The most important thing you should bring
to Ocracoke Island is a flexible attitude.
Things may not always go according to plan. That is part of life on an island. Go with the flow. Everything will be okay.
If you haven’t checked out accommodations yet, you should know that we are different from most mainland beaches in that there are no houses or hotels or oceanfront property of any kind on Ocracoke Island. There is a National Park Service campground on the beach, but that’s it. Hence, most visitors to the island will be staying in the village.
The beach is only a couple of miles from the village, and some people make the walk. But most prefer to drive, either onto it (with an off-road vehicle permit), or they park at the Lifeguard Beach where there are restrooms, showers, a boardwalk to the beach, and lifeguards on duty from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily from Memorial Day to Labor Day.
There are several other beach access points along Highway 12. But no lifeguards, so if you choose to swim there, please take a minute to learn about rip currents and how to avoid getting caught in one.
Q: Is there cell phone service and internet on the island?
A: Of course. Cell service may vary by provider, but many people don’t even lose cell service on the ferry ride over. The island is equipped with Internet service and most hotels, B&Bs, and rental houses have Wi-Fi. If yours doesn’t, several locations on the island offer free Wi-Fi: Ocracoke Coffee, the Magic Bean Coffee Bazaar, the Ocracoke Gas Station, the Slushy Stand, and the Ocracoke Community Library, which is open to the public weekday evenings from 3 to 7 p.m. and 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturdays.
Q: Can I buy groceries on the island?
Q: Is there a hospital on the island?
A: No, however, Ocracoke Island has professional EMTs that will respond to emergencies all over the island. In a medical emergency, call 911. For non-emergency health concerns, contact the Ocracoke Health Center, located at 305 Back Rd. or by calling (252) 928-1511; M-F, 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. and 1-5 p.m. After hours, call 252-928-SICK (7425). Gail Covington of Island Mobile Medical Care is a family nurse practitioner who offers in-home visits by appointment. You can reach her at (252) 996-0511. Veterinary services are also available from Laura L. Trent, DVM, a mobile veterinarian. You can reach her at (252) 923-3787.
Q: Is the island (and its businesses) dog friendly?
A: There are several pet-friendly hotels and rentals (click here to view a list) and dogs are allowed in restaurants, but only those with outdoor seating. Dogs are allowed on the beach, but they MUST be leashed when not swimming in the water. The summer months are very hot on the beach and may be too hot for dogs. Dogs may be unleashed in the village area, but a local ordinance requires that owners pick up after their dogs’ business.
Q: Can I get married on Ocracoke Island?
A: Certainly! We have businesses on the island that cater to the needs of destination wedding folks, with everything from venues and lodging to tents and rentals to florists and officiants. Contact the Ocracoke Civic & Business Association at (252) 475-9701 for more information about planning your wedding on Ocracoke Island.
Q: Are there sharks around Ocracoke Island?
A: Sharks are part of any ocean’s ecosystem and can be present in any ocean water, which means Ocracoke Island is no exception. Sharks also live in the Pamlico Sound and swim in and out of the inlet near South Point. However, experts have noted that sharks are not the biggest danger on the beach. Rip currents are.
Q: When’s the best time to visit?
A: Opinions vary. Some say summer as the best time. But many locals will tell you that spring or fall (our shoulder seasons) are ideal, because there’s fewer tourists and the weather is still beautiful. Granted, amenities will vary depending on when you visit. All businesses are open by Easter weekend each year and a few remain open year-round. Because of the way Ocracoke is situated geographically, the ocean is warm and swimmable from about mid-May until about mid-October.
While the summer is busy on Ocracoke, the pace begins to slow in the fall. Some say that September and October are the most beautiful months on the island when the days are still warm and sunny. We have a full event calendar during these fall months that makes for an excellent stay. However, hurricane season can make planning too far in advance a bit tricky.
From November until Easter some restaurants, hotels, and gift shops stay open, but many businesses close for the winter. During this time, there is still plenty to do if you want to fish, kayak, shell, bicycle, bird watch, or just unplug from the world. The views and sunsets are stunning all year long.
What Not to pack
That’s easy: golf clubs and high heels. This is an island, but it’s not a resort. There is no golf here. That includes Putt-Putt. There’s no need for high heels, either, since you can wear casual attire to even our most upscale restaurants. Plus, if you’re walking to dinner, it just makes sense to leave the stilettos at home.
So, what should you pack? Bug spray or bug repellent bracelets. LOTS. Remember the part about being an island? Yeah, that means the mosquitos can be pretty nasty from late May through October. Sunscreen is a given. A chair and cooler for the beach. And snacks for the ferry ride.
We are very chill. This is an island, after all. But we also ask that you obey a few common-sense rules and courtesies while you’re here.
Read a few simple rules for visiting Ocracoke Island.
Covid-19 Travel Info
The National Park Service has implemented a mask requirement for employees, visitors, partners, and contractors. At Cape Hatteras National Seashore, face masks are now required in all park buildings and facilities, including visitor centers and museums. Masks are also required on NPS-managed lands when physical distancing cannot be maintained, including beaches and trails.