My children and I took advantage of several of the lectures, demonstrations and so forth that the National Park Service provides from this facility and elsewhere on the island. That part of the center is exceptional. We watched a turtle nest excavation, heard a very good presentation on turtles (my son really enjoyed having his picture taken with the huge loggerhead turtle shell on his back), got to feed the banker ponies after a brief talk about their history on the island, and really enjoyed the "night lights on the beach" presentation, although I might have the name of the last one wrong. We saw our first ever "ghost crabs" during this last presentation, and learned more about the lighthouses than we learned visiting the Ocracoke lighthouse. The thing my kids liked best, though, was the lesson on how to go crabbing. The park ranger was very good with kids, teaching them not only how to catch the crabs, but showing them how to hold one without getting pinched. They loved it so much, we went to the local bait and tackle shop and bought inexpensive equipment to go back on our own. (Incidentally, don't listen to the office staff about how many chicken necks you need to buy for the crabbing lesson; a pack of four necks is probably adequate for at least three kids for the lesson only.) We had the same young park ranger in each of our programs and he deserves a real attaboy! I think his name is Andrew--young fellow with a goatee, first year on Ocracoke. This portion of the Center deserves a "5."
Unfortunately, the men's bathroom at this site is horrible! It is an embarrassment to the federal government, in my opinion. On a visit early in the week in August (week of 18th), it was not only very nasty (urine everywhere, flies, etc.), but the fit and finish was in terrible shape. I don't know about the ladies room, but I expect it was the same. My daughter is only 8, so I can't rely too much on what she says (but she said it was nasty).
The visitor information part has outdated displays that look like they were created several decades ago.
Finally, the communication isn't great. There doesn't appear to be much coordination of event scheduling between Ocracoke, Hatteras and surrounding islands. How hard would it be to have staff trained to answer questions about events on each island, and online scheduling at each site for all of the sites along this seashore, rather than requiring folks to ferry across to Hatteras to register for a later event, for example?
Given these other things, I can only give this center a 3-star, rather than the 5 it would get for programming and presentations.
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