A current ferry schedule is essential on the Outer Banks (ncdot.org/ferry). Moving north to south, you can drive from the mainland to Bodie and from Bodie to Hatteras via bridges. But you’ll need a ferry to cross from Hatteras to Ocracoke (a free 45-minute ride) or from Ocracoke to the mainland (2 hours, 20 minutes; $15 advance reservation recommended).
Ignore the people who tell you to avoid the longer ferry ride. Churning across beautiful Pamlico Sound is a relaxing, wonderful way to begin or end your trip, especially if you pack some snacks and cold soft drinks.