Guide to Outer Banks Lighthouses

One of the many features that draws visitors to the Outer Banks each year is the collection of amazing lighthouses. In this post we’d like to give our readers a comprehensive guide to these majestic, mysterious structures that adorn North Carolina’s coast.


Coastal Lighthouses

These are the tallest structures along the Outer Banks. They were built to warn ships away from offshore shoals. Here’s a look at each of the five coastal lighthouses in the area:

Currituck Beach – 1101 Corolla Village Rd, Corolla, NC 27927

Located near the scenic hamlet of Corolla, this station was completed in 1875. Its overall height of 162 feet makes it one of the tallest lighthouses in the US. It stands guard over a long stretch of shoreline that stretches from Cape Henry in the north to Bodie Island in the South. It’s also one of the few remaining active lighthouses in the United States. At night it’s super-bright Fresnel lens still stands silent watch over the Outer Banks. This is a must-see sight during your trip to the Outer Banks. It’s located along Route 12 between Kitty Hawk and Corolla.

Currituck Beach Lighthouse

Bodie Island – 8210 Bodie Island Lighthouse Rd, Nags Head, NC 27959

The current structure is the third one to stand on the spot since the first one was erected in 1848. The Civil War, along with structural deficiencies, doomed the first two versions to an early death. The current lighthouse went into service in 1872. It stands 165 feet tall and was restored to pristine glory in 2008. A recently finished walkway makes visiting this magnificent structure easy. One tip: local people pronounce the lighthouse’s name as “body”with a short “O” sound, so use this form when visiting the area. Bodie Island lighthouse is located within Cape Hatteras National Seashore.

Cape Hatteras – 46368 Old Lighthouse Rd, Buxton, NC 27920

Located near the community of Buxton, this lighthouse began operation in 1870. At 190 feet tall, it’s the tallest lighthouse in the United States. Open year-round except for Christmas, the Cape Hatteras lighthouse is an absolute must for your Outer Banks vacation. You’ll find it along with the Bodie Island light station within Cape Hatteras national seashore, about 50 miles south of Nags Head.

Cape Lookout – Harkers Island, NC 28531

This lighthouse began operation in 1805. During its history it has battled back from a number of setbacks, including the ravages of the Civil War. In 1873 it received its distinctive black and white diamond paint scheme to increase its visibility. The US Coast Guard automated the light fixture in 1950. The Cape Lookout light station remain on active duty protecting ships along the coast. Within the property you’ll find a visitor center, restrooms, and a picnic shelter. The grounds are open year-round and the visitor center operates seven days a week except in winter, when it closes on Sunday. Cape Lookout light station is situated within the Cape Hatteras National Seashore.

Oak Island – 300A Caswell Beach Rd, Oak Island, NC 28465

The US Coast Guard erected this distinctive facility in 1958 and use the best available techniques and technology of the time. This explains it distinctive appearance, which resembles a long, narrow cylinder rather than a tapered cone. The lighthouse uses four 1000 watt bulbs and precision-ground parabolic mirrors that cast its light up to 16 miles offshore, making it one of the most powerful lighthouses in the world. The Oak Island light station is owned by the town of Caswell. The grounds are open year-round, but visiting the top of the light requires at least two weeks advance notice. You can find more information at


Harbor Lighthouses

The purpose of these lighthouses is to guide ships into a safe harbor where they can anchor and ride out storms. There are two of these stations along the Outer Banks.

Ocracoke – Lighthouse Rd, Ocracoke, NC 27960

The history of this lighthouse dates from 1803. The original location was destroyed by a lightning strike in 1818. The lighthouse was rebuilt in 1823 and completely restored in 2009. Standing over 75 feet tall, this alabaster structure near Ocracoke Village makes a great stop during any trip to the Outer Banks.

Bald Head Island – 101 Light House Wynd, Bald Head Island, NC 28461

Located near Wilmington, this lighthouse stands three miles offshore and lights the way to the infamous Cape Fear River. The original structure stood from 1797-1813. Officially deactivated in 1935, the light station is still use to guide local watercraft. A replica of the original keeper’s quarters was built in 2000 and includes a store and Museum. To visit this lighthouse, take a ferry from Deep Point Marina in Southport and just follow the signs.

River Lighthouses

Three of these structures exist near the Outer Banks. Smaller in stature than other lighthouses, their intent is to guide watercraft away from the barrier islands and towards mainland ports. Here’s a look at each:

Roanoke River – W Water St, Plymouth, NC 27962

Originally built in 1886 and restored in 2007, this quaint structure is maintained by the Edenton Historical Commission. The structure was completely restored in 2014. It’s easy to find from anywhere within the town of Edenton.

Roanoke Marshes – Queen Elizabeth Ave, Manteo, NC 27954

The modern structure faithfully reproduces the 1877 original and was completed in 2004. You can visit it during your trip to the town of Manteo during your Outer Banks vacation.

Price’s Creek – Ferry Rd SE, Southport, NC 28461

This spot is actually the remnants of the original lighthouse built in 1849. All that is left of that structure is the 20 foot tall brick conical tower. You can view it while riding the ferry from Southport to Fort Fisher. It’s ghostly profile evokes memories of past glories, when it guided ships safely down Cape Fear River.

As you can see, the Outer Banks offer plenty of opportunities to visit and enjoy some of the most famous and beautiful lighthouses in the United States. So take the time to see some of these historic structures when you’re in the area. But, before you set out for the North Carolina shore, take some time to browse our great selection of plush, comfortable, fully appointed short-term rental properties here on our site. These charming vacation homes offer a private, welcoming atmosphere that hotels just can’t compete with.


Cola Vaughan Realty
PO Box 1375 • Nags Head, NC 27959
Phone: 252.573.2811
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