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A Fun-Filled Weekend in Ocracoke Island

Nestled within North Carolina’s Outer Banks along the eastern coast of the United States, Ocracoke Island is renowned for its array of historic sites, vibrant festivals, charming island culture, and, perhaps above all, its pristine beaches and breathtaking natural vistas.

All this makes the place a paradise for outdoor enthusiasts, with activities suitable for the entire family. Whether you’re beachcombing and swimming in crystal-clear waters, kayaking along the coast, or exploring the island’s myriad nature trails, the possibilities are endless.

With so much to do, it’s overwhelming to choose how to spend a weekend in this North Carolina Paradise. No need to worry! We are here at your rescue. Below we’ve put together a fantastic weekend itinerary for you to make the most of your trip to Ocracoke Island.

Let’s jump right in!

Ocracoke LIghthouse

Friday afternoon: Soak up stunning vistas and charm allure of the Ocracoke Lighthouse

Settled into your rental? Time to get outside! Here’s a fantastic start to your explorations.

The Ocracoke Lighthouse is a symbol of Ocracoke Island and it plays an important role in the local navigational heritage. Built in 1823, it’s the oldest operating lighthouse in North Carolina and the second oldest in the United States — a true jewel of early 19th-century architecture and a must-see structure to any visitor to Ocracoke Island.

With its distinctive white exterior created from a unique mixture of lime, salt, rice, glue, and boiling water, the lighthouse is extremely picturesque and it offers great backgrounds for family pictures when combined with the coastal landscape around it. 

Visitors cannot climb the lighthouse, so the best way to visit the structure is by exploring its surroundings. Take leisurely walks or bike rides around the area where you can admire gorgeous coastal vegetation, ancient live oaks, and rich wildlife, and feel the pleasant island’s charm.

You don’t even need to be too close to the lighthouse to admire its beauty — it can be seen from up to 14 miles into the Pamlico Sound and the Atlantic Ocean. A great idea is to walk to Silver Lake Harbor from the lighthouse where you can find a wooden pier and watch a spectacular sunset.

Friday evening: Dine and feel the lively atmosphere at
Howard’s Pub

For over 30 years, Howard’s Pub has been providing locals and visitors with great food in a fun and casual environment where they can relax and grab a drink after a day of adventures on Ocracoke Island.

Indulge in their diverse menu that ranges from local seafood dishes like Buffalo Shrimp and Oysters Rockefeller to American classics such as Chicken Wings and Fried Pickles. Their sandwiches and burgers are also mouthwatering. Vegetarian and gluten-free options are available, and kids also have plenty of yummy choices like cheeseburgers, hot dogs, mac ‘n cheese, chicken tenders, and fried or sautéed shrimp. Kid’s meals are served on take-home Frisbees, adding to the appeal for families traveling with little ones.

If you want to grab some drinks after dinner, Howard’s Pub’s ambiance is perfect. The eclectic decor featuring neon signs, college pennants, and hundreds of license plates creates a unique and colorful pub feel where you can enjoy local craft beers, frozen margaritas, wine, and much more.

Saturday morning: Get energized for a day of adventure with breakfast at
Pony Island Restaurant

Rise and shine! It’s time to kickstart your first full day on Ocracoke Island by energizing yourself with a superb morning meal to fuel a day of exploration. If you ask the locals where to go, they’ll say “go to the Pony!” This casual and family-friendly restaurant is the oldest eating establishment on Ocracoke Island, serving generous portions of Southern breakfast dishes.

You can’t go wrong with anything you order. The eggs and omelet options are superb; the biscuits are to die for; and the Southwest Scramble Tacos and Tex Mex Pancakes are stellar choices. A good tip is to order an extra portion of Pony Potatoes on the side — these are hash browns with melted cheese, salsa, and sour cream.

The indoor seating area is simple yet cozy, adorned with vintage period pictures, and the Pony’s patio is extra pleasant nestled under lovely crape myrtles. Besides the amazing food and ambiance, add to that reasonable prices, and extremely friendly staff, and you have a place that will put you in the right mood to enjoy the day.

Saturday afternoon: Hit the sands and relax on a dream-like beach

What can be better than exploring the crown jewels of Ocracoke Island? We’re talking about 16 miles of pristine, undeveloped, and uncrowded beaches! After a great breakfast, all you need is to soak in the beauty of the local beaches of Ocracoke. 

Most beaches in Ocracoke are easily accessible from many points on the island, which means you can enjoy the natural splendor with ease. From sunbathing to beachcombing, swimming, picnicking, collecting shells, and even beach driving adventures, Ocracoke’s beaches offer a diverse range of activities to suit different preferences.

You can simply spend the entire afternoon exploring the shores, relaxing, and waiting for an unforgettable sunset. Lifeguarded Beach, for example, was ranked as the best beach in the USA by Dr. Beach. Need to say more? 

Saturday evening: Enjoy harbor views and seafood at SmacNally’s

Enjoy more of the outdoors and Ocracoke’s natural surroundings by dining at SmacNally’s, a casual open-air restaurant on the dock at Silver Lake Harbor.

