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Outer Banks Lighthouses

Bodie Island LighthouseWith the Bodie Island Lighthouse restoration project nearing completion–the Lighthouse will be open for climbing April 19–the Outer Banks is poised to become the restored lighthouse capital of the world.

A tour of the Outer Banks Lighthouses is a wonderful way to learn about both the history and beauty of the area. There are four lighthouses from Corolla in the north to Ocracoke in the south. Situated about 35 miles apart, the pattern of each lighthouse has a distinct appearance for navigational reasons, so a ship’s captain could look at the red brick of Currituck Beach Lighthouse or the bold horizontal stripes of Bodie Island Lighthouse and know where he was during the daytime.

Completed in 1875, the Currituck Beach Lighthouse in Corolla is the newest of the Outer Banks lighthouses. Towering above the grounds of Currituck Heritage Park, the view from the top is extraordinary. This far north, Currituck Sound is dotted with islands, so looking west gives a very different view than will be seen from any other lighthouse. Currituck Heritage Park is worth a visit, but may be a trip for another day.

The reopening of Bodie Island Light for climbing is really exciting. It has been closed for safety reasons for over 20 years and the National Park Service started the restoration project in 2009. Soon after work began, it became apparent that the work that required was even more extensive than originally thought. Luckily funds were found to complete the project and the spiral stairs to the top (a major part of the repairs) will once again be available for climbing.

The grounds are beautiful. Set back from the Atlantic Ocean, the lighthouse and outbuildings are surrounded by fresh water impoundment ponds, giving it a very unique feel.  From the top looking south, the Bonner Bridget, spanning Oregon Inlet, is easily seen, and that’s the direction of Hatteras Light–certainly one of the most famous lighthouses in the world.  With its distinctive black and white barber pole striping and 210’ height, this structure has become an icon of what a lighthouse is supposed to look like. 

Completed in 1870, the lighthouse was moved about a half mile back from the ocean in 1999.  The lighthouse is in the village of Buxton–Hatteras Village is a couple of miles farther south–which is where the ferry to Ocracoke Island is located.  

The Ocracoke Lighthouse is the oldest (1822) and shortest (75’) of the Outer Banks lighthouses. There is an automated beacon in the lighthouse that is still used, making it the second oldest operating lighthouse in the United States. Although it cannot be climbed, the grounds are open to the public.

Quick Notes:  There is a fee for climbing the lighthouses. Hatteras Lighthouse tends to get very busy and space is limited. Buy tickets as early as possible and be there at the time stated on the ticket. If your plan is to go to all four lighthouses in one day, start early–it’s 105 miles from Corolla to Ocracoke.

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