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Day 100 - Ferry's, Beaches, Dolphins and a Pirate

We take the Ferry from Hatteras Island to Ocracoke Island and see flocks of brown pelicans and dolphins, ate lunch on beach at Ocracoke, then took a 2+ hour ferry to Cedar Island back towards mainland.

sunny 0 °F


Miles Driven - 32 (plus about 25 on the two ferries)
Weather - Splendid
Camped at - Driftwood Campground at Cedar Island (immediately off ferry terminal)


I do love this sunny, pleasant weather!


I didn't think we could top yesterday, but today just might have done it. It would be hard to choose. Mom says her two favorite places on the trip so far have been Chincoteague and now the NC Outter Bank Islands.

Reluctantly, we left the campground at Cape Hatteras (we had to, they were closing for the season) and drove south. In the small town of Frisco was a small Native American museum that Mom wanted to visit. It was closed, but we were able to take the nature walk that was marked off in back. They had quite a few interpretive signs, here is just one example.


We did also see this shad boat, if you're into these sorts of things.


From Frisco, it wasn't a very long drive to the Hatteras Ferry. This is a free ferry run by the State of North Carolina. It goes between Hatteras Island and Ocracoke Island. However, I believe the state is closing the road down around the first of the year to build a bridge, so our timing was quite lucky - yet again. While we were waiting, I visited a couple of gift shops then happened to look up to see flocks of brown pelicans. At least a couple of hundred must have flown overhead while we were there!


The Hatteras Ferry is quite small and on a sunny day like today, the ride is very pleasant. This ferry was much smaller than the ones I'm used to from Puget Sound. Washington has smaller ferries also, but the ones I use most often are huge by comparison.


During the trip we saw a number of small islands and sand bars between the islands. The ferry carefully stays between well marked signs in a deeper channel. Ferry's may not travel over sandbars very well, but the birds don's seem to mind them.


We also saw more brown pelicans in flight and resting on the water during this passage.


Before we left the dock, I asked some of the personnel if they'd been seeing anything during their runs. "Sure" they said, "Dolphins". Wow! They even offered to let me know if they spotted them during our run. While I was trying to focus on yet another brown pelican, one of the crew on the platform above us started calling out and pointing. Sure enough, a couple of hundred yards in front were dolphins. They were small and grey and very hard to take pictures of. By the time I'd get the camera pointed in one direction, they'd be back down, then come up somewhere else. Sometimes I'd just point the camera at a spot somewhere in front of where they dove last and snap the shutter - hoping for the best (I think I ended up deleting most of those shots). Here's the best of what I could get - not worthy of publishing, but maybe good enough to give you an idea?


Later as we approached Ocracoke Island, Mom saw orange turtles on one of the sandbars. Unfortunately she didn't think to take out her camera until they were out of range. We also saw hundreds (maybe thousands?) of cormorants on another sandbar - it was just thick with them.


Then, finally on the tip of Ocracoke Island itself - the stranges of all animals. I'm assuming he checked his tide charts before leaving home...


I was thrilled with seeing the dolphins but disappointed to find that Mom hadn't seen them (she mostly stayed in the RV during the trip to stay out of the wind). But it was too late then, or so I thought. We got back in the car and started driving down the island as the town was at the southern end, about eight miles away. One of the other cars from the ferry got trapped behind me, so a mile or so down the road I decided I'd pull off in a parking area and let it go by (not willing to pull off along the road and get trapped in the soft sand). All of a sudden it occured to me - we were on a beautiful sandy beach, on a warm sunny day, and it was about lunch time. Duh - how about lunch on the beach anyone? Also the next ferry didn't leave until about 4 PM, so we had plenty of time. Mom packed up a shopping bag and towel and over the small sand dune we went (to the Atlantic side, skinny islands again with two sides).


We ate lunch and were just sitting around enjoying the sunshine when lo and behold, several pairs of dolphins swam by as if on cue. These seemed larger and darker then the ones I'd seen off the ferry, but who knows, it could have been the light.


They continued to swim south, into the sun, but I wanted pictures so tried running down the beach to get ahead of them. Not sure it was worth the bother, but I figured I needed the exercise anyway. Mom got a kick out of that.


So again, reluctantly, we tore ourselves away from the beach and headed into Ocracoke, the town. Just as we started coming into the town, I pulled off again to let cars go by. The only place I could find to pull over was a large paved lot with a lot of road working equipment in it (paving, etc.) I pulled in between a couple of trucks just to get off the main road. Just beyond the parking lot were a fence and horses. However, there were also signs and a viewing platform. Odd, one doesn't normally see viewing platforms and signage along private ranches, so something else had to be going on.