Their extensive menu will certainly satisfy your hunger after a day on the beach. From fantastic salads to seafood sandwiches, platters, and wraps, everything they serve is fresh and delicious. Stellar dishes include Fried Oysters and the Fried Seafood Dinner. If you dine early, around 4 PM, you’ll see charter boats at the Anchorage Marina returning to unload their catch, adding to the allure of this sea-to-table restaurant.

The lake views, splendid music, excellent cocktails, and cheerful atmosphere of SmacNally’s are also some reasons that make dining at this local gem a memorable experience.

Historic Howard Street

Sunday morning: Explore the scenic beauty of Ocracoke by bike

Start the day getting active and exploring Ocracoke in a fun way. Since the terrain of Ocracoke Island is mostly flat with only minimal hills, a popular thing to do is rent a bike and explore the gorgeous corners of the island. 

Plenty of scenic routes wind through historic landmarks, quaint villages, and natural wonders. That’s a unique way to immerse yourself in the island’s laid-back atmosphere while staying active and eco-friendly. Besides, there’s nothing quite like feeling the gentle ocean breeze and admiring breathtaking vistas to enhance the biking experience — and that’s easy wherever you go on Ocracoke Island. 

Sunday morning (alternative plan): Explore the island’s clear waters on a paddleboard or kayak

If you’re more into water-based activities, another amazing way to explore Ocracoke Island is by jumping on a kayak or paddleboard and immersing yourself in the tranquil waters surrounding the island. 

That’s the best way to get up-close encounters with the diverse ecosystems and wildlife, whether you’re gliding through serene marshes, paddling along tranquil sound-side shores, or navigating through the gentle waves of the Atlantic Ocean.

You can paddle through the salt marsh creeks and Pamlico Sound, admiring Ocracoke’s unspoiled landscapes, ancient trees, and pristine shoreline. You’ll even come across hidden coves and spot plenty of wildlife on the way, such as birds and marine creatures.

Springer's Point

Sunday afternoon: Immerse yourself in nature at Springer’s Point Nature Preserve

Continue your day embracing more of the natural beauty of Ocracoke and head to the stunning Springer’s Point Nature Preserve. Boasting a variety of ecosystems, including maritime forests, tidal red cedar forests, salt marshes, wet grasslands, and a picturesque sound-front beach, this is one of the best places on the island to experience the best of Mother Nature.

The preserve has a 0.8-mile nature trail that cuts through a gorgeous maritime forest, salt marsh, and wet grasslands, offering stunning views overlooking Teach’s Hole. You can explore side trails and find a few benches along the route for taking a break. Be sure to watch for signs highlighting unique plants and trees along the way.

Sunday evening: Indulge in elevated Southern cuisine at
Dajio Restaurant 

After so much exploration, all you need is great food to recharge your batteries. Relax and celebrate a memorable day in Ocracoke by dining at Dajio Restaurant, a go-to spot for elevated Southern fusion cuisine in the island’s heart.

The menu features new takes on Southern classics, and some highlights include dishes like Dajio Mac & Cheese with blackened tuna on top, Chargrilled Oysters, Shrimp and Oyster Platters, Crab Cakes, Shrimp Po’boy, and Oyster Po’Boy. All the ingredients are locally sourced, and everything is made from scratch.

Whether you grab a table indoors or on the lovely patio, the restaurant exudes a welcoming atmosphere, and live music adds to the vibe of the place. If you want to relax with a drink, they also serve beers, wines, and fantastic cocktails, including a new take on the Brazilian classic caipirinha.

Sunday evening (alternative plan): Wear your chef’s hat and cook in your vacation rental

If you want to relax at your vacation rental, why not take advantage of its great amenities and cook a special dinner for your family?

While on vacation, we often want to do as much as possible, but sometimes we forget that quality time with family doesn’t necessarily mean going around and moving non-stop. Staying in and spending time together with your loved ones is a great way to create memorable moments.

Cooking together and dining at your vacation rental will certainly be one highlight of your vacation.

Your Weekend Itinerary to Ocracoke Island

There’s much more to do and see on Ocracoke Island. If you’re visiting this North Carolina gem for the first time, following the itinerary above is a great way to have a glimpse of the best things the island has to offer. However, feel free to explore further and make the most of your vacation. 

Want more general tips about Ocracoke Island? Then head to our destination blog! From the best events happening year-round on the island to the perfect spots to have breakfast, we have you covered. And there’s much more content coming soon, so stay tuned.

Where to stay in Ocracoke Island, NC

If you choose to vacation with Ocracoke Island Realty, you’ll have an unparalleled experience of relaxation and adventure on the stunning shores of Ocracoke Island.

Our local expertise means you’ll have access to insider tips on the best activities, dining, and attractions on Ocracoke Island. Our rental properties are top-notch, equipped with all the amenities and comforts you and your family need for a memorable vacation by the sea.

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