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Ocracoke and its pirates 

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Ocracoke is an island of turbulent history, ethereal beauty—and pirates.


I first came across it while planning a family holiday in the USA with our young children. My husband suggested we go to the country’s best beach, as judged by Dr Beach. Not in California, or Florida, or Hawaii, but in a remote place called Ocracoke on the Outer Banks of North Carolina. 

So, after the usual trips round the sights of New York and Washington, we hired a car and drove. And drove. It was more than worth the journey. 

According to the island’s website, the name Ocracoke is thought to have derived from the Woccon people who fished and hunted in the area. 


This eastern seaboard was the site for early British settlements, including the “Lost Colony” of Roanoke. Established in 1587, it had disappeared by the time a supply ship visited three years later. The word “CROATOAN” was engraved on the settlement’s wooden palisade, the only clue to the whereabouts of the 100 settlers. No trace of them was ever found. 

Ocracoke’s treacherous waters made it a dangerous place for shipping, and an ideal haunt for the pirates who roamed American’s east coast. The most famous, or infamous, of these was Blackbeard, credited by some as being the inspiration for Captain Jack Sparrow of Pirates of the Caribbean.  

Blackbeard, real name thought to be Edward Teach, was an English pirate renowned for sticking lit fuses in his hair to frighten opponents. At one time a rich and powerful figure, his influence was much reduced by the time he made his last stand at Ocracoke in 1718. 

Ocracoke’s unique environment endures. Its low-lying coastline, with spectacular beaches and dunes, are at the frontline of the Atlantic weather. Hurricanes wreak havoc. Pamlico Sound stretches westward to the mainland and is a haven for birds and marine life. The sunsets and sun rises are awesome. The horses that appeared in Ezekiel’s vision were probably real, as there have been wild horses on the island since the early 1500s—possibly escapees from an earlier shipwreck.  

This only scratches the surface of Ocracoke’s rich culture, history and environment. It’s so much more than America’s best beach. 

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