Saturday, February 22, 2014

Ocracoke Island - the perfect hiking beach

I know I posted a similar photo two days ago, but this one makes a better contest entry.
Ocracoke Island's beaches are wide and gently sloped and smooth and firm and unspoiled.  Critics might complain that Ocracoke is inferior (compared to America's great resort beaches) because it doesn't have a tiki bar.  But for the pure natural beach hiking experience this is it.

I live on the beach.  I have logged more than a thousand miles of beach walking on all sorts of sand conditions from quicksand soft to pavement firm, from high tide to low and back again.  So I ought to qualify as a bit of an 'expert'.  For me the 12.5 miles of Ocracoke beach strand is the best, most consistent (high tide to low) beach hiking experience I've found.

The only drawback: there's not much to show for it.  The photo up top tells the tale of the entire 12.5 miles.

At each end you cross to the beach via a vehicle access ramp.  My west-bound Mountain-to-Sea Trail hike started today at the north/east end of the island where the trail route reaches the beach after a short road walk from the ferry.  As you come onto the beach look to your left, back toward Hatteras Island, and if the visibility is good you can see the Hatteras Village water tower across the inlet (you have to squint - it's between the two middle signs):

Along the beach, the one human presence is a set of mileposts erected every half mile.  The numbers are from the overall Outer Banks Milepost system--numbers increase from north to south starting in Kitty Hawk where US 158 comes onto the beach across the Wright Memorial Bridge from the mainland. The markers are always at the base of the dune and a few of them are missing, but somehow I found this enhancement to the natural setting to be a very hiker-friendly 'luxury'.

Then the trail leaves the beach on another vehicle access ramp, passes the Ocracoke airstrip, and then turns left onto a wide, smooth paved bike path that leads you into town and on to the ferry to Cedar Island.  I'll do that part tomorrow.

But for today, it was all beach all the time.  I was smiling as I hiked.  But perhaps I was feeling a bit of sensory deprivation near the end of the day after too much 'wide and gently sloped and smooth and firm and unspoiled'.  Because suddenly I found the beach smiling back at me.


Here's a map of today's hike including a GPS track and some more photos:

MST Day 8 - Ocracoke Island at EveryTrail
EveryTrail - Find the best Hiking in North Carolina


  1. You bring back such great memories, Pete. Keep on writing.

    1. Thank you, Danny, I'll do my best. It's a pleasure to share as I'm creating my own memories.