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1 Apr 2015

Four Iconic Outer Banks Lighthouses You Should Visit

The waters off the coast of North Carolina’s Outer Banks are famously — perhaps, infamously — known as the Graveyard of the Atlantic. Since the first recorded event at the mouth of the Cape Fear River in 1526, more than one thousand ships have disappeared into the depths of the Atlantic where the cold waters of the Labrador Current collide with the warmer Gulf Stream.

Even the most skilled seamen have given their lives, and their vessels in the name of a watery grave, but since the end of the eighteenth century, resourceful North Carolinians have constructed shining beacons to guard the coast and light the way home.

Ocracoke Lighthouse

The iconic lighthouse on Ocracoke Island is the oldest operating structure of its kind on the North Carolina coast. Placed on the point of Ocracoke Inlet to mark the channel was a wooden tower that stood 54 feet high. 1798 was the year. Some years later, the inlet shifted as inlets do; the tower was replaced in 1820, and again two years later. It was in 1822 that Congress approved the funds to establish the Ocracoke Lighthouse that stands today, emitting a constant beam that shines 14 miles out to sea.

Cape Hatteras Lighthouse

The Cape Hatteras Lighthouse was first erected in 1803; it stood 90 feet tall, and projected a mostly ineffective beam of light. The height of the sandstone edifice was increased to 150 feet in 1854. At the same time, a top-of-the-line Fresnel lamp was installed, but that’s not the end of the story: The Civil War took its toll on the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse. The structure was severely damaged at the end of the turmoil, and the iconic lighthouse we’ll all recognize today was built.

To date, at 208 feet, it is the tallest brick beacon in the country.

Bodie Island Lighthouse

The Bodie (pronunciation tip: “body”) Island Lighthouse you’ll find standing just south of Nags Head today is the third of its kind. The original iteration was built in 1847 so that mariners might more easily traverse the coast from Cape Hatteras to Currituck Beach, but the foundation was weak, and the structure was abandoned 12 years later. It was rebuilt south of the Oregon Inlet, not far from where the first fell into disrepair, only to be demolished in 1861 as Confederate troops retreated from the area.

The present-day lighthouse — with its familiar black and white horizontal stripes — came into being around 1872, this time on the north side of the Inlet. Despite their visual disparity, the Bodie Island and Currituck Beach Lighthouses are known to be architectural twin.

Currituck Beach Lighthouse

Situated in the town of Corolla, this redbrick structure stands 158 feet tall, having begun its service to the Carolina coast on December 1, 1875. The Currituck Beach Lighthouse proved to be the missing piece to fill the last remaining “dark space” on the coast, a bare stretch of 40 miles where ships and lives continued to perish.

When you book a stay in one of Sun Realty’s beach vacation rentals, you’ll only be a short drive away from each of these iconic landmarks. The only question that remains is, which will you visit first?


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