is also camping on the beaches of Portsmouth Village.
✅ Graveyard of the Atlantic Museum
Graveyard of the Atlantic is a free museum that focuses on the maritime shipwrecks that have happened on the coast of the Outer Banks. There are constantly new, interesting exhibits on maritime history, including ships, wreckage, relics, and more. There is also a fun family-youth-friendly scavenger hunt to find things in the museum that ends with a prize.
The Graveyard of the Atlantic Museum is currently closed for renovations. They are expected to open in the fall of 2023.
✅ Cape Hatteras Lighthouse
Address: 46379 Lighthouse Rd, Buxton, NC 27920
The Cape Hatteras Lighthouse is another one of the five lighthouses in the Outer Banks and one of the most popular and well-visited lighthouses in the state. The lighthouse stands at 198 feet in the air, being the tallest lighthouse in America, with a total of 269 steps to reach the top. It is most recognizable from its unique black and white stripe pattern going down the sides.
Normally, guests are welcome to climb the many steps to see the top of the lighthouse and its spectacular view. However, the lighthouse is currently closed for renovations and is not expected to open in 2023. Visitors are still welcome to visit the lighthouse, explore the grounds, and take pictures from the base. There is also a virtual tour of the entire lighthouse, including the view from the top online.
If you are traveling from Hatteras to Ocracoke, this epic lighthouse is a fantastic thing to add to your things to do on Ocracoke Island.
✅ Frisco Native American Museum & Natural History Center
A large part of the history of the Outer Banks includes the Native Americans and the land they knew long before the Spanish and English settlers landed.
The Frisco Native American Museum is a non-profit founded to preserve the history and culture of the tribes that once walked the Outer Banks. At the museum, visitors can see relics, artifacts, pictures, and paintings and join in hands-on learning activities.
Annual Events on Ocracoke Island, NC
Lots of fun events happen on Ocracoke Island. Here are some to enjoy and add to your list of things to do on Ocracoke Island.
✅ 4th of July Celebration (July 1-4, 2023)
The Fourth of July Celebration will be a weekend-long event this year on Ocracoke. Everyone will be celebrating with food, music, games, and of course, the anticipated firework show that will take off over Silver Lake Harbor.
Guests are welcome to sit along the harborfront docks for front-row seating of the fireworks. Make sure to bring your beach blankets, chairs, towels, drinks, and anything else you might need to enjoy!
✅ Festival Latino de Ocracoke (October 30-November 4, 2023)
Festival Latino de Ocracoke is a vibrant celebration of the Latino community that has been expanding and growing on Ocracoke for the past 20 years. Through music, song, dance, food, game, and story, the community comes together to share their culture and have fun.
✅ Ocracoke Fig Festival (August 4-5, 2023)
The Ocracoke Fig Festival is a beloved festival held in Ocracoke each year to celebrate figs and their history on the Island. There are at least nine different types of fig plants that can be found here. The event will have live demonstrations, exhibits, fig preserves, fig recipes, fig cake contests, vendors, music, and more.
✅ Blackbeard’s Pirate Jamboree (October 27-28, 2023)
Blackbeard’s Pirate Jamboree is a fun family event leading up to Halloween. The festival celebrates the pirate legacy that took place on Ocracoke and includes a reenactment of Blackbeard’s battle. There will be ship replicas, pirate games, prizes, and food, and dressing in your best pirate garb is highly encouraged.
✅ Ocracoke Parade of Boats (November 23, 2023)
The Ocracoke Parade of Boats is a long-standing tradition to ring in the holiday season. Boats of all shapes and sizes sit out on the harbor of Ocracoke, adorned with thousands of twinkling lights that viewers can watch from the docks of the waterfront. It is truly a peaceful and magnificent sight.
