NC Coast & Beaches
Take The Ferry
With 21 ferries operating throughout the year and more than 400 permanent employees on staff, North Carolina’s ferry system is second only to Washington State’s 28-ferry fleet in size. Ferries operate on Currituck and Pamlico sounds, as well as the Neuse, Pamlico, and Cape Fear rivers.
In a typical year, more than 2.5 million residents and visitors – and more than 1 million vehicles – ride North Carolina’s coastal ferries.
Possible routes include: Southport-Fort Fisher; Swan Quarter-Ocracoke; Cedar Island-Ocracoke; Hatteras-Ocracoke (currently suspended); Cherry Branch-Minnesott; Bayview-Aurora; and Currituck-Knotts Island. The first three ferries have varying charges for vehicles, people, and bikes, while the final four currently remain free of charge to riders.
Possible highlights along the way are varied and there’s something for everyone. Charming Southport was featured in Safe Haven, a best-selling novel and resulting feature film from North Carolinian Nicholas Sparks. Historic Fort Fisher features a Civil War site and the North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher.
Of course, Ocracoke Island remains a popular destination, thanks to the quaint town of Ocracoke and sprawling Cape Hatteras National Seashore. Next, classic Outer Banks towns like Hatteras, Avon, Rodanthe, Manteo, Nags Head (home of the famed towering sand dunes at Jockey’s Ridge State Park), Kitty Hawk, Kill Devil Hills (including the Wright Brothers National Memorial), Duck, and Corolla await, as does the final ferry in the system – connecting Currituck to Knotts Island up near the North Carolina-Virginia state line.
Visit the Ferry Service’s website for information and schedules or call (800) 293-3779 to make reservations. Tar Heel State travelers can also call 511, the state’s free travel information hotline, to check on road conditions on their way to or from the ferry.
- Reservations are offered only on the Cedar Island-Ocracoke and Swan Quarter-Ocracoke routes. Reservations must be made in advance by calling the ferry terminal from which you will depart and you must claim your reservation at least 30 minutes prior to departure.
- The ferry system can accommodate any size of car, trailer, or RV that can operate on the highway and special permits are available for vehicles longer than 65 feet.
- Pets are permitted on ferries, as long as they are in the vehicle or on a leash.
- Restroom facilities are available at all ferry terminals and aboard all ferries; ADA restrooms are accessible at all shore facilities and on many vessels.
- Food and drink vending machines are available at all ferry terminals and on most ferries, with coffee service provided at most terminals and on some ferries (see website for a list). In addition, several Ferry Division stores sell clothing, hats, cups, and other ferry memorabilia and gifts.
By Lynn Seldon
By Lynn Seldon
added: December 15, 2008
updated: March 1, 2013