Walking Tour





A Walking Tour

(Print this page if you are planning a visit and stay in Ocracoke Village)

Ocracoke-port of call to Native Americans, explorers, colonists, pirates, fishermen, and shipwreck victims. Great sailing vessels and warships have passed by these shores. Originally "Pilot Town," the village was settled by pilots who guided ships through the inlet and shallow sound waters.

As you explore, think safety: walk along the roadside, not in the street.

The tour covers three miles and takes 90 minutes. Be aware that many streets are unmarked. Please respect the privacy and the property of Ocracoke residents and dispose of litter properly.

Your tour begins at the (1) National Park Service Visitor Center. Enjoy the view from the deck and get your bearings. Silver Lake lies before you-the focal point of the village. This harbor was once a tidal waterway called Cockle Creek. Dredged to a depth of 14 feet, the harbor has accommodated fish and shrimp trawlers, yachts, and military ships. To your right is the 1938 compound of the U.S.Coast Guard, a valued neighbor since 1904. This station now belongs to the State of North Carolina and they have plans to use it for teacher education among other uses. To your left is a white, circular cistern -- all that remains of a 500-man U. S. Navy base built here in 1942 to aid in the search for German U-boats during World War II. The State of North Carolina operates ferries to Swanquarter and to NC Highway 12 on Cedar Island. The ferry docks are next to the old U.S. Coast Guard Station.

(For ferry ticket information, follow the boardwalk past the amphitheater out to the road. Turn left and walk to the ferry terminal.)
Walk down the boardwalk to your left. Beyond the amphitheater is an old grave. This land was once owned by long-time Ocracoke residents, the Scarboroughs; the grave is all that is left of their homestead.

Follow the boardwalk. Across the road and the large public parking area is the tan, two-story (2) Ocracoke Village Visitor Center and Museum which contains photos and artifacts of island lifestyles and history. The museum is operated by the Ocracoke Preservation Society; hours vary.

Walking along Highway 12 by Silver Lake, you will see a towering manor house surrounded by trees. This is Berkley Center, a private inn. It is one of many structures built in the village by Virginia industrialist Sam Jones. Jones married an islander and then began a series of construction projects that provided work for local residents in the 1950's.

Follow NC Hwy. 12. Turn left onto British Cemetery Road just past the Anchorage Inn. The (3) British Cemetery and Wahab-Howard Cemetery are two blocks away.

In World Wars I and II, German U-boats hunted and destroyed ships off the Outer Banks. This was "Torpedo Alley," where Germans enjoyed their "Great American Turkey Shoot." From January through July 1942, German U-boats sank 397 ships filled with food, supplies, and oil in U. S. Atlantic waters and killed 5,000 people-a majority of whom were civilians and merchant marines. The U.S. concentrated initial naval efforts in the Pacific. Only one ship was sent to patrol the United States' southeast coast. To protect American lives and vital supplies bound for England, Churchill sent a flotilla of anti-submarine craft to patrol Atlantic shipping lanes. One such ship, the H.M.S. Bedfordshire, was torpedoed by a U-boat 40 miles off Cape Lookout on May 11, 1942. All hands were lost. The bodies of four sailors washed ashore on Ocracoke. Donating their services and land for this British Cemetery, the people of Ocracoke took care of the dead. This plot of land has been forever ceded to England and is maintained by the Ocracoke Coast Guard. A ceremony honoring these men, with representatives of the British Royal Navy and the U.S. Coast Guard, is held here each year in May. The Wahab-Howard Cemetery is Ocracoke's largest family burial ground. Maintaining family cemeteries is a tradition on these islands.

Return to NC Hwy. 12 and turn left. Docks, motels, gift shops, and the Community Store line the road. Behind the Post Office is a small waterside shop. This is the (4 ) first post office where mail was tossed from the mailboat right onto the dock.

A short distance up the highway, turn left on (5) Howard Street, a sandy lane cloaked with live oaks. Perhaps all of Ocracoke Village-before the highway, before progress-looked like this. Peaceful shade, older homes, family cemeteries-a world apart.

(6) The United Methodist Church is on your left at School Road; inside is another reminder of World War II. Islander James B. Gaskill lost his life aboard the Caribsea-torpedoed east of Cape Lookout in 1942. The War Department did not report the incident for many days. His family learned of his death when the Caribsea nameplate and Gaskill's engineering license washed ashore on Ocracoke. The altar cross of this church was carved from salvage wood of the Caribsea in Gaskill's honor.

, North Carolina's smallest, with grades K-12, is beyond the church. Take the path left of the school and follow the narrow boardwalk to the Back Road. (To your left is Ocracoke Health Center, the island's medical facility).

Turn right and walk past the schoolyard to the (8) Fire Hall where village gatherings take place year round. Built in 1966, it is run entirely by donations and volunteers. The small, white, public library behind the Fire Hall contains 3,000 books.

As the Back Road curves toward NC Hwy. 12, (9) Blackbeard's Lodge is on your right. The multi-story structure was built in 1930 and served as a theater and skating rink before becoming an inn. Blackbeard was on Ocracoke. He "bought" North Carolina's Governor Eden and freely terrorized coastal shipping for 18 months. Carolinians asked Governor Spotswood of Virginia for help, and Royal Navy Lt. Robert Maynard was sent to do battle. After beheading Blackbeard on November 22, 1718, Maynard threw the body into Ocracoke Inlet. With Blackbeard's head on the bowsprit of his ship Ranger, Maynard made haste back to Virginia. The pirate's legend lives on.

Turn right at NC Hwy. 12 and walk to Lighthouse Road.

(Watch for traffic and cross the highway.)

The (10) Island Inn, with its white, three-tiered porch, is on your left. Built in 1901, it has served as a meeting lodge, residence, naval officer's quarters, and is now a private inn.

One half mile down Lighthouse Road is the 75 foot (11) Ocracoke Lighthouse, owned by the National Park Service. The U. S. Coast Guard still maintains the navigational aid functions of the structure. Built in 1823, with a light which can still be seen 14 miles out at sea, it is North Carolina's oldest operating lighthouse. A small generator building and the two-story lightkeeper's house are on-site. The house is now occupied by Park Service personnel; please respect their privacy.

Retrace your steps along Lighthouse Road to (12) Albert Styron's Store, built in 1920 and recently refurbished.

Turn left at Styron's on to Corkey's Road. On your left 1/8 mile, you will pass what was once (13) Corkey's, another old store where locals gathered for dances. Sam Jones' unique architectural style is seen again in "Whittler's Cottage" on the waterfront where Harbor Road and Corkey's Road meet.

Turn right and 30 yards further you will pass the (14) "Castle". This rambling structure with its green roof, many gables, and cedar-shake siding was built by Sam Jones and was the first Ocracoke high-rise. Jones built the Castle for his vacationing employees. The Castle (now an inn) and Berkley Center are on the National Register of Historic Places.

Continue along the harbor's edge back to the National Park Service Visitor Center.