Ocracoke: a wonderful hiding place. To get there, you can fly, though not commercial flights or go by the North Carolina State Ferry System. If arriving from the northern end, the Hattaras ferry (free) will leave every 1/2 hour in the summer and on the hour in the winter months. From the Ocracoke village side of the island, ferries run from Cedar Island (2 hours & 10 minutes) or Swan Quarter ( 2 hours and 30 minutes). Cost is $15 a trip and runs on a set schedule. Be sure to call the 800 number to make your reservations coming and going from CI or SQ. See the NC Ferry webpage for more information.
The only way to get to Ocracoke is by a ferry. There are several different places in NC to board the car ferry. We picked it up on the Hatteras inlet. The total time was 40 minutes one-way. In off season, the ferries run from this location every hour; peak season every half hour.
You have to take a ferry to get to Ocracoke Island, which really helps it to maintain it's charm.
The most commonly used ferry runs between the town of Hatteras and the north end of Ocracoke island. The ferry is free, and it runs every half hour to an hour between 5:00am and 12:00am during the summer season. During the winter it runs every hour. The trip takes about 40 minutes.
There are also two ferries that run between Ocracoke Village and the mainland. One goes to Swan Quarter, and the other to Cedar Island. These are toll ferries, and they run far less frequently than the Hatteras Ferry. You can get the fares and schedule on NCDOT's web site, or at the National Seashore's visitor's center.
Here you see one of the many ferries criss-crossing the Pamlico Sound delivering their human and vehicular cargos to the various parts of the Outer Banks.
I think this must be a bit confusing to the seagulls... "Depending on the number of people onboard and the bread they brought along to feed us, do we stay with this one, or check out the other one? Decisions, Decisions..."
We arrived at Swan Quarter at 6:15am and though we had reservations for the 9am ferry, we were very lucky to be able to catch the earlier 7am trek to Ocracoke Island. *** A note here... There is NOTHING to do or places to eat in Swan Quarter at such an early hour, so bring food as there are only vending machines at the dock and on the ferries! ***
The trip to Ocracoke Island takes 2 hours and 45 minutes which seems like a long time if you've been driving for 6 hours, but I can truly say that the trip was most enjoyable as it was both envigorating and relaxing. The open air, the sights, sounds, and smell of the water all combine to make this a most pleasant voyage! You should do this!
The ferries range in size from 110 feet to 220 feet and we happened upon the largest one for the passage to Ocracoke. Ferries depart and arrive from 9 different points. The ferry from Swan Quarter to Ocracoke Island costs $15 per vehicle but some other ferries are free.
These ferries can navigate in as little as 5 feet of water and are very well maintained by the State of North Carolina. Ferry schedules and contact information is listed below.
From the Swan Quarter there is a ferry available to Ocracoke twice or three times a day. It takes over 2,5 hours, but if you are lucky, you can even see some dolphins along the cruise :-) Good opportunity to get some suntan too.
We had 2 huge bags of bread for the seagulls. It was fun throwing it in the air and observing those fantastic birds catching some pieces above our heads. Great fun for kids and grown-ups as well ;-)
Well, if you are rich, you can go there by plane :-). There was an airport for small planes too.
Although you can reach parts of the Outer Banks without taking a Ferry, the Ferry ride is still a great way to get there. Spending a little time on the Ferry helps you relax and get in the mood for the easy-going Outre Banks Life. The Longest Ferrys go from the mainland to and from Ocracoke but there are smaller ones to get you between the other islands.
In Peak Season, get there early as there are limited slots on the ferries.