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After leaving the Bodie Island Lighthouse (see this), I would like to continue south and enter the ferry system operated by the North Carolina Department of Transportation. The plan would be...

  • Take the 14:00 Hatteras => Ocracoke ferry, arriving in Ocracoke at 14:30

  • Take the 15:30 Ocracoke => Swan Quarter ferry, arriving on the mainland approximately 3 hours later.

In order to minimize the chances of being 'stuck' on the Outer Banks with no place to stay, I would like to book connecting reservations for both legs. I have learned that travel agents are unable, or unwilling, to assist in these matters. Instead, they defer to the NCDOT's site for making ferry reservations and all that I need is there. When I explain that 'no, all of the information is decidedly not there, they say they cannot help me further.

Question: the site appears to offer no way to make reservations for the first leg. Is this a bug? How can a person make reservations for the Hatteras => Ocracoke ferry? Or alternatively, what can a person do aside from showing up early in the morning and spend the day waiting in a first-come-first-served queue?

Secondary: in the chance that I get selected for screening by the maritime division of the TSA, will I need to produce a passport or would it be deemed acceptable for security purposes? I have no forms of Identification to show I reside in the US (because I do not).

Adding: travelling in a standard sedan car, not on foot, not on bicycle.

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    The site explains that the Hatteras-Ocracoke ferry is free of charge, so it wouldn't be surprising if no reservations are possible. – Nate Eldredge May 31 '16 at 1:38
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    Regarding ID: a valid foreign passport is acceptable ID in every other US context that I can think of, so I don't know why this should be any different. Of course, you'll also need your foreign driver's license if you will be driving the car. – Nate Eldredge May 31 '16 at 1:44
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    The secondary question is unclear. Would what be deemed acceptable for security purposes? – Berwyn May 31 '16 at 1:57
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    @ZachLipton: ncdot.gov/download/transit/ferry/… "Under the new guidelines, all NCDOT ferry passengers and vehicles are subject to voluntary screenings and photo I.D. checks. Anyone who does not agree to a screening or I.D. check will not be permitted to board the ferries." But it doesn't explicitly say what sort of ID is acceptable. – Nate Eldredge May 31 '16 at 5:48
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    My only concern ,which I don't think has been answered yet is the requirement for carrying ID in the US as a visitor. Previously it was a requirement for non-immigrant aliens to carry I-94 but that is now electronic, so I'm not sure what is the current situation is. – Berwyn May 31 '16 at 14:34
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I have used both Ferries (and similar ones in Virginia) and as per the other answers it is first come first served basis. These things are treated like shuttle buses - you wait in line, drive on, enjoy the view and then drive off at the other end.

And as per ID .. you'd have to be doing something really out of the ordinary to attract the attention of someone demanding your ID. These trips are as routine as it gets for all involved.

Trip Highlight: When you are driving south to Hatteras, look out for the Flying Saucer shaped house on the left hand side of the road in Frisco NC

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The webpage maintained by OuterBanks.com appears to have a very thorough description:

The Ocracoke / Hatteras Ferry departs from both the Hatteras and Ocracoke terminals daily, including all major holidays, from 5:00 a.m. until midnight. ... In the summer season, the ferry runs every 30 minutes from both sides during the prime ferry traffic hours, which is generally from 8:00 a.m. until 8:00 p.m.

...

The ferry boards on a first come, first serve basis, with no preferences given to locals or visitors. ... The wait to board the ferry all depends on the traffic. In the summer months when the seasonal population is high, visitors may have to wait anywhere between 15 minutes to several hours to board an incoming ferry.

...

Summer visitors who are planning a trip to Ocracoke, and who don't have time to spare and wander around the Hatteras ferry docks, should avoid Tuesdays-Thursdays. These are generally the most popular days in the summer season for day-trippers, and during the prime hours of 9:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m., can become fairly crowded with ferry wait times ranging from 20 minutes to up to two hours. If at all possible, plan your day trip on a weekend or Monday, or plan to be an early bird or a night owl. The early 6:00, 7:00 and 8:00 a.m. ferries, as well as the late afternoon and evening ferries, aren't nearly as crowded departing Hatteras and many times visitors can simply "drive right on."

This last piece of advice (avoid Tuesdays–Thursdays) is also echoed on NCDOT's website (in more than one place.)

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A look at the site and schedules reveals that the Hatteras-Ocracoke ferry is free and runs every half hour. That usually means the ferry is first come first served with no reservations. Your inability to make any kind of reservation on the route bears that out.

Ferries of this kind are usually on routes where the ferry frequency is able to cope with regular demand, though obviously high usage can cause delays. The operator should be able to give you an idea of likely waits.

A passport won't be necessary, and it's likely there isn't any kind of security check. If you are asked for ID a drivers license should be fine. They don't care if you are a resident or not.

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