Ocracoke Island, North Carolina
For: History and solitude by the sea
As North Carolina’s Outer Banks become increasingly developed, pretty Ocracoke Island, population 948, offers visitors 16 miles of utterly pristine seashore. This most southerly island in the Cape Hatteras National Seashore is accessible only by ferry or private plane, keeping crowds away and frequently earning a place on Dr. Beach’s list of top ten beaches. Visit the Ocracoke Lighthouse, its light visible 14 miles out to sea, and the Ocracoke Preservation Museum, to learn about everything from the local accent to the island’s role in the Civil War. Stop by the tiny British Cemetery, where four British sailors, whose bodies washed up on the island after their ship was torpedoed by a German submarine in World War II, are buried. Take a day trip to nearby Portsmouth Island, once the largest settlement along the Outer Banks, now uninhabited.