Ocracoke Island on the Outer Banks of NC was our weekend trip of choice as the hot summer approached, before the ferry was crowded with weekend beachcombers, and before the summer lodging rates kicked in. We took a one and a half hour drive to one of the ferry landings, drove onto the ferry, and were in the second row of cars on the ferry. My only other experience on a ferry was in upstate Washington where we went over to Victoria, B.C. The ferry was huge and all of the cars were parked below deck. Today, as we drove on board, we understood why reservations were necessary (a deal at $15) because the vessel is not that large. I am guesstimating maybe two dozen vehicles was the limit.
It was sweatshirt weather on this day, and we sailed off in the comfort of our van. We got out of the car, walked around a bit, and struck up a conversation with a gal in the SUV next to us with her little dog. The sun was shining as we got back in the car and settled in the for two and a half hour “cruise” to Ocracoke Island. Gary had his Kindle for some reading, Remy was comfy in her bed in the back of the van, and I leaned against the door with the window down, the sun on my face, and I took a little snooze. I got a good little nap in as the Atlantic Ocean current gently rolled us toward Ocracoke. I woke up when we were nearly an hour away from the island. I quickly noticed that the seas were a tad more choppy than I had remembered, so I ate the all-important snack that we brought, and popped a no-drowsy Dramamine. Of course, Gary is sitting next to me, reading his Kindle, giving me the “what? you are actually bothered by these waves?” look. It’s in the brain. I can’t help it, okay? I have coping skills, though, and any motion sickness I feel never goes past the queasy stage, but I don’t even like that. I travel on the plane or boat with Dramamine, breathe deeply through my nose, keep my eyes closed, and find my happy mantra (something like “please, please, please, please, please let me get my feet on the ground soon, and I’ll promise to be a happy and good person all day.” I can’t remember exactly. My silent pleas to any higher power correlate with the severity of the rumbly tummy). Anyhoo and finally — LAND HO, as they say, and we drove off the ferry onto Ocracoke Island. We had heard so much about the island and after living in eastern NC for three years, we were finally here. It is remote. The entire island gets evacuation orders with hurricanes and severe tropical storms (the only way in/out is by boat, ferry, or small plane), but the weather forecast was great. Cell phone service is fine out there, so I knew I could still make my daily calls to my dad.
Our lodging choices were kind of slim for just a weekend, not because there is a shortage of rentals, but because we travel the majority of the time with Remy, our hound. Some of you may say, “what a pain.” You’re right. Ah, not really – she is a princess of a travel dog for the most part. There were quite a few rental beach houses advertised and dogs are allowed; however, they are for the seven-day and more rentals. We stayed at The Anchorage Inn and it was fine, but just fine. Next visit, we’ll spring for a house and stay longer for some R&R and maybe have the kids join us. It’s very relaxed on the island, which we’d heard, and you can walk or bike a little ways or a long ways to find something to eat, order the fresh catch of the day, and grab a cold beer. No sidewalks that I can remember, but lots of residents have golf carts they drive around. And Gary decided to do just that – he rented a golf cart and we buzzed around the island on that – perfect for the three of us to get the lay of the land!
Our lunch, after checking in, was at a picnic table next to a taqueria trailer. We like to eat where the locals eat, and this little taco/burrito stand was super tasty and reasonable. We should have asked how big they were because we could have easily split one – the burrito was about as big as my forearm. (Note: I recover from any motion/equilibrium issues pretty quickly once I hit land.) We could people watch as residents drove in/out of the local hardware store parking lot. I’m not adding a visual for that; your imagination is probably better than any image I could add.
We did lots of exploring, walking, riding in the cart, walking on the beach, and saw why people make it a favorite weekend/destination spot. The lighthouse is the oldest operating lighthouse on the east coast, built in 1823. There are wild horses on the island, which still have the blood of Spanish mustangs originally brought to the island by European settlers in the 17th & 18th centuries.
Sixteen miles of beaches owned by the National Park Service provide lots of room for visitors and residents to do some beach-combing, sailing, surfing, or camping. People can grab their tackle box, poles, and catch a fish or dig for clams for their dinner, traverse the dunes in off-road vehicles, swim, or do whatever else one wants to do on a beach. Dogs are allowed on the beach from Memorial Day to Labor Day, leashed, and since we were there before Memorial Day weekend and we only saw two other people, we could let Remy off leash so she could run and frolic on the sand and in the sea. Big mistake. What fun she had, and what fun we had watching her, until … she rolled in the sand (bad enough with her Golden Retriever hair) and found some decayed sea creature or hideous smelling flora/fauna to flail around on while ignoring her dog dad’s commands to stop. What the heck, dog, don’t make us call for a kennel reservation for you on our next trip! She was like a mischievous toddler. She smelled up the car; we knew she would make the motel room reek, so Gary got her in the motel bathroom and gave her a bath, and that helped. Unfortunately, he had the gawd-awful smell on his hands and no scrubbing would rid his mitts of that yucky odor. As it was past our normal dinner time, I talked my hubby into going out for some dinner because one of us does not like to skip dinner because one of us would not like to wake up in the middle of the night with an empty stomach. We picked a local favorite place that served sandwiches, burgers, pasta, salads, and the fish du jour. I would have loved to have some fresh fish (I was on an island in the Atlantic Ocean for Pete’s sake), but it was something I’ve never heard of and I foolishly asked the server if the fish was on the mild side, like flounder or grouper. How do you explain what fish tastes like? IT TASTES LIKE FISH, I know that. But the server’s answer didn’t satisfy me or convince me, so I had pasta and salad. The best part of this dinner – Gary got the brilliant idea to order a few slices of lemon to accompany his lasagne. Yes, lemon. We took it back to the room and he rubbed it all over his hands. Problem solved. Gar is a problem solver for sure.
Okay, this post is getting long – talking about puerile things. I’m almost done. Our breakfast the next morning was wonderful. We always like to find a gem of a breakfast place. Diners are perfectly acceptable. And I had one of the best buttermilk biscuits I have ever had since I moved south (the other fabulous biscuit is right here in Greenville, NC). The Pony Motel on Ocracoke has a restaurant, which we heard is a popular good ‘ole breakfast joint. We were not disappointed with our traditional breakfast of ham, perfectly cooked over-medium eggs, potatoes, and that sublime biscuit. Gary had some mighty tasty biscuits and gravy and a good cup of coffee.
I believe the photo of the two of us (taken with my outstretched arm when we first got to the beach) is a good representation of our weekend on Ocracoke Island. We really enjoyed ourselves and it was a nice respite. Gary was right, I needed a little distraction from my worries about my dad. He was constantly on my mind, but the weekend with my husband was a chance to talk about other things, see some new sights, and tell some fresh stories to Ralph. And the ferry ride back at noon on Sunday? The ocean was clear as glass.