A New Way to Spend a Day in Ocracoke
Slightly remote, and requiring a bit more effort to get to, Ocracoke’s distance from reality makes it unlike any other place on the Outer Banks. Only accessible by ferry, the 12 mile long island has a wonderful village area that is quaint and easily navigated on foot or with a bike.
Ocracoke has experienced a slight problem over the past five years, though—the channel the ferry was using between Hatteras Village and the island has been shoaling for some time, and the new channel doubled the transit time. In spite of the best efforts of the Ferry Division of NCDOT, the number of daily trips during the peak season fell from 52 to 42.
The effect on the day trippers going to Ocracoke was dramatic.
In response NCDOT came up with a novel idea—a passenger only ferry between Hatteras and Ocracoke.
Now in the final stages of construction at the US Boatworks facility just outside of Swansboro, the 92’ long ferry should be ready for use by the summer. With a capacity of 99 passengers, the ferry will bring a number of new features to the Hatteras/Ocracoke route.
Perhaps most importantly it will dock at Silver Lake in the heart of Ocracoke Village— a necessity as it’s a 12.5 mile highway between the Ocracoke Ferry Terminal and the village.
There will be provisions for bikes. Ocracoke is wonderfully suited for bicycling and that should make a day trip even nicer.
Unlike the car ferry, which is free, the passenger ferry will charge $15 for a round trip. The round trip is a daily use. There will be parking available at the Hatteras Terminal, but overnight parking is not permitted.
There will be some restrictions on what passengers can bring with them. Because space is limited, large luggage items and coolers are not permitted. However, backpacks, strollers and walkers are on the ok list.
Reservations will be taken, and NCDOT is asking passengers who have reservations to check in a half hour before departure. Hopeful passengers without reservations can check in 15 minutes before departure to see if seating is available.
A final passenger ferry schedule has not been published yet, although preliminary plans call for four trips daily with first departure leaving Hatteras at 10:00 a.m. The last trip of the day would leave from Ocracoke at 8:30 p.m.
The new route is longer than the regular route between Hatteras and the Ocracoke ferry dock. Scheduled time on the water is 60 minutes for the car ferry and 70 minutes for the passenger ferry. However, the drive time from the ferry terminal to the village can be 15 to 30 minutes depending on traffic.
Designed by Seattle based Elliot Design Group, the catamaran design will draw significantly less water than the car ferries, allowing more flexibility in its routes.
The passenger ferry is part of an overall upgrade in facilities and ferries that NCDOT has initiated.
Since July of 2017 the state has invested $9 million in infrastructure improvements at the Silver Lake terminal and Ocracoke/Hatteras Ferry Terminals. Included in the improvements is the $4.15 million cost of implementing the new ferry.
In addition to the passenger ferry, NCDOT is upgrading it’s car ferries.
Again working with Elliott Bay Design Group, NCDOT has contracted for a new 183′ ferry with space for 38 regular-sized vehicles. The new ferry is a significant improvement over the 22-year-old Thomas A. Baum, Hatteras-class ferry that it will replace that carries 26 vehicles.