Travel - Ocracoke Island, North Carolina

Words and photography by Carrie Geddie

Ocracoke Island Silverlake Harbour

Have you ever had one of those moments where time stands still... you step outside your body, and have a look around.  You close your eyes and quickly memorize everything about the moment, knowing it will be a memory you will never forget?  I've had a few of these moments in my lifetime and I had one this summer.  I was standing with my feet in the Pamlico sound, feeling the sea grass under my feet, and watching my kids play in the water off Ocracoke Island.

Ocracoke is a tiny island at the edge of the North American continent and part of the Outer Banks of North Carolina.  It's 16 miles long and accessible only by ferry, making it a place you have to want to get to.  The island is protected by the Cape Hatteras National Seashore, but it's heart is a small historic fishing village.  It's both warm and welcoming, and remote and peaceful.  But that belies it's past - the pirate Blackbeard once roamed it's waters and was beheaded just off shore in 1718.

What we love so much about Ocracoke is the history, people and natural beauty.  The house we like to stay in when we visit was built in 1883.  It has creaky floors, low ceilings and tiny rooms.  It's sits in the middle of Howard Street, a gravel lane that's a short walk to Silver Lake Harbor, where we grab lunch while watching the shrimp boats come in, take our boys fishing, and get ice cream every night.

Fishing trip Silverlake Harbour
Ocracoke Island Silverlake Harbour
Ocracoke Island Silverlake Harbour
Sunset Silverlake Harbour

We love that when we are there, all pretension is left behind.  You get the feeling that people judge other people not by how much money they have, but by how involved they are in the community.  Making our trips even better is that we've been lucky enough to make friends with some locals.  One says we can park at his sister's house to explore Springer's Point Nature Preserve, one of Blackbeard's favorite spots.  Another meets us at the school playground for play dates with his son and my boys, and says "Make sure you let us know the next time you come, so we can be sure to get together."

Ocracoke Island family travel
Ocracoke Island family travel
Ocracoke Island family travel
Ocracoke Island family travel
Ocracoke Island family travel
Ocracoke Island family travel
Springer's Point Nature Reserve
Springer's Point Nature Reserve
Springer's Point Nature Reserve

And talk about beautiful.  The island is bordered by the Pamlico Sound on one side and the Atlantic Ocean on the other.  Private sound-side coves, where you can walk out forever and feel the sea grass in your toes, are hidden down 4-wheel drive only paths.  The beaches are incredible, and everyone has to park and walk or drive to their spot on the beach (off-road beach driving - so fun!).  The town is charming and quaint, with a lighthouse built in 1823 that is the second oldest still operating in the U.S., and meandering lanes with live oak, juniper and cedar trees that hang over the roads, providing shade from the summer heat.

Ocracoke Island community
Ocracoke Island Blackbeard pirate
Ocracoke Island community
Ocracoke Island community

I'm sure not everyone would find this remote island as magical as we do, and that is fine by us.  It feels like a special thing to know this place - and it gets in your heart quickly.  I look forward to measuring my children's growth each summer against the soundside grasses, no doubt uncovering a new favorite spot each time we go.  But for now, I think I'll print some of these images for my walls so I can keep that moment - standing with my feet in the warm waters - in my soul every day.

Carrie Geddie travel photography