by Jessie S.
For years, a trip to Ocracoke Island meant heading down to the Hatteras Inlet, waiting in line at the ferry terminal and loading up your vehicle onto one of the many ferries for a 45 to 60-minute ride across the sound. This ferry took you to the North end of the island where you would then need to drive another 20 minutes into town. 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!
About The Ocracoke Passenger Ferry
Although a passenger ferry to Ocracoke has been in talks for a while, this summer will mark the first time it has been tried. The vessel being used is actually temporarily on loan from Seastreak Marine in New Jersey and named the M/V Martha's Vineyard 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 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. Beginning July 1st, tickets are $2 per person for a one way trip (so the round trip will cost one person $4.00 in total). Children aged 3 and under are free. Tickets can be purchased online or by phone at 1-800-BY-FERRY.
The ferry can transport up to 149 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 Ferry Depart?
The Ocracoke Passenger Ferry is running in 2019 from May 20th through September 5th. 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
- 8:00 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 at 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 July 1, 2019 and comes from NCDot’s Ferry Website. Information subject to change by NCDot. Ferry departures are all weather permitting.
Jessie has been coming to the Outer Banks since she was just 5 years old. She loved it here so much that she finally relocated in 2018. Now her mission is to show the world that the Outer Banks is an incredible place that everyone should experience. When she isn't working, you can find Jessie hanging out with her friends, chilling at home with her awesome cat, Yoji, or discovering a new Outer Banks adventure.