Portsmouth Village has been abandoned since 1971, and the remaining buildings are managed by the National Park Service.
There were no volunteers or staff during our visit, but many of the the structures have been turned into museums and were open to tour. The Theodore and Annie Salter House and Visitor Center features exhibits that provide a cultural history of the people of the island. The Post Office has static displays that highlight the activities that took place in the building.
In the Life-Saving Station we climbed to the cupola for panoramic views of the island. Interactive signage provides a detailed history of the Life-Saving station and people who worked there.
To see the village we booked with with Portsmouth Island Boat Tours. The trips are run by the Austin brothers, whose family have lived on Ocracoke for generations. They provide a narrated tour with a local’s perspective (and distinct Ocracoke dialect and accent). They don’t have a website or internet reservations; just give them a call and set up your departure time. Trips depart from the community square dock, and cash is required. During our 30-minute trip each way, we stopped to observe porpoises swimming within feet of our boat, and passed a pelican nesting island.
Beach & Nature
We were lucky to visit the island during the perfect season. We’ve heard horror stories about the mosquitos and other insects during the summer, but the cool breeze and temperatures were on our side. Aside from one tick that hitchhiked on Alice’s sock back onto the boat and some butterflies, our trip was bug-free. After a short boat ride between the village dock and beach we had a quick dip in the chilly sound, as we disembarked in knee-high water. Captain Austin then motored away and we were left alone on the island for two hours with just six other passengers. We picnicked, shelled, and walked from the sound to the ocean side of the island.
For reservations with Portsmouth Island Boat Tours, call 252-928-4361 or 252-928-5431.
Let me help plan your trip to The Outer Banks (OBX), North Carolina
Determine Your OBX Style
Do you like driving on the beach and fishing, shopping for quirky art, or kayaking and beach sports? Each section of OXB has a distinct feel.
Ocracoke offers independent shops and restaurants, a day trip to Portsmouth Island, beach driving, and more.
House, Hotel, Camping, or B&B?
OBX has many options, from camping under the starts to renting an oceanfront mansion.
Plan Your Excursions In OBX
Visit the North Carolina Aquarium, visit the Elizabethan Gardens, take a day trip to Ocracoke, visit all the lighthouses, and learn about shipwrecks at the Graveyard of the Atlantic Museum. OBX is more than just a beach destination
OBX offers tons of ways to play by both land and sea. Go on a fishing charter, kayak through the marsh, birdwatch, ride horses on the beach, and take surf lessons! Play mini-golf or climb Jockey’s Ridge to take in sunset.