• 1565
    Photo courtesy of Village Craftsmen

    When the English arrived at the Outer Banks, they had Spanish horses on board. These were probably the first horses introduced to Ocracoke. For years, wild Banker Ponies roamed free on the island but were penned in 1959 for protection as car traffic increased.

  • Pre-1715
    Image courtesy of The Village Craftsmen

    Native Americans had hunting and fishing encampments on the island. Although there may have been permanent settlements on Ocracoke, no evidence has yet been discovered.  

  • 1715

    Ocracoke was designated a town by the North Carolina Colonial Assembly. It was called “Pilot Town” in hopes of attracting ship’s pilots to guide merchant vessels through Ocracoke Inlet. The first pilots and their families seem to have settled on Ocracoke in the 1730s. 

  • 1718

    On November 17, the infamous pirate Blackbeard was killed by Lt. Maynard in a fierce naval battle off the coast of Ocracoke ending the “Golden Age of Piracy.”

  • 1775 – 1783
    Image courtesy of the Village Craftsmen

    During the Revolutionary War, Ocracoke Inlet played an important role as a main avenue of trade into and out of the colonies, and as an avenue for supplies to the Continental Army.

  • 1823
    Photo courtesy of Ocracoke Navigator

    Ocracoke Lighthouse is built and put into operation at the edge of Silver Lake Harbor replacing a wooden lighthouse built in 1798 on nearby (now underwater) Shell Castle Island. 

  • 1840

    A U.S. Post Office is established on Ocracoke.  

  • 1861 – 1865

    During the Civil War, Fort Ocracoke, on nearby Beacon Island, was constructed at the onset of the war but quickly abandoned by the Confederate Army, and then destroyed as Union forces took over neighboring Hatteras Island. Although Union troops occupied Ocracoke, the village had no fortifications or cannons, and there were no battles on the island.   

  • 1883 – 1996
    Photo courtesy of Village Craftsmen

    The U.S. Life Saving Service was established on the island in 1883 to respond to ships wrecked or stranded in the Graveyard of the Atlantic. The first station was located at the north end of the island, at Hatteras Inlet. In 1903, a second station was built in the village. In 1915, the USLSS was combined with the U.S. Revenue Cutter Service to create the U.S. Coast Guard. The local station was decommissioned in 1996 and the building now serves as a facility for the NC Center for the Advancement of Teaching. 

  • 1938
    Photo courtesy of the Village Craftsmen

    Ocracoke Ice and Electric Company was established with the goal of providing electric power to local businesses and homes, and to provide ice to fishermen so they could transport their catch to the mainland for sale more easily and with little spoilage. The island continued to rely on locally produced generator power until 1966, when electric cables were attached to the Oregon Inlet bridge and laid under Hatteras Inlet.

  • 1940s – 1950s

    Before the state-run ferry system was established and the road to Hatteras was built, Ocracoke’s primary route to the mainland was a privately owned and operated mailboat, Aleta, which carried both mail and passengers. A round trip from Ocracoke to other islands and back could take up to 10 hours.

  • 1942

    The U.S. Navy paved the first section of road on Ocracoke Island over what had always been deep sandy lanes. Gradually, the NC DOT took over and a majority of the roads were paved by 1957. 

  • 1942

    On May 11, a German U-boat sank the HMT Bedfordshire off the coast of Ocracoke Island, killing everyone on board. The British Cemetery was established on a small plot of land on Ocracoke Island for the four British sailors whose bodies were recovered after that attack. 

  • 1942 – 1946

    During World War II, a U.S. Navy base was built on the island including a magnetic loop station to detect German U-boats, and served as the training grounds for a highly classified unit called the U.S. Beach Jumpers (the precursor to the U.S. Navy Seals). 

  • 1943
    Photo courtesy of Ocracoke Preservation Society

    The U.S. Navy operated a radar and sonar tower at Loop Shack Hill, a series of sand dunes just outside the village, with jamming equipment, radio high-frequency direction-finding gear, and new listening capacities.

