Lighthouses & Ferries
Lights that once warned travelers, now welcome them.
Seven coastal lighthouses dot our shoreline. Though long ago they protected adventurers from our treacherous coastline, today they draw visitors for some of the most incredible views you’ll ever see. Start your climb today by exploring these historic treasures.
Cape Hatteras is home to the nation's tallest and most recognizable lighthouse
Currituck Beach Light Station
Beginning on the northern end of the coast in Corolla, you can find the Currituck Beach Light Station which opened and began protecting our shores in 1875. Made of approximately 1 million red bricks, this lighthouse’s exterior differs from the more common black and white color scheme of the south. The lighthouse is still active, and you can climb its 214 steps from Easter to Thanksgiving each year.
Bodie Island Lighthouse
Continuing southbound on Highway 12 through Kitty Hawk and Nags Head, you will reach the Cape Hatteras National Seashore. At the entrance of this protected area is the Bodie Island Lighthouse (pronounced "body"). Today's structure is actually the third lighthouse to stand on this site. Bodie Island Lighthouse opened for public tours in April 2013 following a three-year restoration. Visit daily through Columbus Day.
Cape Hatteras Lighthouse
Moving farther south through the Cape Hatteras National Seashore, you will come to Buxton, home of the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse. As the nation’s tallest and most recognizable lighthouse, it is commonly referred to as “America’s Lighthouse” and was completed in 1870. Open to the public from mid-April through Columbus Day, you can climb her 257 stairs or at nightfall, you can see her light that still shines for 20 miles.
To reach the oldest still-operating lighthouse in North Carolina, you can take a free ferry from Hatteras to Ocracoke Island. The whitewashed lighthouse is one of the nation’s five oldest still-active facilities. Although you cannot climb the stairs to the top, the view from the base alone is worth the trip. The village is steeped in history, only accessible by water or air and was once a safe haven for the infamous pirate Blackbeard.
This lighthouse is most recognized for its large black and white diamond design. Originally rejected by 19th century mariners, her structure was later used as the model for future Outer Banks Lighthouses. She is the southernmost lighthouse on the Crystal Coast along the Outer Banks and is only accessible by private ferry. You can climb the 216 steps to the lantern room from mid-May through mid-September each year.
Oak Island Lighthouse
If you travel south of the Outer Banks to the Brunswick County beaches, you can cross onto Oak Island to see the Oak Island Lighthouse. With a light that can be seen for 24 miles, this lighthouse is one of the world’s most powerful. The area is open to the public, and if you call two weeks in advance, you can arrange to climb the 134 steps to the top.
Both Old Baldy and her home, Bald Head Island, are visible from Oak Island. Return to the mainland and head to Southport where you can take the ferry to Bald Head Island. Similar to Ocracoke, Bald Head is only accessible by water or air. Old Baldy’s appearance is a result of decades of patchwork repair and her 141 years of service. You can climb to the top of her 108 steps to take in the view and explore the restored keeper’s cottage on the property.
added: December 5, 2008
updated: April 19, 2013