Since I got a lot of useful advice from this forum, I thought I would post a trip report.
We loved Ocracoke. It is definitely a family town. It's quiet and pretty. The only noise came from the Anchorage bar/restaurant, which we avoided. We felt welcomed by everyone except the RV we encountered with a confederate flag.
Travel: We flew into Norfolk and drove to Ocracoke. It took us a whole lot longer than we expected--probably 5 hours.
Accomodations: We rented a house from Ocracoke Island Realty. Their website is super easy to use and they were very helpful, efficient. We'd use them again.
Food: We stopped at the Food Lion in Kill Devil Hills; we missed the one in Avon. For future reference it is hard to see driving south--turn right at the traffic light into the mall in Avon. We also stopped at farmer's market on the way down and got delicious fruits and veggies. We stopped a couple of times at the Variety store and could have done all our shopping there. It's not bad--weakest on meat and vegetables but still quite doable.
We rented bikes from the beach outfitters associated with realty company. To answer my own earlier questions, there are numerous places to rent bikes but all bikes are the same: no-gear, foot brake, wide handlebar bikes. Everything is flat so they worked very well. You can easily bike to the lifeguard beach--maybe two miles from the farthest point in Ocracoke town. There are bike racks there; in fact there are bike racks everywhere.
Loved the ice cream at the Slushy stand. Great family gathering place, especially in the evening.
Ate at Howard's on the way in. The screened porch was quiet. The food was good--in a fried fish kind of way. Also ate at the Back Porch and were somewhat disappointed. It's a lovely restaurant but we did not think the food was that good but maybe we are spoiled.
Rented kayaks from a place in the marina. Really enjoyed kayaking in the sound and in the creeks.
Went several days to the lifeguard beach. The people who posted that this beach is really crowded have never been to the Jersey shore. We thought it was pretty empty. We encountered very rough surf but enjoyed it anyway. We were surprised at how little the life guards do here--never heard a call or a whistle or anything else. Also recommend going to the beach very early to see the sun rise--beautiful.
Highly recommend Springer's Point preserve. Lovely and nice access on the sound.
Also recommend Deepwater Theater. We saw Molasses Creek. They were good and it was a lot of fun.
Our only negative was the mosquitoes and no see-ums, which we encountered early morning and after dark.
All in all a great week. We'd love to go back.