  • 1944
    Photo courtesy of Our State magazine

    On September 14, one of the worst and most memorable hurricanes of that generation hit. Boats washed up onto shore, and houses floated off foundations.

  • 1950s

    Albert Styron, Jr, and his wife Mamie ran Albert Styron Store, which sold groceries and Philips 66 gas.

  • 1950s
    Photo courtesy Blackbeard’s Lodge

    Stanley Wahab was a visionary and saw visitor potential for the island, marketing Ocracoke as the “Bermuda of the U.S.A.”

  • 1950
    Photo courtesy of Village Craftsmen

    The first car ferry, which held three cars and was operated by Hatteras islander Frazier Peele, began running out of Hatteras. Ferry service to and from Atlantic, NC (original location) and later Cedar Island, NC (current location) began in 1960, and to and from Swan Quarter, NC began in 1977.

  • 1953
    Photo courtesy of National Park Service

    The Cape Hatteras National Seashore was officially established.

  • 1954

    Mounted Boy Scout Troop 290 of Ocracoke, North Carolina, is the only mounted troop in the history of the Boy Scouts of America. Each Boy Scout had to capture, tame, and then care for his own wild Ocracoke Banker pony. 

  • 1956
    Photo courtesy of Village Craftsmen

    Phone service first came to Ocracoke Island.

  • 1977
    Photo courtesy of Ocracoke Observer

    The Ocracoke Water Plant was opened and “city” water was available to residents by means of a reverse osmosis filtration system. Prior to then, the only fresh water access was from individual cisterns that caught rain water. 

  • 1982
    Photo courtesy of NC Health News

    Ocracoke Health Center was established, and its doors opened. The Health Center was renovated in 2020 due to damages from Hurricane Dorian.

  • 2009
    Photo courtesy of Outer Banks Visitor Guide

    The U.S. Department of Transportation found the traditional maritime culture along the Byway worthy of the National Byway Designation.

  • 2019

    Hurricane Dorian strikes Ocracoke Island. The flooding was historic and catastrophic, with storm surge hitting 7.5 feet. Through the devastation, the island came together and is rebuilding stronger than before.  

Ocracoke Island History
A colonial trade route stopover. A hideout for pirates. A port of entry during the Revolutionary and Civil Wars. A top-secret training base for the precursor to the Navy Seals. A quaint and quiet fishing village. Ocracoke Island has endured centuries of change but always re-emerges stronger than before.
Ocracoke Preservation Society Museum
Wander among fishing boats, quilts, Navy uniforms, antiques, old photographs and other local artifacts that show just how much Ocracoke Island has changed—and how much it’s stayed the same.
Wild Banker Ponies
On a 188-acre plot of land, behind a wooden fence, lives the herd of Ocracoke Banker Ponies, descendants of Spanish mustangs turned wild ponies that survived a shipwreck hundreds of years ago offshore.
Island Brogue
An island so isolated its residents developed their own accent and vocabulary over hundreds of years. But as off-islanders have moved in, the Ocracoke Brogue is in danger of dying out within just a few decades.
British Cemetery
On small plot of land leased in perpetuity to the British Commonwealth lies the final resting place of four Royal Navy sailors who were killed in a German U-boat attack just off our shores.
Ocracoke Working Watermen’s Exhibit
Imagine Ocracoke Island without the fishermen, clammers, crabbers, and oystermen who have been central to its economy, culture, and community for hundreds of years. In 2006, that almost happened.
U.S. Navy Beach Jumpers Memorial
More than 60 years after they were stationed here, Ocracoke Island could finally commemorate the highly classified U.S. Navy special warfare unit that practiced their amphibious landings on our shores.
Fort Ocracoke Civil War Memorial
A history marker is all that remains of the Civil War fort built on nearby Beacon Island, which was partly destroyed by Confederates, completely destroyed by Union forces, and consumed by the inlet in 1933.
Portsmouth Island
Located a short boat ride away from Ocracoke Island stands a historic village on Portsmouth Island. Here, you’ll find a post office, church, schoolhouse, Lifesaving Station, and many lovely homes—the only thing missing is the villagers.