Craig Hyde

Setting: Thirty miles off the coast, it's a place you reallyhave to want to find. While three North Carolina ferries runregularly, you'll drive awhile to catch them. Take the 40-minuteferry ride from Hatteras Island, the 2-hour-and-45-minute ride fromSwan Quarter, or the 2-hour-and-15-minute ride from CedarIsland.

Attractions: Peace and quiet. Plus 16 miles of pristineshoreline that garnered Ocracoke Island the No. 6 spot on the 2002list of "America's Best Beaches," as ranked by Dr. Stephen P.Leatherman, a.k.a. Dr. Beach. A flourishing artistic communitykeeps shops, galleries, and restaurants interesting.

Drawbacks: Did we mention the amount of time you'll spend onthe ferry?

Housing Options: Historic homes to more modern duplexes. Themarket is tough, as development is limited by governmentalprotection of the shore. Some homes are passed down throughfamilies and never make it on the market.

Your Next-door Neighbors: Fishermen, artists, craftspeople,massage therapists, business professionals, and musicians--such asthe folk-fusion band Molasses Creek (for more information, seemolassescreek.com). Plus, ferry workers such as Anthony Mutro, whostill speaks the Ocracoke brogue. (If you're lucky, he'll answerthe phone when you call for ferry reservations.) "You're not gonnafind people who are just like you," says resident Al Scarborough."Your neighbors can be a Ph.D. chemist or a ditchdigger."

What It Costs: Thirty years ago real estate broker GuyNewell sold lots for $2,000. Now they're usually $100,000 to$180,000. A three-bedroom, two-bath house in the village heartmight list for $340,000. A 1,400-square-foot home with twobedrooms, two baths, 48 feet of harbor frontage, and a dock runs$800,000.

Where You'd Spend Free Time: Surfing, sportfishing, surfcasting, birding, sailing, shelling, or relaxing along miles ofunspoiled beach. The village sponsors square dances and potlucksuppers. Grab a beer at Howard's Pub, kayak the marsh, or attend a"porch talk" at the preservation group's museum.

(published 2003)

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