Lighthouses and Maritime Sights on the Coast

Lighthouses and Maritime Sights on the Coast

Cape Lookout Lighthouse on the Crystal Coast

The Outer Banks and Crystal Coast form a necklace of barrier islands along North Carolina’s northern coast. The area’s rich maritime heritage attracts visitors to come and enjoy historic lighthouses, charming fishing villages, abundant seafood and sunny shores.

5-Day Itinerary

Day 1: Tour the Currituck Outer Banks, Kill Devil Hills and Nags Head.

Day 2: Explore from Fort Raleigh to Manteo.

Day 3: Discover Cape Hatteras National Seashore and Ocracoke.

Day 4: Journey to the Crystal Coast.

Day 5: Delight in the beauty of Cape Lookout National Seashore.

Day 1: Currituck, Kill Devil Hills and Nags Head

Arrive at the Currituck Beach Light in Corolla Village. Built in 1875, this red brick lighthouse stands 162 feet tall and was the last major brick lighthouse built on the Outer Banks. It still serves as a navigational aid. Climb the lighthouse and browse the museum shop. (suggested time: 45 minutes)

Across from the Currituck Beach Light, visit the Whalehead Club at Currituck Heritage Park. Overlooking the windswept wetlands of the Currituck Sound, this hunting lodge represents one of the finest examples of art nouveau architecture in the state and has been restored to a museum. (suggested time: 1 hour)

Travel south to the Wright Brothers National Memorial, located in the heart of Kill Devil Hills, and see the granite pylon that stands in tribute to Orville and Wilbur Wright. This is the site of the world’s first powered flight by the Wright brothers Dec. 17, 1903. (suggested time: 1.5 to 2 hours)

Next, make the five-mile jaunt to Jockey’s Ridge State Park to see the tallest sand dune in the East and one of the most phenomenal natural attractions on the Outer Banks. Pack a picnic. Pets on leashes are welcome. Take hang gliding lessons, or for a soaring sensation with your feet on the ground, bring a kite. (suggested time: 2 hours)

Day 2: Fort Raleigh National Historic Site and Manteo

Today’s Outer Banks journey will take you back in time to the late 1500s. You’ll start at the beginning of English settlements in North America at the Fort Raleigh National Historic Site. The on-site Visitors Center offers a brief introductory video; a 4OO-year-old Elizabethan room from Heronden Hall in Kent, England, and a gallery displaying artifacts collected from the site. Fort Raleigh was also home to the Freedman’s Colony, a community for runaway slaves established in 1862. A monument tells the story of this colony and its plight. (suggested time: 1 hour)

Conveniently located next door to the Fort Raleigh National Historic Site, the Elizabethan Gardens commemorates the efforts of the residents of the Sir Walter Raleigh colony to establish the first English settlement. These magnificent botanical gardens offer an exquisite and aromatic environment year-round. (suggested time: 1.5 hours)

Arrive at the downtown Manteo waterfront to see the Roanoke Marshes Light. The replica of the 1850s light that once stood guard over nearby Croatan Sound offers visitors a unique glimpse into the maritime history of the island, as well as a peek at the lives of light keepers who once lived at the station.

The North Carolina Maritime Museum on Roanoke Island, also known as the George Washington Creef Boat Shop, is located on the Manteo waterfront. Inside the shop you will find a number of crafts that represent this region’s maritime history, including an 1883 original Creef shad boat, a variety of sailing skiffs and a Davis Runabout speedboat. (suggested time: 3 hours)

Find yourself at Roanoke Island Festival Park, one of the largest attractions on the Outer Banks. Explore the evolution of Roanoke Island and the Outer Banks from the late 16th century to the early 1900s through living history interpretations, exhibits, films, visual and performing arts programs. The site is home to Elizabeth II, a vessel that represents the merchant vessel that carried the Sir Walter Raleigh’s colonists across the Atlantic in 1585, as well as American Indian Town and The Settlement Site. Stop at The Christmas Shop and The Island Gallery. Open since 1967, this original Outer Banks ornament shop is a perfect excuse for celebrating Santa year-round. (suggested time: 3 hours)

Day 3: Cape Hatteras National Seashore, Ocracoke and the Crystal Coast

Today will be filled with sunshine and discovery as you travel through the Cape Hatteras National Seashore on your way to the Cape Lookout National Seashore.

