Lighthouses are true symbols of resilience and strength. Many have been around for centuries, enduring generations of storms, destruction, relocation and evolution around them. And, these majestic towers have helped guide countless ships to their seaside ports of call. It’s no wonder they are a top attraction for coastal destinations, including the Outer Banks.
From the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, which is the tallest (and arguably the most recognized) lighthouse in America, to the Ocracoke Lighthouse, which is the second oldest lighthouse in America, there’s a lighthouse for every style or interest in the Outer Banks.
Whether you’re a history buff looking to learn more about the rich coastal chronicles or you’re a photography enthusiast seeking unique beach backgrounds for pictures, check out these NC lighthouses on your next Outer Banks vacation.
Currituck Beach Lighthouse
1101 Corolla Village Rd, Corolla, NC 27927
Height: 162 feet | Hours: 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Located in the heart of historic Corolla Village, the Currituck Beach Lighthouse is a true beacon for the community. Originally constructed in 1875, the lighthouse is still in operation to this day and is open to the public.
The Currituck Beach Lighthouse sports a traditional design, with a bright red brick exterior. It even still has its original first-order Fresnel lens. The inside has been beautifully restored and maintained, with much of the original brick and iron still in place.
There is a small fee to climb the 220 steps to the top, though children under the age of 8 are admitted for free with a paying adult. The lighthouse grounds are also quite scenic and worth a stroll.
Be sure to also check out the museum shop, which was actually a small keeper’s house that was renovated into a gift shop.
Bodie Island Lighthouse
8210 Bodie Island Lighthouse, Nags Head, NC 27959
Height: 156 feet | Hours: 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. daily
Surrounded by thriving marshland and maritime forests, the Bodie Island Lighthouse is the ideal destination for nature lovers. While not nearly as well-known as other light stations in the area, this one is said to shed light on the “Graveyard of the Atlantic,” the turbulent waters just off its coast.
Easily spotted because of its black and white stripe design, the lighthouse is centrally located along the Outer Banks, making it an easy stop for beach visitors staying at either end of OBX.
Bodie Island is open to the public and visitors can make the climb for a small fee. It’s protected by the National Park Service so your fee helps to maintain the lighthouse and surrounding area. Stick around afterwards to take in the local wildlife; you can easily spot various birds, crabs, fish, and maybe even a few dolphins!
Cape Hatteras Lighthouse
46379 Lighthouse Road, Buxton, NC 27920
Height: 208 feet | Hours: 9:00 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.
Inarguably one of the most popular landmarks along the Outer Banks, the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse is hard to miss. Standing at an impressive 208 feet, it holds the record for the world’s tallest brick lighthouse.
Located on Hatteras Island, right in the middle of Cape Hatteras National Seashore, it’s a convenient spot for many to visit. Its candy-cane stripes design makes it unique and more photogenic than others in the area.
The lighthouse welcomes over 150,000 visitors each year, and it’s not hard to see why! This historic wonder is impressive and beautiful. Self-guided climbs are offered seasonally and are quite affordable, with discounts for children and seniors. Due to the popularity and seasonality of tours, we recommend booking tickets in advance.
The Cape Hatteras Lighthouse also hosts special events, like full moon tours, which are a ‘must’ if offered during your visit!
Cape Lookout Lighthouse
Cape Lookout Rd, Harkers Island, NC 28531
Height: 163 feet | Hours: 9 a.m. – 4 p.m.
Decorated with a distinctive black and white diamond pattern, the Cape Lookout Lighthouse is hard to miss. Accessible only via boat, a day trip to the little barrier island in the Atlantic Ocean is well worth the effort. Depending on where you depart from, the trip is a simple and scenic 25 – 45 minutes cruise; half the fun is getting there!
Originally constructed in 1859 and standing at just over 160 feet tall, the Cape Lookout Lighthouse is open seasonally for climbers. The cost to climb is only a modest $4 for children and $8 for adults. Visitors that make the trek are rewarded with pristine vistas of the island and surrounding ocean. While you’re there, explore the island beaches and collect a few seashells as unique souvenirs!
360 Lighthouse Rd, Ocracoke, NC 27960
Height: 75 feet | Hours: 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. daily
As the oldest lighthouse in North Carolina and the second oldest lighthouse in the United States, the Ocracoke Island Lighthouse is a true ‘must see’ in the Ocracoke Village for history and architecture enthusiasts.
Built in 1823, Ocracoke is on the smaller end of the lighthouse scale at just 75 feet tall. However, the modest height still towers over the seaside village below.
Because of the age and historic importance, the lighthouse is not open to the public. However, visitors are still encouraged to stop by and explore the island and see the historic lighthouse in person.
Roanoke Marshes Lighthouse
Queen Elizabeth Ave, Manteo, NC 27954
Height: 37 feet | Hours: 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. daily
The latest addition to the OBX lighthouse collection, Roanoke Marshes is a replica of the original lighthouse that once lay between Roanoke Island and the mainland on the Manteo waterfront.
Standing at only 37 feet, this lighthouse is unique in design. The exterior resembles a charming Cape Cod-style house with white paint, black shutters, and a red shingled roof.
The lighthouse is located at the end of a short, scenic boardwalk in downtown Manteo and is certainly worth a visit; the remote island location provides unparalleled sunset vistas and makes a beautiful backdrop for waterfront pictures.
If you happen to experience a rain shower, peruse the small museum and visitor center inside, which features local historic OBX exhibits and educational programs.
Before you visit an Outer Banks lighthouse, remember that most will require a small fee to climb; the fee goes towards maintenance and costs to keep the lighthouse operational. And, many of the lighthouses are only open seasonally, so we recommend calling ahead to verify the up-to-date hours of operation.
Looking for more Outer Banks entertainment? Check out our official OBX blog for more info on area things to do, seasonal events, and more!