For more than two centuries, lighthouses have guarded the Outer Banks coast. Generations of seaborne travelers and mariners have sought the comfort of these beacons’ reassuring light as they navigated perilous channels and shoals that mark the Graveyard of the Atlantic.
Bodie Island Lighthouse
Located just south of Nags Head, the Bodie Island Lighthouse today is the third version of the beacon built to help mariners maneuver the coast from Cape Hatteras to Currituck Beach. The original Bodie Island Lighthouse (pronounced “body”) was built in 1847, on the south side of Oregon Inlet.
Today’s Bodie Island Lighthouse was completed in 1872 on the north side of Oregon Inlet near the northern border of the Cape Hatteras National Seashore. The familiar black and white horizontal striped structure stands 150 feet high and is equipped with a first-order Fresnel lens. Bodie Island Lighthouse is now open for climbing for the first time ever. Nags Head, NC
Currituck Beach Lighthouse
The beautiful bare brick beacon was built to fill the last remaining “dark spot” of the North Carolina coast. Prior, many ships foundered in the 80-mile navigational void at night, but the Currituck Beach Lighthouse with its beam visible for 18 miles, help solved the problem.
This red-brick lighthouse towers 158 feet above the northern Outer Banks landscape in the historic Corolla Village. Visitors can climb the winding staircase, 214 steps in all, to the top of the lighthouse for a panoramic view of Currituck Sound, the Atlantic Ocean and the Currituck Outer Banks. Corolla, NC
Cape Hatteras Lighthouse
The Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, also known as America’s Lighthouse, is the tallest brick beacon in the country standing 208 feet. The familiar black and white spiral-striped landmark serves as a warning to mariners of submerged and shifting sandbars, which extend almost twenty miles off Cape Hatteras into the Atlantic Ocean.
The present lighthouse, officially completed and lit in December 1870, is the second built of three that have been constructed in Buxton. In 1999 the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse was moved a half mile inland, to save it from the encroaching Atlantic. The Lighthouse was cut from its original base, hydraulically lifted onto steel beams and traveled along railroad tracks to its present position over the course of 23 days. The lighthouse is open for climbing Memorial Day through Labor Day and tickets are required. The climb up the 257 steps is strenuous; please see their website for more details and ticket info. Buxton, NC
The Ocracoke Lighthouse is North Carolina’s oldest operating lighthouse. It now stands 75 feet tall and serves as a harbor light, emitting a constant fixed beam. The exterior’s solid white coloration serves as its identifying mark to mariners by day. The Ocracoke Light is the second oldest operating lighthouse in the nation. With its aid, yesterday’s sailing vessels safely navigated the channels. Today, fishing and pleasure boats pass within its view.
Though the lighthouse is not open for climbing, the site can be visited daily. Ocracoke Island is accessible by a free ferry. Ocracoke, NC
The Roanoke Marshes Lighthouse
This lighthouse is modeled after an 1877-1955 screwpile lighthouse that once guided mariners along a narrow channel connecting the Pamlico Sound to the Croatan Sound, at the south side of Roanoke Island.
Marshes lighthouse is often one of the most overlooked of the Outer Banks lighthouses, simply because of its small stature, limited visibility and remote location tucked away at the quiet east end of the Manteo waterfront. However visitors to historic Downtown Manteo will have no problem spotting the small lighthouse that jets out 40 yards into the Roanoke Sound. Manteo, NC