Around 950 people live on what is the last inhabited island in the Outer Banks, which can be reached only by water or air. The village, one of the most charming on the entire North Carolina coast, is in the widest part of the island, cradled around a harbor called Silver Lake. Inns, motels, and shops line the main street, while the Ocracoke lighthouse is in a nearby residential area at the end of Lighthouse Road. Man-made canals form the landscape of a smaller residential area called Oyster Creek.
Centuries ago, Ocracoke was the stomping ground of Edward Teach, the pirate better known as Blackbeard, and a major treasure cache from 1718 is still rumored to be hidden somewhere on the island. Fort Ocracoke was a short-lived Confederate stronghold that was abandoned in August 1861 and blown up by Union forces a month later.
Although the island remains a destination for people seeking peace and quiet, silence can be hard to find in summer, when tourists and boaters swamp the place. About 90% of Ocracoke is within Cape Hatteras National Seashore and the island is on the Atlantic Flyway for many migrating land and water birds. The 16 miles of Ocracoke Beach are wild, wide, and pristine, and many argue that it's the best beach in North Carolina.