We disembarked exactly 40 minutes after leaving Hatteras and were now on a 14-mile island with even more secluded beaches and another two-lane highway leading to the town of Ocracoke on the southern tip. We thought it would be best to head straight for the harbor (just stay on the road until it ends) to make reservations for the ferry to Cedar Island at noon. There were three departures before noon (9:30, 10:00 and 10:45), but we wanted to explore the town for a few hours. However, the noon-ferry was a must , because the next one did not leave until 3:00pm!!! To make reservations go to the white building with front porch and rocking chairs (after the toll booth on the right). There you can also find brochures and maps of the town, a bathroom , refreshments and a payphone (click on my Overview-page to see a photo of me on the front porch).
With reservation in hand we left the car in a large parking lot next to the Ferry Office and started our walking tour .
First we just went along the main road looking at anchored sailboats on the right and motels with ‘hammocked’ porches on the left. We also saw lots of bicycle rental stores and souvenir shops . Then we turned around and started to venture into the small unpaved streets looking at private homes and gardens to get a feel of what life is actually like on the island (don’t worry, you won’t get lost in this tiny town). We noticed a lot of "no trespassing" signs and thought that tourism must be quite an invasion on a town of 800 inhabitants.
We passed an old man painting a fence and while Jeff took pictures of ducks nearby I turned to the man to see if he wanted a chat . When he first looked at me I didn’t expect to get two words out of him. Either that or I wouldn’t understand a word he was saying. He was just what I imagined a typical ‘Ococker’ to look like (hairy face and missing teeth). I had read about the strange dialect (‘brogue’) that the natives speak and was very curious about it. And besides I had a million questions about life on the island, so I dared to start with a "good morning, nice day today". From that moment on the man started to talk, and talk, and talk as if he had been waiting for years to speak with another human being (lucky me!!). We talked about Florida, Germany, hurricanes, his family, fig trees in his garden and fig pies that his wife bakes, about tourists and how crowded it gets in the summer... It was a great conversation and if I hadn’t had a ferry to catch I would probably still be standing there chatting.
We walked past the British Cemetery (I thought my British husband would like to see that). Next to it was another small cemetery where we spent a few minutes reading the names and dates on the tombstones. You can learn a lot about a town from its cemetery! It seems that if you are a native in this town your name will either be Howard , Wahab or possibly O’Neal .
It was getting close to 11:30 am and we found our way back to the parking lot. We had to be at the ferry half an hour before departure and we didn’t dare to be late! Having paid our $10 fare (per vehicle) at the tollbooth after showing our reservation, we were at the end of our Outer Banks adventure. The ferry departed at noon, right on time, and I wondered if I would ever be back to visit my new buddy on Howard Street...maybe I should write him a postcard from Florida – it wouldn’t be difficult to guess his name!
Here are some useful numbers and links:
Ocracoke Civic & Business Association , Tel: 252-928-6711
Ocracoke (History, British Cemetery, Lighthouse, etc…)
Ocracoke Island Photography (beautiful photographs, live cam, maps, dialect sample, great stuff)
Island Artworks by Kathleen O’Neal
Ferry Information : 800-BY FERRY (I will write a separate entry with much more information about the ferry system).