The drive out of the Outer Banks was pretty harrowing. Driving through Rodanthe, the sand blowing across the road looked like a blizzard and we experienced 30 mph winds while driving the bridge over Oregon Inlet. It was raining harder and the surf was becoming more and more treacherous. We stopped at the dump station at Oregon Inlet and continued on. Later we would learn that the road on Hatteras Island was closed due to flooding and sand, in Rodanthe. A house was washed into the ocean and many others were in danger. We got out just in time.
Our plan was to spend one night at Newport News Campground, see Colonial Williamsburg and head to Shenandoah National Park. I had never been to either place, so was pretty excited to check them out and experience some nice weather.
The campground was nearly deserted and we could choose our campsite. We chose a spot very close to the clean restrooms and showers, since there is no water hook-up and we wanted a quick departure the next day (avoiding having to dump). The trees in the campground were beautiful. Since I retired I have become somewhat of a tree nerd (as well as very amateur birder, solver of puzzles and student of history – all to help occupy my now empty brain…). I was thrilled to see tulip trees and their flowers, as well as horse chestnut trees.
It was late afternoon on a Sunday, so we quickly set up camp and headed to town. All the historic sites were just closing, when we arrived, so we had the chance to walk around and see the town and take pictures with no crowds. A couple of hours was perfect, as it didn’t cause Dave to experience what he refers to as “history overload”. We found a great microbrewery with live music, had a beer, then headed back to camp. We enjoyed our time there and would like to return one day. We considered this stop on our journey to be a “bonus”, since we had not originally planned to be there.
The ferry ride to Frisco was uneventful. We were pretty excited about camping at Frisco campground, since we spent an afternoon in the area last year. Like Ocracoke campground, the campsites have no electricity or water. Also, the showers are cold. We would be using our new generator there, also.
Frisco is a very quiet section of the Outer Banks, especially before Memorial Day. The area seems to be mostly very large, ocean-front vacation homes. There are few restaurants and bars, none of which were open air or ocean-front. Most were not open until 5pm during off-season. We opted to cook in the campground and enjoy the outdoors.
We had great weather and spent a couple of afternoons at the beach. The surf and winds were picking up, as a major Atlantic storm was on it’s way. We checked out the Graveyard of the Atlantic museum, which is very small and covers far less ship wreck history than we expected. It was worth seeing, though.
We were watching the weather forcast the entire time and deciding if we would cancel our stay in Nags Head, at Oregon Inlet. We also had reservations at Assateague Island National Seashore, in Maryland. It became clear that the weather was going to be miseralble at both places, so we developed another plan. The National Park Service issued a warning about coastal flooding, expected the afternoon of May 8. We knew we had to leave Hatteras Island well before noon, or risk being trapped there by flooded roads. With a near 30-degree temperature drop overnight, we hitched up and headed out into the strong wind and rain, away from the coast and bad weather, toward Williamsburg, VA.
(For more on the Outer Banks, check out my posts: Outer Banks, NC – Cape Hatteras National Seashore – April 30 – May 25, 2021, Parts 1 & 2, when we spent almost a month there)
The only way to get to Ocracoke is by ferry. We had a morning reservation for the first ferry of the day on April 30, so we camped one night at Cedar Island. There are two RV parks there, one of which is right next to the ferry dock. We didn’t stay there because the reviews on Campendium said the road inside the campground was in poor condition. We realized the lack of bad reviews forthe campground we chose, were likely because it is pretty small and most people stay at the other. It was fine for a night. If we return, we will likely opt for the campground near the ferry, but make sure we are as far as possible from the riding stables because of the smell.
We were expecting to be on the large ferry pictured below, rather than the smaller one. The RV was literally about 2 inches from the outer wall of the passenger lounge area. Driving on and off was pretty nerve-racking, but we had no issues. Later we would learn that we were lucky to have been able to cross. There have been issues lately with ferries running aground or otherwise breaking down.
The national seashore campground is about 4 miles from the center of town. The sites have no water or electricity, but there is a place to fill your tanks and generators are allowed. There are restrooms with showers, but no hot water. We recently purchased a small, lightweight, quiet generator, and are accustomed to quick hot showers in our RV, so it was no problem for us.
We arrived at the campground to find that we were unable to maneuver the RV into our reserved site. At that point, we had camped at nearly 100 different campsites over the past couple of years and this was the first time we could not get into our carefully selected site. There was a 2 – 3 -inch drop-off from the cement pad to the ground which could damage tires if we drove off. The angle into the site was too sharp. Worst of all, the camp host was directly across, with a huge storage trailer extending to the limit of their campsite, preventing us from having another couple of feet to drive over. With very weak internet, we managed to go online and find another site. After we set up, the camp host stopped by and pointed out that we couldn’t use a generator in that particular loop. We had to go online again, find another site, hitch up and move again. It was a long day!
Ocracoke Island is 13 miles long, but the village of Ocracoke itself is just 4 square miles. The island has less than 1000 year-round residents. Most of the houses are vacation homes and most of those are available for rent. Some areas reminded us of Mackinac Island only with cars and golf carts. Fishing is one of the main attractions. It was off-season when we were there, but on weekends, the charter boats were pretty active. We stopped at Smacnally’s, in the Marina, where you can get diinner and/or drinks and watch the daily catch come in. We saw some fish over 50 lbs being weighed, photographed and then cut up.
We rode our bikes from the campground to town, a couple of times, and explored the area that way. The museum and lighthouse weren’t open. We also drove to the north end of the island and stopped to see the Ocracoke horses, which used to roam free on the island. Overall, we really enjoyed the island. We probably would not go there during the summer, when the campground is full and the island is crowded.