August 7th is National Lighthouse Day!
It was on this day in 1789 that Congress approved an Act for the establishment of lighthouses, beacons, buoys and public piers. Because the Outer Banks is known as the Graveyard of the Atlantic due to the thousands of shipwrecks caused by perilous channels, dangerous coastlines & hazardous shoals and reefs, generations of seaborne travelers and mariners have sought the comfort of these beacons' reassuring light as an aid for safe entries to harbors.
If you’re looking for excellent views, picturesque photos, Outer Banks history or even just a little bit of exercise, be sure to check out one (or all!) of the five lighthouses dotting the coastline of the Outer Banks.
Currituck Beach Lighthouse
The northernmost lighthouse on the Outer Banks is the Currituck Beach Lighthouse, located in the historic Corolla Village, with 220 steps and panoramic views of the Currituck Sound and the Atlantic Ocean. At 162-feet tall, this lighthouse still serves as an aid to navigation, with a 20-second flash cycle (on for 3 seconds, off for 17), that can be seen for 18 nautical miles.
Construction was completed on this structure in 1875. To distinguish this lighthouse from the others, the exterior was left unpainted and gives visitors a sense of the multitude of bricks used (approximately one million!)
The Currituck Beach Lighthouse opens daily in early Spring for climbing through Thanksgiving weekend.
Roanoke Marshes Lighthouse
Located at the east end of the downtown Manteo waterfront, the Roanoke Marshes Lighthouse is often overlooked because of its small stature, limited visibility and remote location.
Unlike its Outer Banks counterparts, this lighthouse is not an original. Three Roanoke Marshes Lighthouses preceded this replica, completed in 2004. The first lighthouse was abandoned in 1839 due to neglected repairs; the second ruined by sinking marshes and erosion in 1872. The third, originally constructed at the southern entrance of the Croatan Sound in Wanchese in 1877 to aid passing fisherman and sailors come into port, was decommissioned in 1955.
Open in the spring, summer and early fall, (generally from Tuesday to Saturday, 9:00a.m. - 5:00 p.m.), the interior of the lighthouse is home to local Manteo exhibits focusing on Roanoke Island's long and stormy maritime history.
Bodie Island Lighthouse
The Bodie Island Lighthouse, located in Pea Island just south of Nags Head, began its construction in 1847 as a 54-foot structure, commissioned by the U.S. government due to the many shipwrecks in the area. Abandoned just a couple of years later due to structural problems causing it to lean, a second lighthouse was commissioned in 1858 at a nearby site, but was destroyed during the Civil War just two years later. Finally, in 1871, construction of the current Bodie Island lighthouse, nearly double the height of its predecessors, began further north and inland to a 15-acre site.
Still shining a beam 19 miles offshore and having recently undergone an extensive restoration project, visitors can climb the 214 steps to the top of this 156-foot functioning lighthouse.
The Bodie Island Lighthouse is open from the third Friday in April through Columbus Day (in early October). Climbing hours are every 30 minutes, and start at 9:15 am daily.
Cape Hatteras Lighthouse
Beginning at just 90 feet tall in 1803, the original sandstone structure proved to be ineffective in protecting passing ships. In 1853, the U.S. Government agreed to add 60 feet to the height of the lighthouse after decades of complaints, making it 150 feet tall. However, after just a couple of years of rough storms and irreparable damage, construction on a brand-new structure began in 1868, and the present-day Cape Hatteras Lighthouse was completed two years later. With a beam of light that spans 20 miles into the ocean, this 208-foot-tall structure is the tallest brick lighthouse in the world!
After a hundred years of protecting the Cape Hatteras coastline, beach erosion caused by decades of storms, hurricanes and nor’easters threatened the Lighthouse with the danger of toppling into the ocean. In 1999, the structure was carefully moved 2,900 feet inland.
Today the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse and outbuildings are all open to visitors, and remain safe behind a barrier of sand dunes and maritime forest in the heart of Buxton. The 257-step lighthouse is open for climbers seasonally, generally from Easter to Thanksgiving, from 9:00 a.m. - 5:30 p.m., Memorial Day to Labor Day, and 9:00 a.m. - 4:30 p.m. in the spring and fall.
Located on Ocracoke Island, the Ocracoke Island Light Station is North Carolina’s oldest lighthouse in operation and the second oldest in the nation!
For centuries, Ocracoke Island was one of the dominant shipping ports of coastal North Carolina. in 1822, two acres were purchased on Ocracoke Island by the U.S. Government for just $50 and construction on the 75-foot structure was completed a year later. Although it is the smallest of the Outer Banks Lighthouses, it still towers over the 4 square miles of Ocracoke Village and its beacon can be spotted up to 14 miles into the Pamlico Sound and the Atlantic Ocean.
The Ocracoke Island Lighthouse is not open to climbers; however visitors are still encouraged to stop and explore, and take photos of the lighthouse and historic keepers' quarters tucked behind a cluster of Live Oaks.
What better way to celebrate National Lighthouse Day then to visit one of these beautiful, historic structures?! Be sure to tag your photos with #FunWithSun2017 to enter our photo contest to win a free mini Outer Banks vacation!