22 May 2023
Getting to Ocracoke
Ocracoke is, admittedly, one of the coolest places on the Outer Banks. From eclectic local shops to famous pirate history, there are so many things to see and do on Ocracoke Island. Part of its charm comes from the fact that you can only get there water or by air. There are three ferry routes that will take you Ocracoke: Swan Quarter, Cedar Island, and Hatteras. Hatteras is the only free ferry and is the one you'll be taking if you're staying on Hatteras Island or somewhere else on the Outer Banks, which we highly suggest, as Ocracoke makes an amazing day trip as part of your Outer Banks vacation. Whether you want to walk around Ocracoke or bring your vehicle and drive, there's a ferry for you. Keep reading to find out the cost, departure times, and more for the Ocracoke Vehicle Ferry and the Ocracoke Passenger Ferry.
About the Ocracoke Vehicle Ferry
For years, the typical way to make a trip to Ocracoke Island means heading down to Hatteras Inlet and waiting in line at the ferry terminal before loading up your vehicle onto one of the many ferries for a 45 to 60-minute ride across the sound. This ferry takes you to the North end of the island where you will then need to drive another 20 minutes into town, so this isn't really the best way to get to Ocracoke as a pedestrian or a bicycle rider - though you can usually find space if you don't mind the little bit of a trek into town.
The ride itself is beautiful and the drive once you've reached land is gorgeous and worth every minute. The best time to make your way to Ocracoke is usually in the evening while the best time to Hatteras is in the morning. This will give you plenty of chances to take in a spectacular sunset on the ocean before hoping on the ferry back to the mainland.
Ocracoke Vehicle Ferry Cost
The Ocracoke Vehicle Ferry is free to all passengers, visitors, and locals.
When Does the Ocracoke Vehicle Ferry Depart?
The Ocracoke Vehicle Ferry leaves from Hatteras and Ocracoke daily and runs from 5:00AM to midnight. The ferry runs every 30 minutes during the summer months and in peak hours, between 8:00AM and 8:00PM. During the off-season, the ferry still runs regularly, but usually runs every hour depending on need.
Boarding is on first-come, first-served basis with government employees and grocery deliveries taking precedence. Keep in mind that high winds and inclement weather can result in delays or closures. Check the schedule here to make sure the ferry is running for your planned trip!
About The Ocracoke Passenger Ferry
For a day trip to Ocracoke, you may have noticed that vehicles aren’t really necessary once you reach the village and some people even find them cumbersome due to limited parking options combined with the high amount of foot, bicycle and golf cart traffic. Since the day trip is well worth making but a vehicle is required to get from the ferry dock to the village, what are your other options? Enter—the Ocracoke Passenger Ferry!
A passenger ferry to Ocracoke had been in talks for a while, and during the summer of 2019, those talks became reality. The original vessel being used was loaned from Seastreak Marine in New Jersey and named The M/V Martha's Vineyard Express (and nicknamed the Ocracoke Express). In 2022, it was announced that the Outer Banks now has its very own passenger ferry and officially named it the Ocracoke Express.
The passenger Ocracoke ferry skips the north ferry terminal completely and takes passengers right into Ocracoke Village at the Silver Lake Harbor dock. This compact ship moves at faster speeds than the regular vehicle ferries and actually takes passengers across the sound in a 70-minute one-way trip.
Pedestrians, bicycles, walkers, strollers and leashed pets are all allowed on board... but no vehicles! Riders can also bring along small carry-ons such as backpacks, purses, and other items you will need in the village. The ferry sells concessions and drinks on board.
Ocracoke Passenger Ferry Cost
Although the vehicle ferries will transport free of charge, the passenger ferry does require purchased tickets. Although not required, advanced reservations are recommended. Tickets are first-come, first-served. Tickets are $7.50 per person for a one-way trip (so the round trip will cost one person $15) with a $1 charge for bicycles. Children aged 3 and under who can share a seat with an adult are free*. Tickets can be purchased online or by phone at 1-800-BY-FERRY. *Please note - prices of admission are subject to change without notice.
The ferry can transport up to 129 passengers per ride. Please arrive at least 20 minutes before departure to check-in. Keep in mind that during peak travel times, traffic congestion in Hatteras and around the terminal can cause delays so plan accordingly.
When Does The Ocracoke Passenger Ferry Depart?
The Ocracoke Passenger Ferry runs May 23 through September 3 for the 2023 season. The ferry departs all seven days of the week.
Departure From Hatteras Ferry Terminal:
- 9:30 AM
- 1:00 PM
- 4:30 PM
Departure From Ocracoke Silver Lake Terminal:
- 11:00 AM
- 3:00 PM
- 7:30 PM
Where Do I Leave My Vehicle?
When you arrive at the Hatteras Ferry Terminal, there are 110 parking spots available for passenger ferry travelers to leave their cars for the day. The spots are available on a first-come, first-served basis. There are also 5 overnight spots.
Getting Around Ocracoke
Although you can explore the island on foot once you arrive, a tram is available for Ocracoke ferry passengers to get around from place to place and is free of charge! The tram runs a loop around the island about every 30 minutes and stops in 8 different locations. You can also rent a bike or golf cart once you are in town from a local rental shop.
What To Do In Ocracoke Village
- Grab Lunch: From tacos, burgers, pizza, and the area’s freshest seafood, there are plenty of restaurants to choose from in Ocracoke that serve up a tasty lunch—a great way to break up your day trip and escape the summer sun!
- Visit the Lighthouse: Ocracoke Station Light is a 75-ft tall whitewash brick lighthouse near Ocracoke Inlet that is maintained by the US Coast Guard. The light it emits is visible up to 14 nautical miles away and is completely automated. As with other lighthouses on the OBX, it was not the first structure on location but the tower that stands today was originally built in 1822 and was fully operational by 1823. It is one of the oldest operating lighthouses in the United States and the oldest lighthouse in North Carolina that is still in operation! However, due to structural integrity issues, it is not open for climbing.
- Go Shopping: Whether you’re looking for clothing and jewelry or art and home décor, there is a shop in Ocracoke for everyone. Dozens of shops are within easy walking distance although some require a bit of exploration as they are located on the back roads and side streets. Find the perfect souvenir to commemorate your vacation while supporting the local economy!
- Explore History: Like the rest of the Outer Banks, Ocracoke Island is deep-rooted in American history. Of course, Ocracoke may be most well-known as being the home and hangout of the infamous pirate Blackbeard but it also played a significant role in several wars including the War of 1812 and the Civil War. During WWII, the British ship HMT Bedfordshire was sunk by German U-Boats in 1942. Four sailors’ bodies washed ashore and local Ocracoke residents gave them a proper burial in a plot of land now known as the British Cemetery (located on British Cemetery Road). The site is honored annually by both the British Royal Navy and US Coast Guard. When you arrive in Ocracoke, be sure to pay a visit to the Ocracoke Preservation Society Museum to learn more about the island's history.
Still want to take the vehicle ferry? No problem! Click here to view the current vehicle ferry schedule from Hatteras to Ocracoke.
*Note: All ferry information—including costs, departure times, tram maps, etc.—is current as of May 3, 2022 and comes from NCDot’s Ferry Website. Information subject to change by NCDot. Ferry departures are all weather permitting.