Where To Stay on Ocracoke Island, NC
📍Pony Island Inn– Placed along Hwy 12 on the edge of Ocracoke Village is the Pony Island Inn. For years, this inn has been rated one of the best places to stay in Ocracoke and will make any vacation feel like a dream. Pony Island Inn is the closest inn to the public beaches on Ocracoke and has a variety of different rooms, cottages, and suites. There is also an outdoor public pool for guest use and a gift shop. It is recommended to book your room far in advance.
📍Ocracoke Campground– Ocracoke Campground is a great option if you are looking to stay in the great outdoors right by the sea. There are 136 campsites to choose including tent, RV, and group sites. The campground has restrooms, showers, and potable water, and they are alcohol and pet friendly.
📍Ocracoke Harbor Inn– The Ocracoke Harbor Inn is a five-star facility with a shared lounge, barbecue grills, free airport shuttle service, jetted tubs in each room, and glorious views of the ocean. Each room is clean and comfortable, perfect for any vacation to the island. The hotel also has a sun terrace that is popular for walking and biking. Bike rentals are available through the hotel.
📍Little House by the Ferry– This charming three-bedroom home sleeps up to six guests and is a perfect option for you and your family or friends. The home is clean and adorned with beachy decorations and has everything you might need, including a fully stocked kitchen, bathroom, outdoor shower, a beautiful enclosed sunroom, and a lovely fenced-in backyard with a hammock and grill. This marvelous home is just a 15-minute walk from Pamlico Sound, 20 minutes from the Ocracoke Lighthouse, and close to many favorite Ocracoke restaurants and other attractions.
Ocracoke Island, NC: FAQs
There are many great things to do on Ocracoke Island, and we know you sometimes have additional questions.
📌 Is Ocracoke Island worth it?
Ocracoke Island is one of the top-ranked beaches in the United States, even surpassing some beaches in Hawaii. If you want to see beautiful beaches and enjoy the quaint fishing town, then it is definitely worth it.
📌 Are cars allowed on Ocracoke Island?
Yes, they are allowed. However, biking or golf cart rentals are also great ways to get around the island.
📌 What is special about Ocracoke Island?
Ocracoke has some of the most unique beaches and shells that you won’t see anywhere else.
📌 How do you get to Ocracoke Island?
Ocracoke Island is only accessible by boat or by plane. Three ferries run daily and have passenger and car options. The ferries leave from Cedar Island, Cape Hatteras, and Swan Quarter.
📌 Can you swim on Ocracoke Island?
Almost all beaches on Ocracoke allow swimming, and it is generally very safe to swim as long as you are following the tide rules, going places where there are lifeguards, and looking out for any red flags warnings. The currents around Ocracoke Island can get very fast and intense.
📌 Are there wild horses on Ocracoke Island?
There are a handful of wild ponies on the sound side of the Cape Hatteras National Seashore in an enclosed 180-acre area. Corolla, NC, on the top of the Outer Banks, is where you will find the best wild horse action.
📌 Is Ocracoke crowded?
Since Ocracoke is small and famous, it does tend to get very busy in the summer. However, it is still fairly easy to find beach areas and walking trails that are quiet during the summer months.
📌 Is alcohol allowed on Ocracoke Island beaches?
Alcohol is allowed on the Ocracoke Beaches; however, distilled liquor/spirits are prohibited.
📌 Is there a bridge to Ocracoke Island?
No, there is no bridge to Ocracoke Island.
📌 What language do they speak in Ocracoke?
Long-term residents of Ocracoke speak a dialect that is almost unrecognizable as American English. The language that you may hear on your journey in Ocracoke is called Ocracoke Brogue and originated with the Irish and Scottish colonists that spent years in isolation on the island, evolving into the dialect you hear today. These residents are often referred to as “Hoi Toiders” or High Tiders.
Ocracoke is unlike anywhere in the world, including its nearby beach towns that line the Outer Banks. It is truly a place of tranquility, relaxation, and fascination that grabs the heart of anyone who steps foot on the tiny island.
Whether you are just going for the day or you’re planning your whole trip around Ocracoke, no matter what, you won’t be disappointed. It is truly a place you must see for yourself.