Five famous and picturesque lighthouses of the Outer Banks.
- Currituck Beach Lighthouse
- Bodie Island Lighthouse
- Roanoke Marshes Lighthouse
- Cape Hatteras Lighthouse
- Ocracoke Lighthouse
Currituck Beach Lighthouse
The Currituck Beach Lighthouse is a stunner. At 162 feet to the top and 158′ to the focal plane, it sits 12th on the list of tallest lighthouses in America. 220 steps wind their up the massive spiral staircase inside.
For a fee, you can climb right to the top (ages 4 and up) and look out over the surrounding area. It’s free to wander the grounds and gift shop.
The lamp was first lit in 1875 and still casts a light that can be seen from 18 nautical miles out at sea. It is one of the few lighthouses in America that still uses a First-Order Fresnel lens, the largest of the Fresnels. Only 467 First-Order Fresnel lenses were ever made. The lens alone weighs over 15,000 lbs.
Supporting that weight is brick tower with walls that are five and half feet thick at the base and three feet thick at the top. It was the last brick lighthouse built on the Outer Banks.
The Currituck Beach Lighthouse is located at 1101 Corolla Village Rd, Corolla, NC 27927.
Corolla, known for its wild horses and unspoiled beaches, is a popular summer destination, with many vacation rentals, and outdoor activities.
Bodie Island Lighthouse
One of two iconic black and white striped lighthouses in the OBX, the 156′ tall Bodie Island Lighthouse is the one with the horizontal stripes. Cape Hatteras Lighthouse has diagonal stripes like a black and white barber’s pole.
A lighthouses paint pattern is known as a “daymark.”
The tower affords spectacular views and is open for climbing from from April to October. Tickets to climb the tower must be purchased the day of your visit at Reacreation.gov. At the time of writing, tickets are $10 for adults, half that for seniors and children.
The current lighthouse is the third constructed, and only one still standing. The first was poorly constructed for sitting atop sand, and started leaning after standing for only two years. The second was blown up by retreating confederate soldiers. Bodie Island’s light went on in 1872, twenty-five years after initial construction began on its predecessors.
Bodie Island Lighthouse is another to use a First-Order Fresnel lens.
Bodie Island Lighthouse is located at the southern end of Nag’s Head at 8210 Bodie Island Lighthouse Rd, Nags Head, NC 27959.
Roanoke Marshes Lighthouse
The Roanoke Marshes Lighthouse is a replica of the third lighthouse to bear the Roanoke marshes name. That lighthouse was built in 1877 and decommissioned in 1955.
The current lighthouse is accessible by pier, and is open from Spring to early Fall. The tower is not. This photo is credited to the US Coast Guard.
The current lighthouse was opened in 2004, and includes many educational resources. It is accessed by pier across from the Maritime Museum at 104 Fernando St, Manteo, NC 27954.
Cape Hatteras Lighthouse
The other distinctive daymark in the OBX belongs to Cape Hatteras Lighthouse. Aside from the striking pattern, and the bright red paint at the base, the sheer size of Hatteras is awe inspiring.
At 198′ (210′ to the top), the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse is the tallest lighthouse in the US. While the views would be stunning, the Hatteras Light is closed for renovations at the time of this writing.
Pack a lunch and walk the grounds.
Cape Hatteras Lighthouse is located at 4673 Lighthouse Rd, Buxton, NC 27920.
We’ve reached the southern tip of the Outer Banks when we get to Ocracoke Lighthouse. Ocracoke can only be reached by air or sea.
Erected 1823 to guide ships in Pamlico Sound, the 75-foot brick lighthouse is not currently open to the public, but the inviting grounds are worth a wander if you make it out to Ocracoke.
If you do make the trip, Ocracoke Lighthouse is located at 360 Lighthouse Rd, Ocracoke, NC 27960, or simply head south. If you arrive by kayak, and you started up at Currituck, kudos to you! That’s close to 120 miles of paddling the Outer Banks!