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“Semi-Tourable” 3 of 5 bubbles
Review of Portsmouth Village

Portsmouth Village
Ranked #9 of 28 things to do in Ocracoke
Certificate of Excellence
More attraction details
Attraction details
Owner description: Over a century ago, Portsmouth Village was a bustling port town. Today, the buildings and exhibits tell the story of changing times and life on the Outer Banks. The Theodore and Annie Salter House and Visitor Center, School, Post Office and General Store, U.S. Life-Saving Station, Methodist Church, and Henry Piggot House are open to the public seasonally.Be sure to bring insect repellent, drinking water, food, sunscreen, adequate clothing, a hat, and good walking shoes.
Charlotte, North Carolina
Level Contributor
32 reviews
19 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 10 helpful votes
3 of 5 bubbles Reviewed July 9, 2013

We took an ATV tour of the island and attempted to visit the village, but it was flooded due to all the rain. The bugs were also terrible if you got anywhere near the dunes and vegetation. However, we did spend a lovely hour shelling on the beach near the village and found tons of Scotch Bonnets, razor clams, conch shells, and more. If it's been fairly dry, I highly recommend going over there with bug spray and sunscreen in hand. otherwise, you might want to steer clear. We did get to see the village from our boat, and although we would have liked to get up close, it was definitely enough for us after a day of shelling!

Visited July 2013
3 Thank cfertenb
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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49 reviews from our community

Visitor rating
Date | Rating
  • English first
  • Any
English first
Blacksburg, Virginia
Level Contributor
100 reviews
16 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 49 helpful votes
“Frozen in time!”
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed June 22, 2013

I had the unique opportunity to be in this village alone to explore since the other people who were on the same board ride over wanted to only be on the beach. There is no charge to be on the island but you have to get there. I went there with the Austin Portsmouth Boat tours ($20 per person) and Rudy Austin was our captain. He knows SO much history of the area, of Ocracoke and of Portsmouth and cares deeply for its preservation. He is from Ocracoke and has their unique accent too!

You MUST have insect repellent. The mosquitos were not out - it has been dry there and I could see the dried up tidal pool areas. But the other bugs were out in force, especially the 'green heads' as the natives call the big flies there - they say they are worse than the mosquitos. They BITE and it hurts. They actually bit right through my t-shirt at the shoulders and upper back area, where the shirt lies right on the skin. I don't like to use repellent but I did and it had 20% DEET in it. It helped for a few hours and then I had to put more on. I brought a dozen or so bites back with me from the excursion but it was worth it. You need sunscreen as well. There is some shade but you will be mostly out walking in the village area.

I brought a small pack with water, a simple lunch, bug repellent and sun screen. And my iPhone camera! I wore Teva sandals. I also wore a khaki military 'boonie' hat - you need a hat (type with strap with hold it on) for the windy ride over on the boat and cover for your head and face from the sun. I really enjoyed the Coast Guard life savimg station. I could go up to the observing area for some great views. The buildings are all well marked to who lived there. The visitor center is in one of the old houses and there are rest rooms there but they were not yet functioning when we went. There is a composting toilet near the Coast Guard station area. We were there for over 4 hours and the time went by so fast! I visited all the buildings and took a nice lunch break on the porch of one house. There are alot of birds like egrets and I saw two different raccoons! One wash washing his food in a marsh pond. It's just very peaceful to be there.

On the way back, Rudy took us by "pelican island' - a roosting island full of nesting pelicans. That was so interesting to see - we could observe from the boat and he told us how to see the baby birds.

This trip was a highlight of my Ocracoke visit and plan to go again on my next visit.

Visited June 2013
5 Thank 84Hokie
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Carrboro, North Carolina, United States
Level Contributor
37 reviews
19 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 56 helpful votes
“Interesting Glimpse into the Past”
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed June 18, 2013

Portsmouth village was abandoned in 1971, after the national park service took over the land and the last remaining resident moved out. Prior to that, it was a bustling community, focused first on "lightering," or transferring cargo from larger to smaller vessels for shipment to the mainland. Later, when the lightering business was rendered unnecessary, villagers shifted to fishing as the main industry.

To get there, take a ferry/boat service from Ocracoke. We used Austin's Portsmouth Island Boat Tours. The captain was born and raised in Ocracoke and gave an informative tour. On the way to the island, he stopped a few times to point out features such as the shallow water, a buoy that had been dragged for miles during a hurricane, and to describe the history of Ocracoke in World War II.

Once on the island, the captain led us through the village, opening buildings so that we could see them. Each building contained an exhibit. There was a main building, once a family home, that described the history of the village, the old post office and general store, another family home that told the story of Portsmouth's families (with pictures and a genealogy chart), and the coast guard station, which demonstrated how rescues were made (complete with a rescue boat and rescue britches!). We learned a lot about life on the island.

After our tour, the captain dropped us off further down the beach where we had a couple of hours to enjoy the shelling and the water before our trip back to the mainland. On the way back, he stopped at "Bird Island," where hundreds of pelicans were nesting and tending their young.

In June, the weather was hot and there were horseflies, but it was not unbearable.

Some tips:

- bring suncreen, bug spray, water, snacks, and a hat
- wear long sleeves or pants if possible - especially if you own something lightweight
- be prepared for a bit of a walk, but nothing too strenuous
- while the park service has bathrooms, they were not open when we were there. Do what you need to do.

Visited June 2013
2 Thank Jordynn J
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Level Contributor
12 reviews
3 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 30 helpful votes
“Loved it and want to go back!”
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed April 21, 2013 via mobile

This was part of our wedding/honeymoon trip on Ocracoke. The Austin's run a boat service aboard a skiff that can take you over to Portsmouth. This was fantastic! Beautiful scenery and a wonderful glimpse into days gone by.

One warning though! We went in May and although the mosquitoes weren't at the peak, they were definitely there. Make sure you pack and spray on some mosquito repellant. If you can find a couple of torso covering mosquito nets, the better off you will be. If you stay out of the grass and walk along the paths, the mosquitoes aren't as bad. But don't let the mosquitoes deter you from seeing this. We found that when we sat on the porch of the main house under a purple martin's nest, we weren't bothered with the mosquitoes at all.

We want to go back again! Also, if you are interested, you can actually volunteer to work on Portsmouth through the National Park Service as a guide. Usually you will find retired husband/wife teams taking on the challenge. We hope to one day. When you arrive here, you can either walk to a side of the island to do some shelling or you can tour the village. You may not have ample time to do both. We suggest trying the village tour.

There are other great spots at Ocracoke to shell. Try the very last pull off before the Hatteras Ferry where the ocean meets the sound. If you don't have a vehicle that can brave the sand, you can park and walk. The walk was a little tough for me at 6 months pregnant, but my son and husband did it with no problem. The shells are worth the walk. Enjoy!

Visited May 2012
4 Thank berry_blossom9
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
West Milford, New Jersey
Level Contributor
34 reviews
17 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 22 helpful votes
“portsmouth village”
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed March 11, 2013

This I have to say was one of the best things we did in north Carolina. Nice boat ride out to the island. Once there you learn abit of history and tour the old buildings.. You can at that point take the boat back or take the walk to the beach. Its abit of a walk but so worth it. The beach it beautiful and there's so many shell.

Visited April 2012
5 Thank magicbus224
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

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