Ocracoke Campground North Carolina | Video, Pictures, and Guide

Ocracoke Campground is one of the best places to camp in North Carolina.

Also, Ocracoke Island is one of the hardest places to get to on the Outer Banks. But that’s partly what makes it so special. There’s no place like it.

The town is interesting and quirky, there’s tons to do out on the water, and there are miles and miles of uncrowded beaches.

Here is all the information you need to plan an incredible trip to Ocracoke Island and enjoy a great stay at Ocracoke Campground. Make sure you check out the video below for a tour of the campground, the ferry, and the town.

Every year since we have lived in North Carolina, my wife and I have returned to Ocracoke Island to stay a few days at Ocracoke Campground.

We thought we wouldn’t make it in 2020 because the Covid pandemic had caused them to close for a while. But they opened up again and we were overjoyed to be able to make our yearly trip.

Beside’s Cape Lookout National Seashore where you can camp directly on the beach, Ocracoke Campground is one of the closest places to camp to the beach in North Carolina.

Getting to Ocracoke Campground

Getting to Ocracoke Campground is easy once you’ve made it to Ocracoke Island.

Ocracoke island can be reached three ways: ferry from the mainland, ferry from Hatteras, or by plane.

Please note though that it’s about three miles from the end of Ocracoke Village to the campground so plan accordingly if you don’t have a car or golf cart.

Getting to Ocracoke Island by Ferry from the Mainland

Ferries from the mainland to Ocracoke leave from Cedar Island and Swan Quarter, 3-4 times per day. Check the schedule here.

The ferry takes 2 hours and 15 minutes from Cedar Island and 2 hours and 40 minutes from Swan Quarter.

While it is possible to get a spot on the ferry without a reservation, it is highly recommended that you reserve a spot. Many of the boats are full and you could be stuck waiting for hours if you don’t get on.

Cars waiting to board the ferry to Ocracoke Island from Swan Quarter with the ferry in the background

A single car (up to 20 feet) costs $15 each way between Swan Quarter or Cedar Island and Ocracoke. A double (up to 40 feet) costs $30 each way. Reservations can be made here.

During the ride, you can get out of your car, walk around the boat, enjoy the view from the sundeck, or sit at a table inside the cabin of the ferry. It’s really a pleasant ride. There are not many amenities on the ferry ride except a few vending machines so we always like to pack a snack or even lunch which we eat at a table by a window inside.

My daughter enjoying the view from the upper deck of the ferry to Ocracoke Island

To get to Ocracoke Campground, just stay on the same road from the ferry (Highway 12) and follow it through town. After you leave the town, Ocracoke Island Campground is about 5 minutes down the road on the right, you can’t miss it!

Getting to Ocracoke Island by Ferry from Hatteras

There are now two ferries going from Hatteras to Ocracoke: a vehicle ferry and an express passenger ferry.

Vehicle Ferry from Hatteras to Ocracoke

One time, we were late booking a ferry and the time slot we wanted was full. We decided to drive to Nags Head (from Raleigh) and then all the way down the Outer Banks to Hatteras. From there, you can catch a free ferry from Hatteras to Ocracoke.

Going this way actually takes about the same amount of time as driving to Swan Quarter or Cedar Island and taking the ferry from there. The nice thing is that you get to drive down the length of the Outer Banks and there are many places to stop along the way to enjoy the nearly deserted beaches. You also get to go through Hatteras, which is lovely.

The downside of going this way is you have more time driving rather than on the ferry where you can get out and walk around.

To get to the Hatteras ferry terminal, just stay on Highway 12 from Nags Head (it’s the only road), follow it through Hatteras, and you will get to the ferry.

The ferry runs several times a day and you can check the schedule here. The best part: it’s free!

The vehicle ferry from Hatteras drops you off on the north side of Ocracoke Island which is about 12 miles from the village (9 miles from the campground), so you have to drive from there to the village or campground.

Once you get to Ocracoke Island, simply take the highway (it’s the only one), for about 10 minutes and Ocracoke Campground will be on your left. There are signs and you can’t miss it. Ocracoke Village is another 5 minutes down the road.

