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Summer schedules begin on some coastal ferry routes

It’s a sure sign of the arrival of visitor season on the Outer Banks — the North Carolina ferry system is beginning its annual switchover to busy summer schedules.  The system’s most popular route, between Hatteras and Ocracoke islands, is increasing its number of daily round trips from 26 to 36. That schedule will remain in place through Oct. 1.

On Tuesday, the two ferry routes between the mainland and Ocracoke Island will also enhance their schedules. The Cedar Island-Ocracoke route will go from three daily round-trips to five, while the Swan Quarter-Ocracoke route will go from three daily round-trips to four. Those schedules will run through Sept. 24

For a complete list of North Carolina ferry schedules and other ferry-related information, go to www.ncferry.org.

Later this year, the ferry system will add direct passenger-only service from Hatteras Island to Ocracoke Island’s Silver Lake Harbor, giving tourists an opportunity to explore the island without having to worry about traffic or parking. The 98-passenger Ocracoke Express will leave the Hatteras ferry terminal several times a day through September.

The ferry fare is $15 for a round-trip excursion, including free access to the public tram that serves Ocracoke Village and adjacent areas. Children 5 years old or younger may ride the ferry at no cost, but an adult must accompany them.

Passengers may leave their vehicles at the Hatteras ferry terminal, where 148 parking spaces will be available. Overnight parking is not allowed.

Passengers with reservations should check in at least 30 minutes before departure times. Walk-up passengers (no reservations) will be accepted up to 15 minutes before the ferry departs. The ferry accepts passengers’ bicycles.

Passengers are allowed small carry-on items such as backpacks and purses. Walkers and strollers are permitted on the ferry. Large luggage items and coolers are prohibited.

The ferry terminal at Silver Lake Harbor is within walking distance of most of the shops and restaurants on Ocracoke. Passengers my rent bicycles and golf carts to get around the island.