The Lighthouses of North Carolina are not only iconic local landmarks, but they are also rich in history and famous worldwide. In fact, Cape Hatteras Lighthouse is commonly referred to as “America’s Lighthouse”. It's also the tallest in the nation!
Whether you're road trippin' through the Outer Banks, exploring the Cape Fear beaches & Brunswick Islands or adventuring to the Crystal Coast - North Carolina has several beautiful lighthouses to see! We've listed them here from North to South - Currituck Beach Lighthouse, Roanoke Marshes Lighthouse, Bodie Island Lighthouse, Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, Ocracoke Lighthouse, Cape Lookout Lighthouse, Old Baldy Lighthouse and Oak Island Lighthouse.
1. CURRITUCK BEACH LIGHTHOUSE
The Northern Outer Banks is home to famous 4x4 beaches, wild horses and the Currituck Beach Lighthouse. Its brick exterior is different from the other black and white lighthouses of the Outer Banks. There are roughly one million red bricks that make up this lighthouse! When you reach the top of Currituck Beach Lighthouse’s 220 spiral steps, you will see breathtaking views of the Atlantic Ocean and Currituck Sound.
Climb it: mid-March through December
After exploring the Currituck Beach Lighthouse grounds, be sure to visit the Historic Corolla Park! There's a beautiful bridge and gazebo and is the perfect place to have a picnic. You can even see the top of the lighthouse above the trees! While you're there, we recommend stopping by the charming Island Bookstore in the Historic Corolla Village.
2. ROANOKE MARSHES LIGHTHOUSE
The Manteo waterfront is home to the Roanoke Marshes Lighthouse - a charming landmark that resembles a small coastal cottage. Visitors can enjoy the lighthouse and Roanoke Sound from the boardwalk year-round. During the peak season (April - September), you can tour the inside of the lighthouse. Be sure to also stop by the Roanoke Island Maritime Museum - located across the street!
Location: 104 Fernando St, Manteo, NC 27954
Climb it: No
Website | (252) 475-1750
3. BODIE ISLAND LIGHTHOUSE
The grounds surrounding Bodie Lighthouse (pronounced "body") are as beautiful as the lighthouse itself. A long, wooden boardwalk will take you to a viewing platform over the marsh. From the top of Bodie Lighthouse, you can see the Atlantic Ocean, Pamlico Sound and Lighthouse Bay.
Bodie Lighthouse has sent signals out to sea since 1872.
Climb it: April through mid-November
After climbing the lighthouse, be sure to check out the museum and bookshop in the former keeper's quarters.
4. CAPE HATTERAS LIGHTHOUSE
The Cape Hatteras Lighthouse is the tallest brick lighthouse in the United States, standing a staggering 208 feet tall. Its signature black and white spiral exterior makes it easy to see from miles away on land or at sea.
Since it was first lit in 1803, Cape Hatteras Lighthouse has helped sailors navigate the “Graveyard of the Atlantic”.
Location: 46379 Lighthouse Rd, Buxton, NC 27920
Climb it: No climbing in 2023, due to restoration efforts. However, the grounds are open daily year-round.
The lighthouse overlooks a long stretch of relatively secluded beaches - so come prepared to spend some time relaxing by the ocean.
5. OCRACOKE LIGHTHOUSE
The solid whitewashed exterior of the Ocracoke Lighthouse compliments its tranquil setting perfectly. First lit in 1823, it is the oldest still-operating lighthouse in North Carolina. In 2023, the Ocracoke Lighthouse celebrates its 200th birthday! You can take a free ferry from Hatteras to Ocracoke Island for a day trip to see the lighthouse, tour the historic village and visit the many local shops and restaurants.
Location: 360 Lighthouse Rd, Ocracoke, NC 27960 (*ferry required)
Climb it: The Ocracoke Lighthouse is not open for climbing, due to safety concerns.
Although you cannot climb Ocracoke Lighthouse, the base of the lighthouse is open throughout the year. Check the Ocracoke Discovery Center for hours and information. We recommend also making time to hike Springer's Point - a peaceful nature preserve and the old stomping grounds of Blackbeard the Pirate.
You can also take a ferry for a small fee from Cedar Island or Swan Quarter. Check the NCDOT ferry schedule to plan your trip.
6. CAPE LOOKOUT LIGHTHOUSE
Cape Lookout Lighthouse, often referred to as "the Diamond Lady", is an iconic landmark of the Crystal Coast and Southern Outer Banks. Just like Ocracoke, a boat ride is required to get here! You can take a passenger ferry to Cape Lookout from the towns of Harkers Island and Beaufort.
Location: 1800 Island Rd, Harkers Island, NC 28531 (*ferry required)
Climb it: The lighthouse is undergoing extensive renovations and is not open to climbers. However, you can still visit and admire Cape Lookout Lighthouse from its base! It is estimated that the renovations will be complete in 2025.
We've taken Island Express Ferry Services to both Cape Lookout and the nearby Shackleford Banks (home to a herd of wild horses). When planning a trip to visit Cape Lookout Lighthouse, be sure to also make time to enjoy all the Crystal Coast has to offer!
7. OLD BALDY LIGHTHOUSE
North Carolina’s oldest lighthouse, built in 1817, offers climbers panoramic views of the island, salt marsh, Cape Fear River and Atlantic Ocean.
Out of all the North Carolina Lighthouses, this one may be our favorite! Its weathered, molted pattern gives it such character. The 360 degree views from the top are pretty impressive, too! It's definitely worth the small admission fee and 108 stair climb.
Location: 101 Light House Wynd, Bald Head Island, NC 28461 *ferry required
Climb it: March through December
Getting there: Bald Head Island is only accessible by boat. The Bald Head Island passenger ferry in Southport, NC makes trips to and from the island daily. Once you arrive, you'll look up and see Old Baldy Lighthouse - a 5 minute walk from the ferry landing. We recommend renting a bike from Riverside Adventure Company or golf cart from Carry Cart Company to see the rest of the island!
For day trip ideas, check out our guide to Bald Head Island.
For ferry schedules go to baldheadislandferry.com.
8. OAK ISLAND LIGHTHOUSE
The Oak Island Lighthouse shines an impressive twenty-five nautical miles out to sea. The three-color banded lighthouse is located on Caswell Beach next to the U.S. Coast Guard Station.
From the beach access at Oak Island Lighthouse, you can see Old Baldy Lighthouse in the distance.
Location: 300a Caswell Beach Rd, Oak Island, NC 28465
Climb it: Year-round by appointment only
The Oak Island Lighthouse is the only 100% Volunteer Managed Lighthouse in NC. Top tours must be reserved six weeks in advance during the summer season and around holidays. Open house tours are "no reservation required" free tours to the second level on select days. Request your tour here.
BONUS: PRICE'S CREEK LIGHTHOUSE
A lesser known yet still notable lighthouse in North Carolina is Price's Creek Lighthouse. Hop aboard the Southport-Fort Fisher ferry to see Price’s Creek Lighthouse as you leave or arrive to the Southport dock. This historic brick beacon was built in 1848 and was used to guide ships from Cape Fear to Wilmington.
Which North Carolina Lighthouse is your favorite? Share in the comments below!
Shop our North Carolina Lighthouse Photography Prints & Coastal Wall Art here.
Pre-order our Coastal Coffee Table Book here.
Join the Saltwater Co community on Instagram.