Ocracoke—the Ideal Camping and RVing Destination
Why do we choose RVing over hotels or vacation cottage stays? You never have to convince this household about the joys of camping and RVing. While tenting days are now long behind us, we enjoy exploring in our Class B camper van. As all RVers know, the flexibility and affordability of the RV lifestyle make it an easy sell.
There’s nothing that enhances the RV experience more than finding that oh-so perfect destination. To us, Ocracoke Island has an unbeatable combination of great weather, unspoiled beaches, an unhurried and relaxed pace of life, and a quiet island vibe. In fact, things change so slowly on Ocracoke that the locals prefer it just stay that way. Exactly, we say. Why mess with perfection?
Getting to Ocracoke involves a ferry—the small barrier island is connected by three ferry routes: to Hatteras Island (free), to Cedar Island (toll), and to Swan Quarter (toll). The Hatteras-Ocracoke vehicle ferry is first-come, first-served that doesn’t require reservations. Reservations are recommended for Cedar Island and Swan Quarter, especially during weekends and the busy summer season.
Once on the island it’s near impossible to get lost. The two-lane blacktop—Highway 12—runs for the island’s 16-mile length with nary a stoplight; the dunes and beachfront of the Atlantic Ocean on one side, the Pamlico Sound on the other. The entire island, except the village, is part of the Cape Hatteras National Seashore, so the dunes, the oceanfront, the salt marshes, and the creatures that live there are protected.
Where to stay?
The size of your rig and the amenities and services you need will help you decide which of the island’s campgrounds best fits your needs. If camping during the peak season—May through August—reservations are recommended.
On Ocracoke, shaded campsites are in short supply, so we always park to keep the sun off the fridge side (so it doesn’t have to work as hard) and to catch the refreshing offshore breezes. Bonus if we can get a campsite where we fall asleep to the sound of the waves.
We like to keep things simple and love to support the National Park Service, so top of our list is the NPS Ocracoke Campground. The campground is on the ocean side, separated from the beach by barrier dunes. There are 136 level sites—none with hookups—that can accommodate any size RV or trailer. There are restrooms, unheated showers, grills, and picnic tables; pets are allowed, and D loop is a generator-free zone. Most of the sites have no shade trees and with the sandy soil comes mosquitoes. Pack the bug spray (although camping here in the spring and fall we’ve never needed it). The no-charge dump station is close to the park entrance.
If you’d like electrical and water hookups, Jerniman’s Campground on the village edge is next door to the Ocracoke Variety Store. Jerniman’s prides itself on its family-friendly environment with several dozen campsites, bathhouses, laundry, golf cart rental, and dump station. Well-behaved pets kept on leash are welcomed.
What to eat?
Seafood is the answer! Ocracoke has a long history of fishing traditions, dating back to the early 1700s. If we’re cooking in, we always stop at the Ocracoke Seafood Company where the daily catch is brought directly to the fish house. We even load up before leaving the island and pack a delicious reminder of Ocracoke into our RV freezer.
On those days when we’d rather let experts do the cooking, we head to village eateries like The Flying Melon for the grilled seafood platter, SmacNally’s on the waterfront for a mango shrimp wrap, or Eduardo’s Ocracoke food truck for authentic Mexican grilled seafood burritos.
And, finally, what to do?
If you’re committed to the 10,000 steps a day regime, Ocracoke has got your number. On morning and evening beach walks we often have long stretches of glorious sand to ourselves. Finding beach access is a snap with clearly marked pullouts along the highway, and boardwalks or trails to the alluring beaches. We bring snacks, beach chairs, and books down to the oceanfront. When we need to stretch our legs, we stroll and look for shells, watch pelicans ride the crest of a wave, or dip into the water.
The Cape Hatteras National Seashore has the darkest nighttime skies on the east coast. From our site at the National Park campground we often see the Milky Way painted across the sky. The free Sky Tracker app can identify constellations, deep-sky objects, and the sun, moon, and planets, all in real time.
Throw in a fishing line, ride a bike, visit the Banker Ponies, shop at the village’s eclectic and quirky artisan shops, get out your binoculars to do a little birding.
Ocracoke promises low stress relaxation. And it delivers, year after year.
Many businesses close over the winter, but spring and fall shoulder seasons are perfect for RVing and tenting. For northerners, even the winter months are a nice break from snow and ice.
Ocracoke Variety has a large selection of groceries and hardware but if you need specific items bring them from the mainland.
Tune in to WOVV 90.1 FM or www.wovv.org for the island community radio station.