We had stumbled onto the Bankers - wild ponies from Ocracoke! It turns out that many of the Outter Bank (get it Bankers? Took me a week for some reason) Islands have or had wild ponies. The most likely explanation is that they swam ashore from shipwrecks, since the Spanish sent ponies to the new world to work the mines and also horses for soldiers. The herd at Ocracoke has been as large as 300, but the island is too small to support that many. Once the highway was built in the late 1950's, the National Park Service fenced in the ponies to keep them from being hit by cars. They maintain the herd at 25 - 30 ponies and also supplement the forage with feed, so these are quite well fed. Visitors are encouraged to 'adopt' a pony also (e.g. - send in a monthly check to help pay for their feed).


I went to the visitors center (National Seashore?) to find out where the lighthouse was. Inside were displays about a fellow known as Blackbeard. Sure enough, the infamous pirate used Ocracoke as one of his bases. In fact, his quartermaster owned a house here. On Nov. 22, 1718, he was partying with fellow pirates when two sloops sent by the governor caught up with him. After a furous battle, he was killed by Lt. Robert Maynard of the Royal Navy (pre Rev. War of course). At the end, it took five musket balls and about 20 stab wounds to bring him down, perhaps at least some of the legends about him were true!


Eye maties, ye be in pirate lands!

Back in 2007, we thought we'd at least check out one more lighthouse (and maybe the last one for awhile). This is small by comparison, only 75 feet tall. Built in 1823, it is also the oldest or second oldest lighthouse in the US that is still in service (my information is a bit inconsistent).


Now it really was time to get the ferry. This one goes to Cedar Island, which is connected to the mainland by bridges, so is also the end of our Outter Banks adventure. I would have stayed longer, but suspected the weather would eventually turn back to normal (windy, cold Atlantic winter) and we do only have eight months for the trip! The ferry ride is about 2 hours and 10 minutes and covers 22 miles. Most of the time, we were completely out of sight of land, although there were a few small islands near the beginning of the trip - this one was again covered with birds. Later in the trip, we also enjoyed a beautiful sunset.


No dolphins this time, but I did have an internet signal during the trip, so got some work done at least. In addition, I used the internet to look for campgrounds once we got back to shore. I expected we'd have to drive for an hour or so to get back into civilization enough to find camping but found a year round campground right at the end of the ferry terminal on Cedar Island.

No kidding, no sooner had we left the ferry then there was a campground and it really was open this time. I registered for a spot, no hot showers but it was only $16 for the night and we didn't have to drive any further (it was already dark by the time we got to shore). So all's well, the pirates have bedded down for the night.

Posted by jl98584 15:31 Archived in USA Tagged family_travel

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Hi Jeanette - Wow! What a great day! My husband and I made it down as far as Hatteras, in fact it was cool and windy so I bought a jacket in one of those shops. We didn't have time to take the ferry to Ocracoke, but after your wonderful "snaps" and descriptions, we've put it on our short list to visit. I'm also glad you're enjoying the weather. The snap of your mother on the beach is delightful and let me say, your snaps look quite professional.
We've finished our celebration of St. Nicholas Day at the Dutch House, but our decorations will stay up until we close for the winter. New Castle was open for free last Saturday and over 200 souls tromped through our little house. Lots of private historic homes were open too and there was caroling, bell ringing, Santa, etc. on the green. I caught glimpses between visitors wishing I could be out there singing and ringing!

I'm learning so much from you! Once you start along the Gulf Coast, just in case, my husband has a cousin in Mobile, AL, and we have family in TX too.

I also need to say that I admire that you and your mother can make this trip together. I did a few short trips with my mother, but this is a wonderful thing for both of you. I'm sure there are bouts of grouchiness here and there, but that's only human. I'm happy for you both.

Dutch House DE Mimi

by dutchhouse

I'm enjoying being home and able to keep up to your blog now. As you may know from your visit here, I also love lighthouses. A friend and I have taken two trips now, around the western and eastern coasts of MI, to see lighthouses (our state has more than any other), and we planned to finish up the east coast this fall, but then I got shingles.

I also enjoy the birding you're getting in. I think I told you I saw 61 species in NZ, many of them new for my life list.

by msj

New Castle is such a treasure, I hope they put a bigger sign out by the main highway telling folks where to turn! I'm sure they are a little biased, but I actually found a NC tourist guide that claims Ocracoke beaches are among the best in the world (or the best). In any event, it's hard to get tired of a sunny day at a beautiful beach!

Thanks to all for your kind comments and encouragement. I feel badly about uploading subpar pictures sometimes, but if that's the only shot I could get (and it's something important to the trip - like dolphins), I'll upload it and cringe a bit.

Didn't have a very good internet service the past couple of nights, but do tonight so will get done what I can. I never thought much about lighthouses before this trip, but have certainly learned a lot about them and am finding them quite interesting. Someday I'm going to catch up with a first order Fresnel Lens that I can actually get close to...
Also was never a birder to speak of, but again have really been learning a lot on this trip. There is a Blue Heron interpretive center down near Savannah, should be there in another day or two...

by jl98584

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