|Capt. Donald Austin at the Helm|
One of the highlights of our honeymoon on Ocracoke Island was the boat tour we took to nearby Portmouth Island. Capt. Donald Austin of Austin Boat Tours was an excellent guide. I loved listening to his charming Ocracoke brogue as he confidently told us all about the history and heritage of his island home.
|Welcome to a Ghost Town|
What we didn't know until we reached Ocracoke was that nearby Portsmouth Island was a ghost town. Buildings and cemeteries are still there to visit, including the historic and well-preserved life saving station, but nobody lives there anymore. The visit gave us a feeling of how these island residents of North Carolina's Outer Banks lived and worked in days gone by. This community of people was hospitable, sea-faring, tightly-knit, and tough!
|Methodist Church Welcomes You!|
If you go, you'd better be in good shape if you want to do the full tour. Don and I were dropped off at a dock, met by volunteers at a visitors' station, given a map of the area, and allowed to go explore. A few buildings, including the Methodist Church and the Life Saving Station, are open to the public.
|Life Saving Station|
After we explored the town, we slogged through mud and water that was ankle-deep in places along a well-marked and mosquito-filled trail to a beautiful beach where we collected sea-shells and made our way to a rendezvous point. We had brought a picnic lunch, which we sat and ate while we waited for Captain Austin to collect us. When he arrived, we waded through shallow water, clawed our way back into the boat, and headed over to Beacon Island, a nesting ground for seabirds where no humans live. Of particular interest were the many brown pelicans that nest on the island around this time of year. We made our way back, happy and tired and relieved that he had returned so reliably to collect us.
|Brown Pelicans Take Flight|
For the record, Captain Austin is also willing to return to the dock where he dropped us off to collect tourists for the return trip. We suggest that those who lack strong mosquito repellent or strong legs do just that! But for us, the hike was memorable and worth it.
Oh, and one final word of advice: Even if you plan just to explore the village, bring the strongest mosquito repellent there is. That's advice that all the residents of Ocracoke will give you, and they are right!