Make sure to stop at the newly restored Bodie Island Lighthouse and Keepers’ Quarters. Built in 1872, this black and white banded 156-foot structure is one of four lighthouses standing along the Outer Banks. Next, visit the Chicamacomico Life Saving Station. View the historic building and boathouse that housed the service that was the predecessor to the U. S. Coast Guard. (suggested time: 1.5 to 2 hours)

You’ll soon arrive at the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, the tallest brick beacon in the U. S. With its black and white stripes, it stands 210 feet tall. Learn about its marvelous history, which includes a half-mile move away from the ocean in 2000. (suggested time: 30 minutes)

Grab a snack to carry along on the next part of your journey, and then head to the Hatteras-Ocracoke Ferry Terminal. Before boarding the ferry to your next destination, wander through the Graveyard of the Atlantic Museum to see some intriguing shipwreck artifacts, beach discoveries and locally carved model ships. (suggested time: 30 minutes)

Board the ferry for a ride to historic Ocracoke Island, traveling aboard the second largest ferry system in the nation. It has carried passengers along North Carolina waterways since 1920. (suggested time: 45 minutes)

In Ocracoke, stop at the Ocracoke Lighthouse, nestled in a quaint fishing village along Silver Lake. Built in 1823, this whitewashed tower is the oldest operating lighthouse on the North Carolina coast and the second oldest in the nation. It was the beneficiary of one of the first Fresnel lenses. (suggested time: 30 minutes)

Catch the Cedar Island Ferry at the ferry terminal on the southernmost point of the island. Reservations are recommended. It takes you to your next stop, the Crystal Coast. (suggested time: 2.5 hours)

The beautiful Crystal Coast encompasses the Cape Lookout region of the southern Outer Banks. You are now on the mainland, and you’ll drive through great expanses of salt marsh, farmland and fishing villages to historic Beaufort (pronounced BOH-fert). Along the way, notice the waterfowl art, decoy carving and boat building. The region’s cultural heritage is on display on most every front porch. Enjoy your evening in Beaufort at the many hotels and restaurants.

Day 4: Beaufort, Morehead City and Fort Macon State Park

Today your journey takes you from the Age of Exploration through the Age of Piracy, into Colonial history and through the Civil War.

Begin at the North Carolina Maritime Museum in Beaufort. Self-guided or interpreted tours include exhibits of traditional boatbuilding and use. The Museum is the official repository for artifacts from Blackbeard’s Queen Anne’s Revenge, which ran aground near Beaufort in 1718. In another area, photographs, information, and artifacts tell the story of North Carolina’s 300-year history of whaling. Continue across the street to the museum’s Watercraft Center, a living exhibit of boatbuilding in progress. (suggested time: 1 hour)

Wander through historic Beaufort. See restored buildings like the schoolmaster Samuel Leffers’ cottage, the Old Jail, the Apothecary Shop or the 1796 Courthouse. Enjoy souvenir shopping at the Mattie King Davis Art Gallery and the Old Beaufort Gift Shop, both located on the historic site. (suggested time: 1 hour)

Drive over to Morehead City, just a bridge-length away, and visit The History Place, a museum dedicated to fostering and promoting the history and culture of the people of Carteret County. (suggested time: 1 hour)

On to Fort Macon State Park, a Civil War fort that serves as a reminder of the importance of waterways to the history of this coastal area. A gift shop and museum are on site. (suggested time: 1 hour)

Prepare yourself for a wonderful dinner at Clawson’s 1905 Restaurant in downtown Beaufort. Clawson’s was the town’s first bakery and grocery store, and the restaurant serves memorable seafood bisque.

After dinner, enjoy entertainment at the Crystal Coast Jamboree in downtown Morehead City or enjoy a Ghost Walk and learn about some hardy spirits – like sea captains, pirates and Civil War spies – who just can’t get enough of historic Beaufort. (suggested time: 1 hour)

Day 5: Cape Lookout National Seashore

Today, journey by boat to the Cape Lookout Lighthouse to see the Shackleford Banks wild horses, the only inhabitants of this pristine place. The horses are only 10 to 13 hands high, shorter than many ponies, and are descended from domestic horses from Spain. They have been here more than 400 years. (suggested time: 2.5 to 3 hours)

Arrive at the Core Sound Waterfowl Museum & Heritage Center, located beside the Cape Lookout National Seashore Visitor Center. The museum houses a collection of valued decoys, island heritage, culture and industry displays and a gift shop. (suggested time: 30 minutes)

Go to the Harker’s Island Visitor Center, one of three Cape Lookout National Seashore Visitor Centers, to see exhibits on Portsmouth Village, island ecology, and the Shackleford Banks horses. The Cape Lookout Lighthouse and Assistant Keepers’ Quarters Museum are not far from the ferry landing.

You can also head to Core Sound Decoy Carvers Guild where you’ll meet carvers, see prized waterfowl carvings and decoys, visit the gift shop and enjoy stories and carving demonstrations. Carvers will explain how they learned their art and why it was so important in this island community. (suggested time: 1 hour)

Enjoy all the area has to offer by mixing and matching events to your particular interest. Be sure to check days and hours of operation for each venue.

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