Best route to Okracoke Island?

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Apr 30th, 2003, 02:29 AM
  #1
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Best route to Okracoke Island?

We are thinking of visiting Okracoke Island for the first time, have read the comments posted in Travel talk and think we would really enjoy the area. We would be coming from the Chicago area, so it seems we would have to fly from O'Hare to Raleigh-Durham International (3 hours), then drive to Cedar Island to catch a ferry (4 1/2 hours per Mapquest). Is this the best way to get there, or does anyone know a faster route? Thanks.
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Apr 30th, 2003, 03:55 AM
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You could fly into Norfolk, VA and drive southeast to Okracoke and cut about a little more than an hour off of your driving trip. This is probably not a good idea if you're planning on travelling to the Outer Banks on a Saturday. The first leg of the trip (Norfolk to the bridge onto the OB) can be very congested.

I've never arrived at Okracoke via Cedar Island but the only downside I can imagine is that you'll be at the mercy of the ferry schedule. I seem to recall you have to book ahead in the summer. Depending on the time of year weather can be a factor too.

However you arrive it'll be worth the trip. If you are looking for beautiful seashore vistas you've found the right place.
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Apr 30th, 2003, 05:03 AM
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I've never driven the full length of the OB to get to Ocracoke but it stretches my credulity a bit to think it would take only 3.5 hrs. to drive from Norfolk to Ocracoke (and remember, you have a ferry, albeit a very small one, at the other end, too). Obxgirl is right that much of the route can be very congested.

I think MapQuest's estimate is a little on the conservative side but a) it's worth allowing extra time to get lost or get hung up so you don't risk missing the ferry (in some ways the longest part of the trip is that from the cut-off north of New Bern out to Cedar Island); and b) the 1.5 hrs. on the ferry are SO pleasant, much better than sitting in the car for the comparable 1.5 hrs.

There's also a ferry from Swan Quarter but I think that's even less efficient for you.

The hassle of getting out there is part of what protects it from becoming overdeveloped. Enjoy my favorite island!
 
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Apr 30th, 2003, 06:09 AM
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It has been years but we have been to Ocracoke both ways. I agree with obxgirl. Go via Norfolk. The drive down the Outer Banks is beautiful. Why not overnight in the Nags Head area and see the sights along the way (Wright Brothers Monument, Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, etc). It will also give a dramatic comparison between commercial, highly developed and quiet, natural beauty.
The Cape Hatteras to Ocracoke Ferry is quick, more frequent, and reservations not needed.
After a long day of travel, you would probably be on a late ferry from Cedar Island and "miss" the sights. (There is NOTHING between RDU and the ferry anyway.
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Apr 30th, 2003, 07:12 AM
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I don't think it's all that cut-and-dried. One variable is the cost of flying from ORD to Norfolk vs. Raleigh, which can vary depending on the time of day and year, but RDU is slightly more of a "hub" so the prices _may_ be less and the planes may be larger. It's also marginally a shorter flight --- and BTW, Barbara, are you taking into account the change of time zones? Last I flew the RDU-ORD route, it was just under 2 hours.

As for comparing the drives: IMHO the stretch from Norfolk to Elizabeth City or even Currituck is no more scenic than the stretch from Raleigh to Havelock (south of New Bern). However, you can either by-pass Morehead City (get a good map) or not (it's an interesting place), but the travel out to Cedar Island is a bit more interesting and scenic not for vistas but for the succession of small fishing towns among the pines. I agree with Cassandra that the ferry ride is pleasant, and there is no reason to think that if you leave ORD before 10 or 11 am you won't have daylight on the ferry (and there are worse things than moonlight boat rides). The drive probably should take you under 3 hrs., and the ferry ride is 1 1/2 hrs. The schedule is at http://www.ncferry.org/Schedule/ (click on schedule and you'll get an Acrobat page listing ferries). Afternoon ferries seem to be 3 pm, 6 pm, and 8:30 pm.

As for coming the other way, again it may depend a LOT on which day of the week and what time of year you are coming down. From Friday afternoon through Sunday afternoon, all approaches to the northern Outer Banks are gridlock/zoo, and you then have to negotiate Rte. 12 through Kill Devil Hills/Kitty Hawk/Nags Head, which is very very congested in season. Be aware that rentals there are split among the Sat.-to-Sat. and Sun.-Sun. leases, and then there are the owners and those bound for hotels, who may well come on Fri. evening. By far the most vacationers who come to the OBX (Outer Banks) are coming from the north.

But there's no question, once you get into the National Seashore, it really is very very beautiful, although a lot longer than you'd think (again, look at the map and measure it out). One way or another, you should definitely do that drive at some point.

If one of your travel days (inbound or outbound) is in that Fri-Sun time frame, but not the other, here's what I'd suggest: See if you can get a ticket that allows you to fly into one city and out of the other -- sometimes it doesn't cost you any more, I've been surprised. For the weekend day, use the Cedar Island-RDU route; for the non-weekend day (coming or going) use the other route.

Otherwise, I'd agree to go in and out of Norfolk but only if you aren't arriving or departing on a weekend day.
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Apr 30th, 2003, 07:45 AM
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Just backing up what others have said: The flight from Chicago to RDU is just under 2 hours. I fly this route frequently.

Curious
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Apr 30th, 2003, 10:30 AM
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We took the ferry from Swan Quarter, don't know where that is in relation to Cedar Island but the drive from Raliegh to Swan Quarter did seem long. We stayed overnight in Swan Quarter in a "Bed & Breakfast" that was absolutely horrid. My mother made the reservations for this trip, I assume we had to spend the night due to ferry schedule, etc. We spent a few nights on Okracoke, which was indeed very nice, then drove north thru the other islands and stayed a night or two in Nags Head and went back to Raleigh from there. You could do like we did and experience both ways, but do make your ferry reservations in advance.
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Apr 30th, 2003, 01:34 PM
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Swan Quarter is one of the smallest in population county seats in America at no more than 500 or so. But there is no excuse for a shoddy B & B.
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May 6th, 2003, 10:00 PM
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Just curious - where are you staying in Ocracoke? I am researching places around the Harbor now.
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