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Ferry System

'A Wonderful View From the Water'

The Ferry System gives you the opportunity to relax for awhile and view the beautiful Outer Banks sandy beaches from the water!  It is maintained by the North Carolina Department of Transportation. Drive your vehicle onto the ferry, get out and walk around, enjoy the lounge, or just sit back and enjoy the view! 

ocracoke-ferry-picNorth Carolina has one of the largest state operated ferry systems in the country. It is pet-friendly, but your pet must remain in the vehicle or be on a leash. 

Also, no food is offered on the trip, but you can bring food aboard if you wish. Some of the terminals have vending machines.


ferry-signAny size vehicle used on the highway is permitted... a car, motor home, or trailer.  Although reservations are not required, the Cedar Island and Swan Quarter ferries do offer reservations.  You can book up to three months in advance and you must arrive 30 minutes before departure or your reservation will be cancelled. Please note that ferry system reservations are recommended during the busy summer months.

Click here to make your ferry system reservations online, or via telephone at 1-800-BY-FERRY.

Since the 18th century, ferries have been a way of life, crossing bodies of water to transport supplies and goods to the mainland of eastern North Carolina.  After the invention of the automobile, vehicle ferries were developed, and are essential to the residents and visitors. Over 2.5 million passengers cross the Pamlico River, Cape Fear River, Neuse River, the Pamlico and Currituck Sound every year via the ferry system. During your visit to the Outer Banks of North Carolina be sure to include a trip on one of our ferries! 

hatteras-ferry-terminalThere are no bridges to connect the isolated Ocracoke Island to the mainland, which makes it even more charming!  It is only accessible by water or air.

Ferry service is provided to the island year round and departs from Hatteras Island, Swan Quarter, and Cedar Island.

We have seven ferries maintained by the North Carolina Department of Transportation. Below you will find information for the three main ferries serving Ocracoke Island.

Hatteras to Ocracoke Ferry runs from the southern part of Hatteras Island, across the Hatteras Inlet, to the northern part of Ocracoke Island. Travel time is about 45 minutes and will hold up to 30 cars. And, the best part....it is absolutely FREE! Reservations are not accepted; first come, first served. During the summer months the ferry departs every thirty minutes from 5:00 AM until midnight. During the off-season winter months it departs every hour. The ferry terminal on Hatteras Island offers a great gift shop, too!  Once you reach the ferry terminal on Ocracoke Island you will drive about 13 miles to reach the village. 

Cedar Island to Ocracoke Ferry runs from Cedar Island to the southern tip of Ocracoke Island. Cedar Island is about 45 miles east of Beaufort NC, but you will be traveling through several small towns, so plan on an hour and a half of driving time.  This ferry ride is very popular and reservations are strongly recommended. It travels 22 miles, will hold approximately 30 cars, and takes about 2 hours and 15 minutes to reach the island. This is a toll ferry and a small fee is charged.

Swan Quarter to Ocracoke Ferry runs from Swan Quarter (east of Washington, NC) to the southern tip of Ocracoke Island. It takes about 2 hours and 30 minutes to cross the Pamlico Sound to Ocracoke.  This ferry does have a set schedule so reservations are strongly recommended. 

The map below shows ferry routes to Ocracoke Island.

View ocracoke ferry route in a larger map

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