On the Hatteras-Ocracoke ferry. Photo: C. Leinbach

HATTERAS – The N.C. Department of Transportation’s Hatteras-Ocracoke ferry route will adopt its full spring schedule on Tuesday (April 12), but motorists should expect longer-than-usual wait times due to ongoing shoaling in the Hatteras Inlet.

While the change means that the number of scheduled runs will increase from 18 to 26 daily departures from each side, critical shoaling issues in Sloop Channel outside the Ocracoke ferry terminal have limited the size of ferries that can safely operate on the route, the N.C. Ferry division said in a press release.

This has reduced the number of vehicles that can be carried on each departure and has led to longer-than-usual wait times.

“We understand and sympathize with the recent frustrations travelers are experiencing on the Hatteras route,” Ferry Division Director Harold Thomas said in a statement. “However, safety is our number one priority, and until water depths reach an adequate level in Sloop Channel, our smallest boats are the only option.”

The Ferry Division is working with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to have the area dredged as soon as possible. Until then, passengers on the Hatteras route may experience wait times as long as two hours or more.

Motorists can avoid lengthy wait times by considering the following options:

  • Avoid peak travel times. At the Hatteras terminal, peak congestion occurs on weekdays between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m., and at the Ocracoke terminal between 4 p.m. and midnight.
  • Consider accessing Ocracoke via the Cedar Island or Swan Quarter routes. Those routes accept reservations and vessels have larger carrying capacities.

The schedule will be as follows starting April 12:

From Hatteras: 5 a.m., 6 a.m., 7 a.m., 8 a.m., 8:30 a.m., 9 a.m., 10 a.m., 10:30 a.m., 11 a.m., 11:30 a.m., noon, 1 p.m., 1:30 p.m., 2 p.m., 2:30 p.m., 3 p.m., 4 p.m., 4:30 p.m., 5 p.m., 5:30 p.m., 6 p.m., 7:30 p.m., 8 p.m., 9 p.m., 11 p.m., midnight.

From Ocracoke: 4:30 a.m., 6:30 a.m., 7:30 a.m., 8:30 a.m., 9:30 a.m., 10 a.m., 10:30 a.m., 11:30 a.m., noon, 12:30 p.m., 1 p.m., 1:30 p.m., 2:30 p.m., 3 p.m., 3:30 p.m., 4 p.m., 4:30 p.m., 5:30 p.m., 6 p.m., 6:30 p.m., 7 p.m., 7:30 p.m., 9 p.m., 9:30 p.m., 10:30 p.m., midnight.

The Hatteras ferry route will switch to its full summer schedule on May 17.

Winter sunset ferry ride in Hatteras Inlet. Photo: P. Vankevich