The main settlement on the island is Lochmaddy, a fishing port and home to amuseum, an arts centre and a camera obscura. Caledonian MacBrayne ferries sail from the village to Uig on Skye, as well as from the island of Berneray (which is connected to North Uist by road causeway), to Leverburgh in Harris. Lochmaddy also has Taigh Chearsabhagh - a museum and arts centre with a cafe, small shop and post office service. Nearby is the Uist Outdoor Centre.
The island's main villages are Sollas, Hosta, Tigharry, Hougharry, Paible, Grimsay and Cladach Kirkibost. Other settlements include Clachan Carinish, Knockquien, Port nan Long, Greinetobht and Scolpaig, home to the nineteenth century Scolpaig Towerfolly. Loch Portain is a small hamlet on the east coast - some 9 miles from Lochmaddy, with sub areas of Cheesebay and Hoebeg.
According to the 2001 census North Uist had a population of 1,271 (1,320 including Baleshare).