Passenger Ferry from Hatteras to Ocracoke

Starting in 2019, an express passenger ferry began running from Hatteras ferry terminal to Ocracoke Village. Unlike the vehicle ferry, the passenger ferry drops you off within walking distance of Ocracoke Village and there is a tram stop there as well.

The ferry carries 149 people and 25 bikes. It costs $4 round trip and runs three times per day from May 20-September 5. You can get more info including a schedule here and you can make reservations (not required but recommended) here.

There are plenty of parking spots at the Hatteras ferry terminal so this is a great option if you just want to visit Ocracoke for the day!

Getting to Ocracoke Island By Plane

Ocracoke Island does have an airport but no regular commercial services are offered, only charter. This is quite an expensive option but if you’re interested in booking your very own airplane, visit outerbanksaircharters.com

Ocracoke Campground

Ocracoke Campground by Air. Photo from: recreation.gov

Ocracoke Island Campground is just one sand dune away from the beach. And that beach is never crowded.

The campground boasts an impressive 151 standard, non-electric campsites. Don’t let the “non-electric” fool you though, there are plenty of RVs scattered throughout the campground.

Ocracoke Campground Map and Best Camp Sites

Below is the official map of Ocracoke Campground. Click on it for a larger version.

The best sites are those that have direct access to the beach. These are the odd-numbered sites A3-A7, B1-B11, C1-C7, and D1-D15 (see map below for further clarification).

These sites are sand except for the paved pull in spot for you to park. Besides having direct access to the beach, these sites tend to be spaced apart slightly more with small bushes in between, making better camping than the interior sites.

All other sites besides those closest to the beach, are grass (except the paved pull-in to park).

Sites around the edge, closest to the highway are the worst because they are right next to large bushes which harbor a lot of bugs, especially mosquitoes.

The sites in the interior are ok. My biggest complaint is that they are all a little close together.

Generators are not allowed in loop D so these sites are popular with tent campers, and this loop tends to fill up fastest.

To make things easier for you, I have taken the liberty of marking up the Ocracoke Campground Map with my personal knowledge and recommendations:

Ocracoke Campground map with my personal recommendations. Sites in green are good and sites in yellow contain words of warning, although they are not terrible. Unmarked sites (mostly interior sites) are mediocre.

On our first trip to Ocracoke Island, we thought it would be nice to camp in a quiet corner, right up next to some bushes (site B39). As soon as the sun dropped a little behind the horizon, a swarm (literally a swarm) of mosquitoes descended upon us. Never have I seen (and swatted) so many mosquitoes at once.

We moved to a different site the next day.

Besides the marked trails to the beach on the map, there is a great trail across from campsite D10.

Reservations

Sites must be reserved beforehand and cannot be booked on arrival. You can book them on the official website here.

Before 2020, the booking and check-in process was slightly different. Individual sites could not be booked – a spot was reserved but the specific site number was chosen on arrival on a first-come, first-serve basis. There was also a booth at the entrance for check-in.

In 2020, many changes were made and it’s not clear if these changes were the result of the Covid pandemic or if they are permanent.

Now, individual sites can be booked online so the best spots have been booked months ahead of time. Also, the booth at the entrance has been removed and campers are asked to check-in with a ranger set up under a pop-up canopy.

Ocracoke Village

You will not find many places as quaint and charming as the village of Ocracoke. Despite its small size, it is lively with plenty of places to discover.

Getting Around

Getting around Ocracoke Village is no problem because it is so small.

You can drive through the town but there is no reason to. We usually drive from the campground (about 5 minutes) and park someone in town, then walk from there.

The easiest way to get around Ocracoke Village: walk…but there are some fun ways too! And if you’re spending the whole day going around town, you might not want to walk everywhere.

Here is a detailed Ocracoke Village Map, you can click on it to get a much larger pdf version:

Bikes

My family loves to rent bikes and just cruise around the town. You can get bikes lots of places but we tend to get ours from The Slushy Stand. They have a few bikes with child carriers on the back and they sell delicious ice cream which is great after a ride around town.

