Lighthouses

Bodie Island Lighthouse

Located just south of Nags Head, the Bodie Island Light, encircled by two black and three white bands, stands 150 feet high. Equipped with a first-order Fresnel lens, it flashes its 160,000 candlepower beacon 19 miles over the ocean. Originally built in 1847, the lighthouse was rebuilt with improvements in 1859. In 1862 Confederate troops blew up the structure to prevent its use by the Union forces, which occupied the Outer Banks. On October 1, 1872, the present tower was put into operation and is the third lighthouse built on the site at a cost of $140,000. According to a light keeper on duty at the time, shortly after this light was activated, a flock of wild geese flew into the lantern, breaking the glass and causing severe damage to the lens. It was quickly repaired, and a wire screen was placed around the light to prevent further mishap.

The name Bodie was originally spelled Body and is still pronounced "body" (as in "a body of water"). There are several stories, which attempt to explain the spelling and pronunciation. Some say it was because so many bodies washed ashore from shipwrecks. Some claim it was because an island is a body of land. Others believe it was the name of someone who helped build the light or was stationed there.

The lighthouse is not open for climbing, but the keeper`s quarters have been restored and are now used as a visitor`s center, which is open year round. There is also a nature walk through the surrounding marsh.

Facilities: Guided tours are offered at the Bodie Island Lighthouse at set intervals, on a daily basis. For more information, including tour times and admission price, please visit the Bodie Island Lighthouse website. (View our seven tips for climbing the lighthouse.) The keeper`s quarters have been restored and are now used as a visitor`s center which is open year round. There is also a nature walk through the surrounding marsh.

Location: 8210 Bodie Island Lighthouse, Nags Head, NC
Phone: (252) 441-5711

Cape Hatteras Lighthouse

The Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, standing at 208 feet, is the tallest in the United States. The lighthouse is painted in black and white spirals, with a red base. Its light can be seen for 20 miles, warning ships of the submerged sand bars where so many ships have foundered. The present lighthouse is the second of three that have been situated on the cape. The first was authorized by Congress in 1794 and completed ten years later, shining a weak beam out over the ocean. Shells from Union ships damaged the light in 1861, and retreating Confederate soldiers took the original lamp from this first lighthouse. The lamp was never found. The present structure, the second tower, was erected in 1869-1870 by the U.S. Lighthouse Board. The Lighthouse Board became the Lighthouse Service, which is now part of the U.S. Coast Guard. A first-order Fresnel lens magnified a small oil wick flame at the tower`s top, which was lit for the first time on December 16, 1870. Vandals damaged the lens in the present structure when the Federal Government abandoned it in 1935. A third temporary structure was built of steel in 1936 and placed about two miles northeast in Buxton. The light from the temporary tower was moved to the present lighthouse on July 23, 1950, which put it back into operation. When reactivated, it was replaced by a rotating beacon--a double affair with 1000-watt lamps in each beacon--visible for 20 miles. However, it has been reported as being seen 51 miles at sea and 115 miles in the air.

Opening for Climbing: Mid-April through Columbus Day. Visitor`s Center museum and grounds open year-round. Lighthouse Climbing Fees: $7.00 Adults $3.50 Children under 12 (must be at least 42" tall); seniors 62 and older; disabled $3.50 with a National Parks and Federal Recreation Lands Senior or Access Pass

Location: 46379 Lighthouse Rd, Buxton, NC
Phone: (252) 995-4474

Ocracoke Island Lighthouse

Located on the southwestern corner of Ocracoke Village, and built in 1823, this is the Outer Bank`s shortest lighthouse, at only 75 feet. It is also the oldest lighthouse still in operation in North Carolina, and one of the oldest on the East Coast. In 1798, a 54-foot wooden tower was built on the Ocracoke Inlet entrance where Edward Teach, otherwise known as "Blackbeard the Pirate," lived at one time. The channel shifted, rendering the lighthouse ineffective. It was replaced by a light vessel in the inlet in 1820, but by 1822 this structure was also rendered useless by shifting sands, and Congress authorized the money to build the present tower, which stands 75 feet tall. The lighthouse was cemented and whitewashed in 1868, giving it the appearance it has today. Originally fueled by whale oil, it is now lit by automatic electric power and shines 14 miles out to sea. Building materials used to construct Ocracoke Island Lighthouse include: lumber, mortar, stone and brick. Not open for climbing. Ocracoke Island is accessible by a free ferry. Free admission.
Location: 360 Lighthouse Rd, Ocracoke, NC
Phone: (252) 473-2111

Roanoke Marshes Lighthouse

The current structure known as Roanoke Marshes Lighthouse is a recreation from the original lighthouse that was located in the middle of the water near a busy port in-between Wanchese and mainland North Carolina. It was first opened on September 25, 2004. Located steps away from the structure is The Roanoke Island Maritime Museum, which contains a permanent exhibit on the history of the Roanoke Marshes Lighthouse and features changing exhibits on northeast North Carolina`s maritime history. Situated right on the historic downtown Manteo, NC waterfront, Roanoke Marshes Lighthouse is visited by tens of thousands of Outer Banks vacationers each year who are unaware a lighthouse is even located on Roanoke Island. The lighthouse is managed by the North Carolina Maritime Museum, which offers seasonal educational programs as well as activities for both adults and children. Visitors can view the inside of the iconic structure during the spring, summer and early fall months during normal business hours which is typically Tuesday to Saturday from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm. When Roanoke Marshes Lighthouse is closed, you can still walk around the exterior of the structure and take as many pictures as you`d like. The lighthouse extends about 40 yards into the Roanoke Sound and is surrounded by a well-maintained wooden boardwalk that you can walk across to access Roanoke Marshes Lighthouse. There is a small parking lot adjacent to the structure that offers enough parking for about 12 vehicles. This is the area`s newest and most distinctive coastal lighthouse.

If you`re a fan of lighthouses and you`d like to see more of them while vacationing on North Carolina`s Outer Banks, consider visiting Bodie Island Lighthouse, Cape Hatteras Lighthouse or Ocracoke Light Station to the south or Currituck Beach Lighthouse to the north. Visitors can climb to the top of all three lighthouses for a small nominal fee during a majority of the year excluding the wintertime.

Location: Manteo, NC
Phone: (252) 475-1750

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