The island homecoming has its origins in the early trips made back to the island by families who left prior to the 1960s and was originally affiliated with the Methodist and Primitive Baptist churches, primarily out of Cedar Island, North Carolina, where many inhabitants of Portsmouth had resettled.
It is also accessible by four wheel drive vehicles, which cross Core Sound by ferry from Atlantic and use the beach and tracks on North Core Banks.
Portsmouth Island lies to the east of North Core Banks, to which it is connected at most states of the tide.
Facilities are very limited with a compost toilet near the Life-Saving Station and a restroom in the Salter house/visitors center, with no potable water, food, or electricity available.
Portsmouth is the location of an increasingly well-known "homecoming," currently celebrated every two years.
Of these the Salter House/visitor center, the one-room school, the Methodist Church, the Life-Saving Station, Henry Pigott's house and the Post Office/general store are open to the public during the summer.
Now, especially during the summers, people often visit the island and camp out overnight on the beach (camping is not allowed in the village).
The limits of the island are not precisely determined and have varied over time.
Older maps use the term for the island between Ocracoke Inlet and Whalebone Inlet (which closed in 1961, now the northern end of North Core Banks.