Outer Banks Lighthouses

outer banks lighthouses

Few attractions along the Outer Banks of North Carolina are as famous as the lighthouses that dot our coastline. From the tallest lighthouse in the United States to a structure that stands on Blackbeard the Pirate's former stomping grounds, the lighthouses of the Outer Banks have guided mariners safely through the treacherous shoals of the Graveyard of the Atlantic for centuries. 

You can climb many of the Outer Bank's lighthouses. While the timeframe varies from lighthouse to lighthouse, most are only open for climbing from mid-April to mid-October, so don't miss your chance to take in an unparalleled view of the Outer Banks from the top of one of our most well-known attractions!

To learn more about these OBX lighthouses, check out our updated blog post - The 5 Lighthouses of the Outer Banks.

Cape Hatteras Lighthouse

Hatteras Lighthouse on Hatteras Island 

A trip to the Outer Banks isn't complete without a visit to the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse. Located in the town of Buxton on Hatteras Island, the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse has protected one of the most dangerous sections of the Diamond Shoals since it was initially constructed in 1803. 

The present-day Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, which is best-known for its black-and-white spiral pattern, is the third rendition of this Outer Banks landmark and was completed in 1870. Earlier versions of the lighthouse, including the original sandstone structure that stood only 90 feet tall and a 150-foot-tall structure that was created when 60 extra feet were added to the height of the original lighthouse, weren't successful at helping mariners navigate the dangerous coastline. Construction on the current Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, whose beam of light can be seen for 20 miles, began in 1868, and the lighthouse was first lit on December 1, 1870. 

Visitors can climb 257 steps from the base of the CapeHatteras Lighthouse to the top of the 208-foot-tall structure daily from mid-April through mid-October.

Bodie Island Lighthouse

bodie lighthouse obx

Located in South Nags Head, on the Cape Hatteras National Seashore, the Bodie Island Lighthouse stands 156 feet tall and is best known for is black-and-white striped pattern.  

The present-day Bodie Island Lighthouse was built in 1872 and is the third lighthouse to be built on the site since 1848. The first lighthouse was a 54-foot-tall tower that suffered from structural issues and had to be torn down once it started leaning to one side just two years after its completion. The second tower, which was 80 feet tall and constructed in 1859, was destroyed during the Civil War in 1861 by Confederate troops who feared the structure would be used by enemy Union forces. 

Although the Bodie Island Lighthouse was not open for climbing for many years, the structure recently underwent extensive renovations and reopened for climbing in the spring of 2013. Visitors can climb now 214 steps to the top of the BodieIsland Lighthouse, where they will be rewarded by views of the Atlantic Ocean, the Roanoke Sound and nearby Coquina Beach. The Bodie Island Lighthouse is open for climbing from the third Friday in April through Columbus Day.

Currituck Beach Lighthouse

Outer Banks vacationers who have visited the historic village of Corolla are likely familiar with the popular Currituck Beach Lighthouse. Construction on the Currituck Beach Lighthouse began in 1873, and, unlike its neighbors to the south, the 162-foot structure's red-brick exterior was left unpainted to differentiate it from other lighthouses on the Outer Banks.

The lighthouse still serves as a navigational aid for mariners and is characterized by a 20-second flash cycle, in which its beacon stays on for 3 seconds and off for 17 seconds. The beam of light emitted from the Currituck Beach Lighthouse can be seen for 18 nautical miles.

Visitors can climb 220 steps to the top of the Currituck Beach Lighthouse where they will be greeted with panoramic views of the Atlantic Oceana and Currituck Sound, as well as the nearby Whalehead Club. The lighthouse is open daily March - December. 

Ocracoke Light Station

Ocracoke Lighthouse 
Although the Ocracoke Lighthouse is not open for climbing, it's an Outer Banks attraction that shouldn't be overlooked during your visit to the beach.

Located in Ocracoke Village, which is situated at the southern end of the Cape Hatteras National Seashore on Ocracoke Island, and constructed in 1822, the Ocracoke Light Station is the second-oldest operating lighthouse in the United States. The structure historically served as both as a nautical aid to guide mariners through the tricky waterways of the southern Outer Banks and nearby Ocracoke Inlet as well as a place for residents of the tiny island to seek shelter during hurricanes. 

Ocracoke Light Station stands 75 feet tall and casts a beamof light that can be seen at sea for 14 miles.

Roanoke Marshes Lighthouse

roanoke marshes lighthouse manteo nc

The last lighthouse on the list is often overlooked due to its lower height and the fact it is actually a replica. The Roanoke Marshes Lighthouse may not be the tall brick tower lighthouse you are used to seeing but its interesting history and picturesque structure makes it a lighthouse visitors shouldn't miss out on visiting.

The original structure was built in 1831 but abandoned due to flooding and costly repairs. In 1858, a new lighthouse was built but suffered the same shortcomings. The final lighthouse opened in 1877 and sat upon screw-piles in the Croatan Sound off the western coast of Wanchese. It featured a square cottage-style structure with a short tower on top that housed the light. In 1955, it was decomissioned and before it could be preserved, it was bought by a private buyer. Tragically, the buyer attempted to move it via barge to Edenton, North Carolina but the voyage was cut short when the lighthouse fell into the sound, lost forever.

In 2004, the Roanoke Marshes Lighthouse replica, that stands today, opened up in honor of the 1877 lighthouse. It was moved from Wanchese to Manteo and sits on a dock right off of the Manteo Waterfront area as part of movement to preserve the maritime history of Roanoke Island.

Visitors are welcome to visit this lighthouse and can even go inside to view  a small informational exhibit. The tower part is not open to climbing. 


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