Getting to Ocracoke Island requires definite predetermination. You can’t just hop in your car and drive. The only way to get to Ocracoke is by boat (or small plane). Free ferries from Hatteras Island run continuously throughout the summer season to Ocracoke Island; wait times may average one to two hours. During the off-season, the ferry Hatteras ferry runs on the hour. The trip takes about 40 minutes. Reservations must be made for both the Cedar Island and Swan Quarter ferries (see the schedules below), which travel from the south and west, respectively, and arrive at Silver Lake Harbor in the middle of the village. These ferry rides take close to a bit more than two hours.
Ocracoke Island is only 16 miles long and anywhere from 3 miles to less than a half-mile wide. The north end of the island is part of the Cape Hatteras National Seashore and is undeveloped. When you get off the ferry from Hatteras, you drive past 13 miles of open dunes, maritime forest and marshland before you see the village. This is why you need a car on Ocracoke. Note that N.C. Highway 12, which is the road you’ll be on when you come off the ferry, becomes Irvin Garrish Highway once you’re in the village.
Getting Around Ocracoke
Once you arrive in Ocracoke Village, you should park the car and let it stay that way for most your visit. Set out on foot; rent a bicycle or golf cart, or for the romantic, try the Round Creek Rickshaw pedal cab. The village is so small that you can pedal entirely around it in about an hour, but it will take you much longer because you won’t be able to resist exploring all the back roads and popping into shops, galleries, eateries and attractions. Ocracoke Village is an explorer’s heaven. You don’t need a map because you can’t get lost. Just go out exploring and you’ll be delighted with what you find.
Ferry Schedules—Note the new ferry times scheduled in 2012 between the soundside ferries and the island.
For more ferry information and to make a reservation call (800) BY-FERRY or visit http://www.ncdot.org/ferry/.
Hatteras-Ocracoke Free Ferry
This ferry service links Hatteras and Ocracoke islands with a relaxing 40-minute trip. During the summer the wait can be long. Reservations are not accepted. When getting in line for this ferry, make sure you’re not in the locals’ lane … usually the shortest line.
January 1-May 7 and October 9-December 31, 2012:
Departs every hour, 5 a.m. to midnight
May 8-October 8, 2012:
Departures at 5, 6 and 7 a.m.; every 30 minutes from 7:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.; then at 8, 9, 10, 11 p.m. and midnight.
Soundside to Island Ferry Schedules
Ferry Cedar Island/Swan Quarter Toll Ferries
These ferries carry passengers between Ocracoke and the mainland towns of Cedar Island and Swan Quarter. The Cedar Island Ferry is 2¼ hours long and the Swan Quarter is 2½ hours long. Reservations are recommended and absolutely required in the summer; make them by calling 800-BY-FERRY (800-293-3779), or you can go online at http://www.ncdot.org/ferry/. You must claim your reservation 30 minutes prior to your departure time. Cost is $1 for pedestrians, $3 for bicycles, $10 for motorcycles, $15 for vehicles and/or combinations less than 20 feet, $30 for vehicles/combinations 20 to 40 feet and $45 for vehicles/combinations up to 65 feet.