Me taking my daughter around Ocracoke Village on a bike

You can expect to pay $10-$15 per bike for a half-day of riding around. After just a couple of hours, you will have been able to make it around town several times. We paid about $27 for two bikes, including one that had a child seat for our four-year-old, for two hours.

Golf Carts

Golf carts are popular on Ocracoke Island. You can drive them on the roads and traffic (the little traffic that there is) moves about the speed of a golf cart.

There are two main places to rent golf carts: Ocracoke Island Golf Carts and Wheelie Fun. Rates differ by season (in-season and off-season) and by size (4- or 6-person golf carts are available).

Tram

In 2018, Hyde County opened a tram service to get around Ocracoke Village. The tram is electric and open-air. It makes 8 stops in a 30-minute loop around Ocracoke Village and runs from 10:30 AM to 8:00 PM.

Ocracoke Village Tram. Photo Credit: Ocracoke Observer

Places to See

The most popular places to visit in Ocracoke Village are the Lighthouse, the Preservation Society Museum, and the British Graveyard.

Ocracoke Lighthouse

The lighthouse (also called called Ocracoke Light Station) is on Lighthouse Road, just a few minutes from the main part of the village. You are not allowed to go in but there are great photo opportunities from the outside.

The lighthouse was built in 1823 to help ships reach the mainland. The area was actually pretty busy back then because it was the best way to reach the settlements, like New Bern, on the mainland.

The government bought the land for $50 and constructed the lighthouse with its lightmaster quarters for $11,359. And it still stands today! You can read more about it here.

Ocracoke Preservation Society Museum

The Ocracoke Preservation Society museum is worth a visit. It is located just near the ferry terminal (the ferry to the mainland, not the ferry to Hatteras) which is only a few minutes from the main part of the village.

The museum has both indoor and outdoor exhibits and features anything from antiques to old boats. It is a great place to learn about the interesting history of Ocracoke, including some major hurricanes and Ocracoke’s role as a naval base in various wars like the War of 1812, the Civil War, and World War 2.

The British Graveyard

Another site to visit on Ocracoke is the British Graveyard. It’s small and the visit doesn’t take long but it is worth seeing to get a feeling of reverence and history.

The graveyard hosts four British sailors who washed up on Ocracoke Island after their ship was likely sunk by a German U-boat in 1942. In the early days of WW2, the US Navy was undermanned and the East Coast was vulnerable to German U-boat attacks. There were so many attacks just along the Outer Banks that it was nicknamed “Torpedo Alley”. In response, some British sailors were stationed along the East Coast to help provide some protection.

Favorite Restaurants

Despite its small size, Ocracoke Village has some great places to eat! It’s especially great for fresh seafood and has a good mix of foreign flavors. Keep in mind that prices for eating out are generally a little higher than on the mainland.

One of the most popular places is Eduardo’s Taco Stand. Eduardo’s is right on the main road but is closer to a food truck than a restaurant. Only recently did it move to this location with outdoor seating. The crab, shrimp, and bacon burrito or the shrimp tacos are both pretty incredible!

Another favorite of ours is Thai-Moon. You wouldn’t think you could find good thai food at such a secluded location but this place is pretty good.

A popular family restaurant on Ocracoke is Jason’s Restaurant. Jason’s has really good pizza but also serves pasta, subs, and more.

Video Tour

To give you more of a feel for what Ocracoke is like, here is a video of our last trip. It covers getting off the ferry, driving through Ocracoke Village, driving through Ocracoke Campground, and finally, some drone footage of the campground. Feel free to skip to the sections you’re most interested in by using the marked chapters in the video.

Final Thoughts

I still can’t believe how many people live in North Carolina and haven’t been to Ocracoke Island. If you’re planning a trip to the Outer Banks, avoid over-crowded Nags Head and go south to totally open beaches and an excellent little village. You can’t beat camping right over the dune from the beach at Ocracoke Campground. And you absolutely can’t miss the unique and wonderful place that is Ocracoke Village.

Love beach camping? Check out my 19 Best Beach Camping Tips!

Looking for more beach camping in North Carolina? You’ve got to check out Cape Lookout National Seashore!

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