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Enjoy day trips to Ocracoke with these tips:
1) First, scope out when you can come and go by the ferry. Get there as early as possible to maximize your fun. Call to confirm that the ferry of your choice is on schedule. Remember the CI and SQ ferries arrive "downtown" at Silver Lake; the Hatteras ferry arrives at the north end of the island which is a 14 mile drive from the village. The Hatteras ferry is free, Cedar Island and Swan Quarter cost $15 per car.
2) Secondly, your "rest stations" can be the NC Ferry restrooms near the "downtown" docks and the restrooms at the National Park Beach just outside of town. Use a small backpack for water, etc. Its handy if you bike.
3) Third, get a tourist map (or print it before you go) and drive the small village when you arrive to scope out the territory and dining options. You will see that parking is limited at many of the most popular village destinations.
4) Park your car: You can park near the village ferry docks for free. Then walk, bike, or "cart" to eateries or activities. Rent a bike for around $12 per day. Everyone, young and old, is biking here. Also available at several locations on the island are hourly golf cart rentals--they have age restrictions on who can drive, be sure to follow the rules. Golf Carts are not allowed past Howard's Pub--meaning you CANNOT drive one to the beach. Ocracoke is a small place so other than seeing the ocean beach and the pony pens everything else is in the village. (there are few bike helmets here but that is your call. Stay safe.).
5) See the village sights in the morning. In the afternoon, drive or bike out to the National Park to refresh yourself in the ocean at the lifeguard beach. There is a safe dedicated flat bike path to get you there. No fees are charged for the National Park unless you are camping. Swim. Maybe nap on the sand. For the evening, cruise back to the village humming "Margaritaville".
6) For Food Choices: There are several breakfast options, choose from simple take out to a more formal sit down meal. For lunch, choose from any number of venues or pack a picnic. There are small restaurants (some on the water), sandwich/deli places,and a food truck with amazing Mexican (cash only). Save your dinner meal for a relaxing brew and meal at any joint near Silver Lake harbour downtown. Maybe you're hankerin' for some Asian food, there's a Thai take out restaurants (cash only). Or plan a fancy night out and try The Flying Melon, Back Porch, or Dajio.
7) While near the docks at Silver Lake, take note of the jetski rentals, surf lessons, fishing options, boat tours and the like that you want to do when you return to Ocracoke to spend a few days. You will want to return.
8) Lastly, if you can do it, stay until after nightfall. Make that decision based on your ferry departure time. (Depart by the Hatteras ferry as late as midnight.) Ocracoke is very enjoyable at night with music down by the docks that line Silver Lake. Depending on the day of the week, the music shuts down at 9 or 10 pm to enhance the quiet vibe that is an Ocracoke evening. Savor the night cruise home as your day in Ocracoke closes.