A cult favorite, this Outer Banks island is accessible only by boat (unlike other OBX stars) and has a relaxed romance imbued with salt air.
Ocracoke Island's most (in)famous resident—Edward Teach, aka Blackbeard—never spent a night in Blackbeard's Lodge, but the owners have deep roots here: In 1742, one ancestor became the fourth and final colonial owner of the island, and another opened the original iteration of Blackbeard's Lodge in 1936.
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The kitchen at Dajio uses fresh catch from the fishing-fleet docks across the street to create dishes like grilled Pamlico oysters and Low Country Purloo, a seafood stew. The Flying Melon Café, a Wine Spectator Award winner, blends coastal cuisine with Creole flavors and French techniques for a menu that turns visitors into regulars. Named for Miss Zillie O'Neal, an Ocracoker whose cooking was held in high regard and whose nephews surreptitiously made some top-notch wine, Zillie's Pantry carries more than 300 bottles of wine and an equal number of beer, plus all the gourmet snacks you need for an afternoon snack on the deck, a seaside picnic, or a nosh at your beach house.
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Gulls hover above a shrimp trawler. Stars crowd the sky and reflect in the creek below. A curve of sea glass rests in a net of copper. Each of these encapsulates a moment on Ocracoke, and Down Creek Gallery celebrates the fine art that celebrates the island. Village Craftsmen carries a more folksy selection of locally handmade crafts and home goods.
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A leisurely bike ride past the squat white lighthouse will carry you to Springer's Point, where Blackbeard and his pirate cohorts would party and watch for passing prey. Since Blackbeard's final battle in what's known as Teach's Hole, his ghost is said to have been spotted in the woods and water. A short boat ride south from Ocracoke sits Portsmouth Village, a one-time whaling station on the northern end of Cape Lookout National Seashore. Austin Boat Tours ferries visitors to Portsmouth and back, and once you're there, you can picnic, explore the village, or wander the uninhabited shore on foot or all-terrain vehicle.
Photo: Mary Liz Austin