What is it like to visit Portsmouth Island, NC?

Portsmouth Island, NC is a destination like no other! This small barrier island located South of Ocracoke Island is as remote as it gets, with no vacation homes, stores, or restaurants. Even so, visitors continue to visit the island year after year. If you’re looking for a unique trip, read up below for more information all the island offers. 

What is it like to visit Portsmouth Island, NC?

Portsmouth Island, NC is an outdoor lover’s paradise with great fishing and some of the best shelling on the East Coast. Once on the island you’ll realize how remote it truly is. With nothing but the beach and wilderness, those that enjoy connecting with nature will find no better destination! 

What is Portsmouth Island, NC known for?

Other than being one of the last “wild” frontiers of the Outer Banks, Portsmouth Island, NC is known for its fishing and shelling. Anglers from up and down the East Coast flock to the area for its abundance. You can expect to catch just about any saltwater species native to the region! 

With its Southern-facing beach, gradual shoreline, beachcombers also frequent the island for its collection of rare shells that aren’t easily found elsewhere, such as the Scotch Bonnet and spiny murexes. 

What is it like to visit Portsmouth Island, NC?

How do you get to Portsmouth Island, NC?

Portsmouth Island, NC is only accessible by boat. The most organized way to get to the island is by ferry out of Morris Marina in Atlantic, NC which is the only service that brings private vehicles to the island. Since there are no paved roads, it is vital that visitors bringing a car make sure it has 4-wheel-drive. 

If you’re staying North on Ocracoke or Hatteras Islands, various charter options are available that will bring you to the island on foot for a day trip. 

What is the history of Portsmouth Island, NC?

Portsmouth Island, NC was one of the first bustling ports following European colonization. The town was officially established in 1752 and by 1770 was the largest European settlement in the Outer Banks.

Shipping was the area’s main industry at the time, with over 60% of the state’s shipped goods passing through the island by 1852.

The Civil War was the beginning of the end of the island’s vibrant community, with many residents fleeing from the onslaught of troops targeting the area. 

If you visit the island you will see what’s left of the small village: a church, general store, post office, and a few homes that have been maintained by the National Park Service. 

Can you stay on Portsmouth Island, NC?

Camping is permitted on Portsmouth Island, NC, while it’s important to note the lack of amenities one would find at a traditional campsite.

Once on the island you can pitch a tent on any stretch of the shoreline, in the dunes, or in the forest. All campers are expected to abide by the Cape Lookout National Seashore’s guidelines. 

What airports are close to Portsmouth Island, NC?

If you are arriving to Portsmouth Island via a Morris Marina ferry in Atlantic, NC, the closest airports are as follows: 

  • Wilmington International Airport ILM (2.5-hour drive to Atlantic, NC)
  • Raleigh-Durham International Airport RDU (3.5-hour drive to Atlantic, NC)
What is it like to visit Portsmouth Island, NC?

Driving Directions to Atlantic, NC (ferry to Portsmouth Island, NC):

  • From Wilmington, NC (2.75 hours)
    • Take US-17 N and NC-24 E to US-70 in Sealevel for 125 miles
    • Follow US-70 E for 5 miles to Atlantic
  • From Greenville, NC (2.25 hours)
  • Take NC-43 S to US-17 S in Vanceboro for 26 miles
  • Follow US-17 S and US-70 E to NC-101 E in Havelock for 35 miles
  • Continue onto NC-101 E to Beaufort for 21 miles
  • Continue to Sealevel for 21 miles
  • Follow US-70 E for 5 miles to Atlantic

Where to Stay in Portsmouth Island, NC?

There are no vacation rentals, inns, or hotels on Portsmouth Island, NC but camping is permitted on the island. If you are taking a day trip instead, check out some rentals below on nearby Ocracoke Island, NC.

  • Couples Hideaway
    • One bedroom, one bath home that sleeps 2
    • Cozy tiny home
    • Screen porch and lower deck
  • Ocracoke Cabana 
    • One bedroom, one bath home that sleeps 2
    • Pool access 
    • Communal charcoal grill
  • Family Getaway
    • Six bedroom, seven bath home that sleeps 12
    • Private screen porch off master bedroom
    • Sky deck with views

For campers and anglers alike, a vacation to Portsmouth Island, NC can’t be beat! If you enjoyed this article be sure to share it with friends and family looking to “get away from it all” on their next trip. 

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