Escape to the historic lighthouses of North Carolina’s Outer Banks. You will feel transported back in time. When you climb to the top, you can hear the whispers of pirates on the wind. You can feel the presence of the souls lost to the sea. You can see miles of ocean stretching before you.
There are five lighthouses on the Outer Banks. Ranging from the north to south they are as follows: Currituck Lighthouse; Bodie Island Lighthouse; Cape Hatteras Lighthouse; Ocracoke Lighthouse; and Cape Lookout Lighthouse.
One caution — these appear close together on the map. However, don’t be fooled! The Outer Banks is a chain of barrier islands. Therefore, some of these are accessible only by ferry. Thus, you should plan several days to tour these historic gems.
Also, it’s worth noting that the highway that runs north and south is Highway 12. However, if you stop to ask a local for directions, they will call in The Beach Road. Either way, this highway runs from Currituck Island and connects by bridges all the way to the southern tip of Hatteras Island. However, after you get to the end of the road you must take the ferry service to the last two lighthouses.
The most northern lighthouse of the North Carolina coast is the Currituck Lighthouse. It is accessible by car via Highway 12. The Currituck Lighthouse is located in Corolla Village. It is open to visitors. Of course, the 220 step climb to the top can be warm and humid, especially in the summer. However, the view is worth it. You can see the Northern Outer Banks, Currituck Sound, and the Atlantic Ocean from the top.
Mariners have marked their location since 1875 by the lighthouse. In fact, the light is visible for 18 nautical miles. Indeed, the location is still remote, even today! Therefore, this lighthouse still guides ships safely though the night.
Let’s stop next at the Bodie Island Lighthouse. Also located off Highway 12, just south of Nags Head, NC, you can drive to this lighthouse. The Bodie Island Lighthouse was built in 1872 and soars 172 feet into the air.
You can climb the 214 stairs to the top. Interestingly, this is the third lighthouse to occupy Bodie Island. The two prior lighthouses were not constructed to withstand the erosion, storms, and harsh weather of Bodie Island.
Vivid black and white stripes warn seafarers of the shallow waters of Oregon Inlet. The Bodie Island Lighthouse is still in use today.
Perhaps the most famous lighthouse is the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse. Distinct diagonal black and white stripes warn sailors of the infamous Diamond Shoals. In fact, these dangerous shoals caused ofer 600 shipwrecks and claimed thousands of lives. Thus, the erection of this towering 208 foot lighthouse. The beacon can be seen from over 20 miles out to sea, warning captains of the dangerous shoals.
The Cape Hatteras Lighthouse is an easy drive from Highway 12. It is near Hatteras Village. However, it’s remote location doesn’t deter tourists. You will find it well worth the drive.
You can climb to to the top of this lighthouse. It poses a challenging climb of 257 steps. Prepare for hot and humid conditions as you climb.
In addition to the current location, you can visit the original site of the lighthouse. Officials moved the lighthouse from the original location to the current location due to storm erosion. You can still visit the base of the “old location”.
Next, you must hop a ride on the ferry to visit the Ocracoke Island Lighthouse. Ocracoke Island holds a special place in North Carolina history. Tiny Ocracoke Island was the stomping ground for the infamous pirate, Blackbeard.
The Ocracoke Lighthouse stands only 75 feet tall. However, it was built for an important mission. Ocracoke Inlet is a narrow stretch that linked the ocean to the inner sounds and rivers. Thus, the need to guide ships safely arose due to the need for commerce. In 1823, this lighthouse was built and it’s light could be seen for 14 miles.
Unfortunately, you can’t climb to the top. However, there is great shopping and history in the charming village of Ocracoke. It’s definitely worth the trip!
Finally, you reach the most southern Outer Banks Lighthouse. The Cape Lookout Lighthouse is located on Harker’s Island, North Carolina. And, yes, you do board the ferry to reach this destination.
The Cape Lookout Lighthouse soars 163 feet into the sky and the beacon signals ships 12 miles out to sea. Marking dangeous waters, this lighthouse is marked with a regal black and white diamond pattern.
You can climb the 207 steps to the top of this lighthouse.
Touring the historic lighthouses of North Carolina’s Outer Banks is an escape to another time and place. You can soak in the rich history of the Outer Banks by listening to the stories you learn along the way.