How do you get to Ocracoke? Well, the fun begins with your journey here. Think of any great adventure movie – especially one with a remote, exotic destination. Typically, the hero doesn’t arrive in first class on some commercial airliner; that would be a pretty boring adventure. Such is the case with your own Ocracoke adventure. Since there are no roads to our rather small and humble island, located just off the coast of North Carolina, getting here is a little like your own adventure movie but without any of the drama or danger!
Ocracoke can only be accessed by ferry, private boat or small plane. Below we will offer you all our options, complete with info to help you plan your journey.
It’s Time to Believe in (Ocracoke) Ferries Again
You can have a fun Ocracoke ferry ride over with just a little bit of planning and preparation. You’ll get to see some great views of the island from the water, and you can often see fish jumping, a variety of waterfowl and some pretty spectacular skies. Especially in the summer, it pays to avoid the line of cars waiting to get on the ferry, whether coming to or leaving Ocracoke, by finding less popular times to come over. The busiest day tripping days are Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. You can avoid waiting by arriving at the ferry before 9 a.m., or by visiting Ocracoke on less busy days – Monday, Friday and/or the weekend.
There are three ferry routes to the island, now with both car and passenger ferry options. From N.C. Highway 12, located along the Outer Banks, the Hatteras-Ocracoke Ferry crossing is free and takes about one hour and 10 minutes. If you’re making a day trip to Ocracoke, plan to arrive at the Hatteras Ferry landing as early as possible for the first-come, first-served service. The Swan Quarter Ferry (2 hours, 40 minutes) and Cedar Island Ferry (2 hours, 10 minutes) routes are tolled, and advance reservations are required. The ferry schedule is subject to change due to weather and traffic, so it’s a good idea to call ahead at (252) 996-6000. Or, for NCDOT ferry route information, schedules, and reservations, call (800)-BY-FERRY or click here. Also, see our section on Ferry Updates for daily tweets here.
Ditch the Car and Take the Passenger Ferry, the Ocracoke Express
The N.C. Department of Transportation’s Ferry Division offers a passenger ferry service between Hatteras and Ocracoke. You park in a lot at the Hatteras side, then walk on (bikes are allowed too) and enjoy the 70-minute ride. On the Ocracoke side, it's an easy walk to businesses that rent golf carts or bikes that are perfect for exploring the island.
The in-season schedule is as follows:
From Hatteras: 9:30 a.m., 1 p.m. and 4:30 p.m.
From Ocracoke: 11 a.m., 3 p.m. and 8 p.m.
A one-way trip takes approximately 70 minutes.
The fare is $5 one way for adults with an additional $1 for bicycles. Children 3 and younger ride for free. A free tram operated by Hyde County is available to shuttle visitors around the village, or you can rent golf carts and bicycles. The tram has nine stops and loops around the island from 10:30 a.m.–8 p.m. in 30-minute intervals.
Passengers may purchase tickets directly at the Hatteras or Ocracoke-Silver Lake terminals. Reservations are required, and you can either reserve online at www.ncferry.org or by calling (800) BY-FERRY.
Let’s Go to Ocracoke by Boat
If you’re more the seafaring type, you can also get yourself to Ocracoke by way of your own private boat. Transient dockage is available at the National Park Service docks, the Community Square docks and the Anchorage Marina. Some motels and cottages also have dockage available for guests. Once you find yourself back on dry land, we have golf carts and bike rentals that can help you get around the village.
Travel to Ocracoke by Private Plane
Those fortunate enough to have access to a private plane can make use of Ocracoke’s small airstrip, located just outside the village. Your lodging and some restaurants will arrange pick up from the airport and bring you into town. Click here for information for pilots.