by Penny Zibula

Photography by Simon Lock

Ocracoke Island is famous for its stunning beaches, rich history, quaint village, and warm hospitality. Unfortunately, it is also known for its vulnerability to devastating hurricanes. Fortunately, Ocracoke’s inhabitants are as determined as they are friendly. Although they have raised and modified structures against the danger of rising flood water, many buildings include accessibility features so people with disabilities aren’t left on the street feeling excluded.

For visitors with disabilities, it’s not only possible to relax and enjoy all Ocracoke has to offer, it’s as simple as saying, “Let’s go!”

Getting a Good Night’s Sleep

Before diving into all the delights of Ocracoke, finding an accessible and comfortable place to sleep is the first step to holiday happiness. The island has a number of accommodations with features such as wheelchair ramps, elevators, grab bars, roll-in showers, and lowered counters. Here are three possibilities that will enhance the pleasure and peace of mind you’ll enjoy on an Ocracoke getaway .

Blackbeard’s Lodge

Blackbeard’s Lodge is a historic landmark dating back to 1936, and is the oldest continually operating hotel on Ocracoke. Modern amenities combined with antique furnishings and pirate-themed décor give this accommodation a comfy air with a touch of playfulness.

The lodge has 36 rooms, suites, and apartments, one of which is wheelchair accessible. This space features two double beds and a roll-in shower.

Blackbeard is easily accessed via a wheelchair ramp at the entrance, leading to a  homey lobby with a grand piano and a wood burning stove from the 1800s. It’s a fine spot to sit and relax or participate in a game of pool, air hockey, foosball, or one of several board games in the only Game Room on Ocracoke.

Amenities include an outdoor pool, free wifi, and golf cart rentals.

The Castle Bed & Breakfast

This elegant three-story Victorian-style mansion was built in 1958, and is affectionately called Castle on Silver Lake. The property is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. 

The Castle‘s rooms are charmingly decorated with antique furniture, one of which is wheelchair accessible with a queen bed and roll-in shower. A ramp is conveniently located at the entrance of the inn.

Amenities include a hardy breakfast, free wifi, an outdoor pool, sauna, and spa. Guest who love to fish can also enjoy complimentary dockage at the Castle docks with power hookups and a fish cleaning station.

Ocracoke Harbor Inn

Conveniently located in the heart of Ocracoke Village, this family owned inn exudes island village charm in all its rooms, suites, and five cottages. Overlooking picturesque Silver Lake Harbor, you can drink in the view from the privacy of your deck, or get up close and personal  with the sparkling water on the inn’s private dock.

Ocracoke Harbor Inn has two wheelchair accessible rooms with king beds, roll-in showers, and balconies. The in also has a wheelchair lift at the entrance.

Amenities include a complimentary continental breakfast, free wifi, and bike rentals.

Island Eats

From casual eateries to upscale dining, Ocracoke’s excellent restaurants make it easy  to find options to suit a variety of tastes and budgets. Many of these are wheelchair accessible, Here are a few options to get you started on your Ocracoke food adventure.


\This two-in-one restaurant offers a romantic  dining room, as well as a casual screened-in porch and a patio with live music for a more laidback experience.

Dajio serves up traditional American cuisine with a coastal twist. The selection of fresh seafood, salads, sandwiches, burgers, pasta, and more make it difficult to choose. And if you prefer gluten-free and/or vegetarian dishes, Dajio has you covered, too.

Dajio has a wheelchair ramp on the side of the building, and the spacious patio is at street level. 

Ocracoke Oyster Co

Specializing in delectable oysters served in a variety of creative and traditional ways, this popular restaurant knows how to let the good times roll.

Seafood dishes include crab cakes, shrimp and grits, fish tacos, and outstanding crab and clam chowders. The restaurant also offers other dining options, including vegan.

Ocracoke Oyster Company has a wheelchair ramp on the side of the building but you may need some assistance.

Pony Island Restaurant

For a delightful Southern style breakfast or lunch, Pony Island offers a menu from which even the pickiest eater can find something delicious. Assorted pancakes and omelets, biscuits and gravy, burgers, wraps, salads,, and gluten-free options  are only a few of the choices available. 

Pony Island Restaurant has a wheelchair ramp at the entrance, accessible restrooms, and a cozy dining room with booths and tables.

Let’s Do Some Beaching

Ocracoke’s 16 miles of pristine sandy beaches stretch along the island’s Atlantic coast.   Part of the Cape Hatteras National Seashore, these beaches are mostly undeveloped and wild. Some have parking, restrooms, and footpaths accessing the sand and water. Here are some of Ocracoke’s accessible beaches to enjoy.

Lifeguard Beach

Designated by Dr. Beach as one of the best in America, this beach has lifeguards on duty during the summer. There is a wheelchair-friendly access ramp and viewing platform, restrooms, a pet drinking station and parking.

South Point Beach

This beach is located at the southern tip of the island, and is a popular fishing and shelling spot. It is only accessible by 4WD and a permit is required to drive to and park on the beach. Wildlife sightings and scenic views provide delightful eye candy while you’re soaking up the laidback vibe.

For more information, call National Seashore/Ocracoke Visitor Center at (252) 928-4531

Out and About on Ocracoke

Ocracoke offers a number of attractions and activities with  easy access for visitors with disabilities. Here are some public areas to enjoy while visiting the island.

Ocracoke Village

The main hub of activity on Ocracoke, this charming village is a treasure trove of quaint shops, restaurants, galleries, and museums. Sidewalks, crosswalks, and a public parking area make it easy to explore.

Ocracoke Lighthouse

This 75 foot tall lighthouse, with a white exterior and a fixed lantern, is the oldest operating lighthouse in North Carolina, and the second oldest in the U.S.. The public is prohibited from climbing the interior stairs, but a wheelchair ramp to the lighthouse door allows up-close views and  photography.

Ocracoke Preservation Society Museum

Housed in a historic building that had once been a general store, this museum showcases Ocracoke’s history and culture through exhibits, artifacts, photographs, and videos. A wheelchair ramp is located on the side of the building but maneuvering a wheelchair inside may be challenging because passageways are narrow.

A free tram that circles the island at 30-minute intervals and golf cart rentals make it easy, convenient, and cost-effective for visitors with mobility challenges to explore Ocracoke. A wealth of information is available on Visit Ocracoke’s website.

Final Thoughts

It would be both unrealistic and unfair to expect every structure on Ocracoke to be fully accessible to individuals with mobility challenges. But full enjoyment of the island’s natural beauty, charm and peaceful atmosphere is easily achievable with a little advanced planning.

Once on the island, the reality is that the benefits to mind, body, and soul far outweigh any frustrations. Ocracoke embraces everyone with the same welcoming warmth and kindness. And everyone has the opportunity to find their own individual way to bask in that warmth.

Penny Zibula has been a freelance writer and blogger since she retired in 2013. Her background is in public relations and community outreach, with stints as a newspaper reporter, television talk show host, and producer. Along with her husband/photographer, Simon Lock, and her adorable Guide Dog, Splendid, she applies her life-long love of learning and passion for travel to her writing about destinations, history, culture, food, and accessibility.