If you live anywhere near the North Carolina coastline, you’re probably very familiar with those little bumper stickers that seem to populate every car-the sidelong oval baring three letters: "OBX." If you’ve lived near the coast long enough, you probably know that this is an abbreviation for the North Carolina Outer Banks. So, then, you probably know that the Outer Banks are a slender strand of barrier islands located between the Pamlico and Albemarle Sounds, and the Atlantic Ocean.
Perhaps you know about their famous Ocracoke Island ponies, the undisturbed beaches, or maybe the renowned lighthouses. Perhaps you’ve heard a little bit of the islands’ steeped history. But until you’ve experienced for yourself powder-white beaches, being dwarfed by century-old lighthouses, or what a real island sunset looks like…you don’t really know the Outer Banks.
Ocracoke Island is the southernmost island on the Outer Banks. To mainlanders, it would barely constitute as a substantial piece of land; the entire island has an area of only 9.6 square miles. Ocracoke’s historical isolation from the mainland, and even the other islands, is the gift that has made the island a unique destination.
Ocracoke is the name of the island, as well as its only village—with a population of 769—and the island inlet. It came as a surprise to some that this "sandbar" could be recognized in 2007 as "America’s Best Beach" by the infamous Dr. Stephen Letterman, or "Dr. Beach."
Ocracoke Island is completely, delightfully, unincorporated. There is not a single chain restaurant, hotel, or store to be found, and many say "all the better." There are no high-rise condos or other buildings that will blot out your view of the billowing white clouds found only at the seaside. The majority of Ocracoke’s restaurants serve seafood, locally caught and brought in that very day. Or if you’re feeling adventurous, walk just outside your waterfront rental and try your luck at clamming or fishing, for a true home-cooked meal. A local coffee shop, slushy stand or candy store will satisfy that sweet tooth of yours. Pick up a beach read at a local bookstore, or the library. Sign up for surf lessons at a local surf shop, or rent a bike and spend the day exploring the unique stores and meeting the locals. It’s been a source of quiet amusement to the "Ocokers," or locals, that some out-of-state summer tourists who read of the best beach award will roll onto the island, expecting a touristy Myrtle Beach with billboards, chain hotels and restaurants. Some are actually affronted by a lack of standard touristy surroundings. No, Ocracoke is instead about beauty, a quieter time and place and renewal.
And of course, there is the almost 15 miles of clean, pristine, undeveloped beach! Tiny Ocracoke Island has withstood hurricanes and erosion throughout the years, and industrialization and urbanization has passed it by. If it’s relaxation you’re seeking, we promise you will find exactly what you are looking for: a beach, a small village, miles of soft sand, lazy waves and the chance to truly escape.