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North Carolina has a long list of wonderful lighthouses, many of which are open to the public. Visitors to the state’s lighthouses are treated to picturesque views and a sampling of great history. Cape Hatteras is home to the nation’s tallest lighthouse. You can climb its black-and-white tower from mid-April through Columbus Day. The Cape Lookout Lighthouse, with its diamond-shaped pattern, is only accessible by ferry, but it’s definitely worth the trip!
The Cape Lookout Lighthouse is on the Crystal Coast – it’s fronted by gorgeous dunes which are perfect for an afternoon picnic. In Edenton, the 1886 Roanoke River Lighthouse is built atop a stately home which is supported by river pilings. It’s reputed to be one of the country’s last screw-pile lighthouses. The oldest lighthouse in North Carolina is the Ocracoke Lighthouse – it’s a fixture in this pretty oceanside community. The Bodie Island Lighthouse, near Nags Head, is painted in bold black and white stripes and can be climbed from spring to fall. Undoubtedly one of the most beautiful lighthouses in the state is the Currituck Beach Light Station, which is in the Outer Banks. Also, on the Outer Banks is the Roanoke Marshes Lighthouse, which is a replica.
Coastal North Carolina's Bald Head Island is the home to this iconic landmark – Bald Head Lighthouse. The original lighthouse, built in 1794, guided ships away from the coast at the mouth of the Cape Fear River, as they made their way to Wilmington.
The original lighthouse was replaced by "Old Baldy" in 1817, when the land started to erode along the river bank. The octagonal brick "Old Baldy" was built farther back off the coast, away from the shifting sands. This 110 foot tall beacon remains North Carolina's oldest standing lighthouse.
The first lighthouse keeper was American Revolution veteran, Sedgewick Springs, who owned the Sedgely Abby Plantation, located close to the lighthouse. Due to the lighthouse's location off the coast and the thick fog, a lightship was added on the Frying Pan Shoals and a fog bell was positioned near the lighthouse.
Once the Oak Island Lighthouse was built in 1958, "Old Baldy" was decommissioned. Visit this historic treasure, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, for a glimpse into the past.
It took a while to get today’s Bodie Island Lighthouse to stick around. It was built in a location where it was determined a lighthouse was necessary for navigation and protection from the dangerous cape. The first lighthouse opened in 1847 but due to mistakes in construction had to be abandoned after 12 years. Another lighthouse opened in 1859, but Union troops blew it up during the Civil War.
Today’s Bodie Island Lighthouse opened in 1872 near Kill Devil Hills. Pronounced “body”, the lighthouse rises 156 feet and towers above the Cape Hatteras National Seashore on the North Carolina coast. The grounds surrounding the lighthouse feature marshlands, maritime forest, ponds, and more that make for great bird and nature watching.
The Cape Hatteras Lighthouse protects one of the most treacherous parts of the Cape and of the North Carolina coast. The first lighthouse went up here in 1803 but the realization of a taller light and new needs meant the current lighthouse opened in 1870 near Kill Devil Hills.
At 198 feet tall, it’s the tallest brick lighthouse in the United States. The lighthouse was actually moved in 1999 to its current location, 1,500 feet from shore – as it originally was. The Double Keepers’ Quarters, the Principal Keeper’s Quarters, the dwelling cisterns, and the oil house were all relocated with the lighthouse.
Located right before Highway 12 runs out of pavement approaching the Currituck National Wildlife Refuge, the Currituck Lighthouse rises 162 feet above the surroundings. About one million red bricks were used in its construction. It was the last major lighthouse built on the Outer Banks and serves navigation with an unusual pattern of 3 seconds on, 17 seconds off for its light. The light and flash sequence can be seen for 18 nautical miles.
You can check out museum-quality lighthouse exhibits at the base, with more on the landings, should you choose to head up the stairs. After 220 steps you’ll get a nice view from the top. There is a small fee to climb, and kids 7 and under climb free. The lighthouse is generally open from late March through late November, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. near Kill Devil Hills.