North Carolina Lighthouses

“Lighthouses don’t get all wobbly when the weather gets rough; they just stand there shining.” (Author Unknown)


Perhaps that quote has something to do with our fascination regarding lighthouses. A lighthouse acts as a beacon, even in the most severe weather. By definition, a lighthouse is “a tower, building or other structure designed to emit light from a system of lamps and lenses, and to serve as a navigational aid for maritime pilots on sea or inland waterways.” There’s just something a bit awe-inspiring about facing all sorts of elements and guiding ships, big and small, to safe harbor.

Did You Know?

  • The first know lighthouse was in ancient Egypt at the port of Alexandria. Fires were used as the signal light.
  • The United States has more lighthouses than any other country.
  • Michigan has the most lighthouses of any of the states – 115 scattered around the Great Lakes.
  • The position of lighthouse keeper was one of the first government jobs open to women in the United States. Kudos to our fore-fathers!
  • Lighthouses are still an important navigational resource according to the US Coast Guard.
  • The colors and patterns on lighthouses are selected to distinguish them from each other.

North Carolina Lighthouses

Our state is blessed with a number of lighthouses, some original and some replicas. There’s something special and unique about each one. A few you may want to check out include:

Roanoke Marshes Lighthouse in Manteo was originally built in the 19th century on the Croatan Sound. The current lighthouse was rebuilt as a replica in 2004 after the original structure was destroyed during an attempt to move it.

Currituck Beach Lighthouse is located in Corolla Village along the Outer Banks. Its beacon has a range of 18 nautical miles and shines from dusk to dawn every day. Be prepared to walk up 220 steps to the top for a spectacular view. In 1973, Currituck was added to the National Register of Historic Places. One of its unique features is that the natural bricks were left unpainted. This lighthouse was one of the last brick lighthouses constructed on the Outer Banks.

Bodie Island Lighthouse is at the north end of Cape Hatteras. The original lighthouse was built in 1872; however, the current structure is the third replica, which opened to the public in 2013. Its distinctive black and white stripes are dramatic against a Carolina blue sky.

The Cape Hatteras Lighthouse is located near the middle of Cape Hatteras. At 210 feet, it is the tallest brick lighthouse in the United States. Its black and white striping pattern is spiraled (versus the horizontal pattern of the Bodie Lighthouse) to ensure sailors can distinguish between the two. Cape Hatteras and Bodie Island lighthouses overlook an area of waters known as “the Graveyard of the Atlantic.”

Cape Lookout Lighthouse, at the Outer Banks, is the only one whose light blinks during the day (every 15 seconds). It is also unique in that its pattern provides direction – the black diamond pattern indicates north and south; the white diamonds indicate east and west. As with many other lighthouses, the Cape Lookout structure was rebuilt and updated from the original design.

Old Baldy Lighthouse located on the banks of the Cape Fear River holds the honor of the oldest standing lighthouse in North Carolina.

If your plans take you to the coast, why not visit or revisit one of the many lighthouses that call North Carolina home? Each has a unique history and story to tell within its walls. Savor the men and women who made it their jobs to keep the lights on for sailors in years past and even today. Celebrate this unique slice of history!