Are You an NC Lighthouse Expert? Find Out Here!
Ah, lighthouses. So intriguing! Most North Carolina lighthouses fall under the classification of coastal lights, structures built to warn mariners of treacherous shoals lying just offshore. Others are harbor lights, whose presence guides ships to protected bays and moorings. So how much do you really know about these historic and iconic landmarks found all along the coast of North Carolina? Let's find out!
Do you know which lighthouse is closest to your Emerald Isle rental?
You should! It's the perfect day trip and adventurous excursion for all ages. Cape Lookout Lighthouse is the closest NC lighthouse to your Emerald Isle rental and only reachable by boat or by a local ferry service. Cape Lookout Lighthouse soars 156 feet above wild dunes and maritime forests. Lit on November 1,1859, the brick tower received its distinctive black-and-white checkered pattern in 1873 intended not only for differentiation between similar light towers, but also to show direction. The center of the black diamonds points in a north-south direction, while the center of the white diamonds points east-west. Open to the public in the spring, summer, and early fall, climbing the lighthouse’s 207 steps—equivalent to a 12-story building—brings you to a view of the grand sweep of the southern Outer Banks, Morehead City, Bogue Sound, and beyond. Climb the Cape Lookout Lighthouse while you are here and get to know it from the inside out.
How many NC lighthouses are there?
Seven historic NC lighthouses span the Carolina shoreline. From the northern Outer Banks to southern coastline near Wilmington, NC there are plenty of opportunities to explore a lighthouse—or seven.
Can you name all the NC lighthouse locations?
The seven North Carolina lighthouses can be found in these locations:
- Currituck Beach | Corolla
- Bodie Island | Nags Head
- Cape Hatteras | Hatteras
- Ocracoke Island, Ocracoke
- Cape Lookout | Cape Lookout National Seashore
- Oak Island | Caswell Beach
- Bald Head Island | Southport
Which lighthouse has had a string of female lightkeepers?
Currituck Lighthouse has had a run of female lightkeepers. You can read more about the current Currituck female lightkeeper here. Do you want to know some more interesting facts about this lighthouse? Currituck Beach Lighthouse towers above the northern Outer Banks in the historic Corolla Village. The last brick and mortar lighthouse built in North Carolina, its unpainted red brick served as a daymarker to distinguish it from other coastal lighthouses. The Currituck Beach Lighthouse is a first order lighthouse, having the largest of seven Fresnel lens sizes. With a 20-second flash cycle, the light can be seen from 18 nautical miles away. You can read more about it here.
Which lighthouse has a black and white striped pattern on its exterior?
The Bodie Island Lighthouse, (pronounced "Body") is located just south of the town of Nags Head and Whalebone Junction, where Highway 158, Highway 64, and NC Highway 12 intersect. Visitors traveling towards Hatteras Island can't help but notice the black and white horizontal striped structure, peaking out over a line of dense cedar trees on the soundside. You can learn more about the Bodie Island Lighthouse here.
Which lighthouse was moved about half a mile inland ahead of the advancing ocean?
In 1999, after years of study and debate, the Cape Hatteras Light Station was moved to its present location. The lighthouse was moved 2,900 feet in 23 days and now lies 1,500 feet from the seashore, its original distance from the sea. The Cape Hatteras Lighthouse with its distinct spiral black and white daymark pattern protects one of the most hazardous sections of the Atlantic Coast known as the Diamond Shoals. Hundreds and possibly thousands of shipwrecks in this area have given it the reputation as the Graveyard of the Atlantic. The lighthouse is a conical brick structure rising from an octagon-shaped brick and granite base and topped with an iron and glass lantern. It is the tallest brick lighthouse in the United States! Read more about it here.
Which lighthouse was the last one to be built in North Carolina?
Oak Island Lighthouse is the last one built in North Carolina. The concrete itself was colored gray, then white, then black at the top, so it never needs painting. The inside looks and echoes like a silo because, well, a silo company built it. There’s no sweeping spiral staircase like most of the other lighthouses in North Carolina. Instead, the United States Coast Guard installed steep metal steps and platforms that rise squarely through the center of the lighthouse. This is meant to cut the number of stairs by half—just don't look down! You can read more about the Oak Island Lighthouse here.
Which is the oldest standing lighthouse in NC?
Bald Head Island Lighthouse—Old Baldy as its also known—is located where the warmer, calmer waters of the Cape Fear River clash with the colder, roiling currents of the Atlantic Ocean. It was built in 1817 of soft red bricks covered with stucco. It has maintained its original form and location for over 187 years. The most important purpose of Old Baldy was to mark the Cape Fear River entrance for the maritime sailors. It was never intended as a light for Frying Pan Shoals, despite its location. The Bald Head Island passenger ferry in Southport, NC makes trips to and from the island daily. Upon arrival, look up and you’ll see “Old Baldy” Lighthouse—a 5 minute walk from the ferry landing. Rent a bike or golf cart in order to explore the island fully. Read more about the Bald Head Island Lighthouse here.
Which lighthouse is the second oldest operating lighthouse in the USA?In 1822, for a charge of $50, the federal government purchased two acres at the south end of Ocracoke Island as the site for a new lighthouse. Constructed by Massachusetts builder Noah Porter and finished in 1823, the tower still stands today. The lighthouse stands about 75 feet tall. Its diameter narrows from 25 feet at the base to 12 feet at its peak. An octagonal lantern crowns the tower and houses the light beacon. The exterior’s solid white coloration serves as its identifying mark to mariners by day. The Ocracoke Light is the second oldest operating lighthouse in the nation. With its help, yesterday’s sailing vessels safely navigated the channels. Today, fishing and pleasure boats pass within its view. Time, however, has not changed the often tricky character of the shoal-ridden inlet. The historic lighthouse still stands by to make the waters safe. Though the lighthouse is not open for climbing, the site can be visited daily. Read more about it right here.
Learn More About the History of NC Lighthouses
We hope you learned something you didn't already know about our state's lighthouses. You can read more about the history of North Carolina's iconic lighthouses in the this article from Our State magazine. Also check out the video below!
how many NC lighthouses have you visited?
We want to know! Tell us in our comment section below. Which one is your favorite?