November & December, 2020 & 2021
Ocracoke Island is at the southern tip of the Outer Banks of North Carolina and can only accessed by ferry.
A Beach (Mostly) to Yourself
In 2020, I set the lofty goal of walking 20.20 miles in one day by the end of the year. I accomplished my goal on Ocracoke Island, with a series of walks up the entire coast 15-mile coast, plus some in town strolls.
The end of December brought sunny days with temperatures in the mid-50s. On the beach I found a shipwreck that was reported the next day to possibly be that of a ship sunk in the 1830s. The shoals of Ocracoke Island are famous for shipwrecks, and every now and then the remnants are unearthed again.
For the first time we also obtained permits to both build campfires and to drive on the beach. Driving proved to be easy once Alex got his “sea legs” in our Subaru. Our first drive took us to the southern tip of the island, where we were greeted by what looked like over a million sea birds. When we returned the next day with a better camera, they had disappeared.
The next year we returned to Ocracoke for Thanksgiving. Empowered by my 2020 walk, I had spent 2021 walking the OBX coast in a series of hop on hop off legs. Once again, I tackled the Ocracoke coastline, this time walking the entire stretch at once, from the ramp closest to the ferry landing all the way to South Beach.
One of Ocracoke’s greatest assets is the fact that it is home to only locally owned shops and restaurants.
A pre-holiday visit is the perfect opportunity to shop for gifts that support small local businesses. The Village Craftsmen and other island shops are filled with high quality and USA-made jewelry, pottery, and art. The store is owned by the Howard Family, who are stewards to the history of the island as some of its earliest inhabitants. If you plan to visit the island, their website and Facebook Page provide both local history and recent news. Other shops include Moonraker’s Tea Shop, Island Ragpicker, Over the Moon, Down Creek Gallery, Books to be Red, Bella Fiore Pottery, and Seabreak Jewelry. Coffee from Magic Bean kept us fueled for our shopping.
Businesses are family-owned with minimal staff, so hours often don’t match what is listed on Google. Give restaurants and stores a call before you visit, or check facebook pages to see when they are open. On New Year’s Day we called one restaurant to order lunch and were greeted with a message apologizing for being closed because their oven had broken. Being young once ourselves, we were a little suspicious that the “oven” had just been up too late the night before ringing in 2021.
The island offers an array of accommodations, from large multi-family homes to small independent hotels and B&Bs. However, I am not sure any of them top the view from our Silver Lake Harborside rental. From our window we were treated to birdwatching that included pelicans, herons, cormorants and small diving ducks. One afternoon a river otter spent a few hours swimming around Silver Lake Harbor.
(Side note- this is not an actual lake. Remember when, in the movie Jaws, the shark went into the “lake” where the small kids were sailing? Silver Lake is like that one.)
Downloading a fire permit is all you need to have a fire on the beach within that season’s rules. During the summer we found ourselves inundated with small biting “no-see-ems” and mosquitos. November and December gave us perfect nights for stargazing and having dinner by campfire, without being a feast for the local population of insects.
4 Steps to Get Ready to Visit Ocracoke Island in the Winter
Read About the History
- Ocracoke, Its History and People by David Shears
- Images of America: Ocracoke by Jenie Owens
Check the Weather Forecast (But Don’t Believe It)
We followed the forecast and packed for winter temps and rain both trips, but had warm sunny days. So prepare for anything.
Like Facebook Pages & Follow Websites
November and December are the off-season on Ocracoke, so the easiest way to get updates on restaurant and store hours is to follow them on Facebook. The Ocracoke Observer and Ocracoke Current are also helpful.