Ocracoke has become a delightful tourist destination – no longer just a quaint fishing village. Visitors will find restaurants to suit many tastes, a variety of hotels and inns, art galleries, musical venues, gift shops, a handful of bars, a fisherman’s co-op and a wonderful local museum with summer Porch Talks. All this excitement coexists quite well with an historic village and an undeveloped beach. Summers on Ocracoke Island bustle with people and activity. Traveling by foot or bike is the way to get the most out of island life, though boats, of course, play a prominent role.
In spite of its remote location, Ocracoke Island has services and amenities similar to other small American towns – a gas station, garage, several grocers, a liquor store, hardware store, bank, health clinic, several spas, volunteer fire department, public K-12 school, two Protestant churches, a Catholic congregation, a day care facility, a monthly newspaper and a library—but unlike most smaller places, here you’ll also find a community-run radio station, a meditation group and a focus on holistic health. Work for most islanders relates to tourism, and it’s not uncommon for an islander to have two or more jobs in the summer. Ocracokers are disinclined to attach status to employment; the person who cleaned your cottage may teach high school during the winter, and a classically trained musician may be bagging your groceries.
The year-round population is around 950. People choose to live on Ocracoke for the homemade music and pot-luck suppers, the natural beauty, the thrum of summertime, the quiet of winter and because it’s home and always has been. Islanders feel strongly connected to their history, their people, the land and water. Living well on Ocracoke means sharing fish and fish stories, helping a neighbor prepare for a hurricane, gossip in the grocery aisle, grieving together when a community member dies, dressing up for the Fourth of July parade, starry cold winter nights and knowing how to fix your own plumbing.
Visitors who don’t mind a few bugs and appreciate solitude and self-sufficiency will find much to enjoy on Ocracoke. The pace of island life has quickened in the past few decades, but the ethos of independence and humor that served earlier generations remains.