Outer Banks Lighthouses

Outer Banks lighthouses are attractions to see when touring the barrier islands, which stretch from Virginia Beach VA to the Southern reaches of North Carolina. The Outer Banks is a wonderful, scenic area to visit, and even to plan a whole vacation trip. Why don't we arrange a self-tour for you, to see the lighthouses all around the Outer Banks. You won't regret the chance to go there!

Our cousin lives in Manteo, NC - a wonderful little town Southwest of Nags Head on the Outer Banks. He's been involved in helping with a few of the local lighthouses, in particular, Carrituck Lighthouse. We've have numerous occasions to visit and enjoy all the area has to offer. Of course, including the OBX lighthouses!


A map of North Carolina pointing out the location of the Outer Banks

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Scenic Roads for Touring Outer Banks Lighthouses

Outer Banks Scenic Byway

  • From the North - The most famous for taking a Road Trip through the area. You'll travel on 138 miles of roadway, plus cruising along on 25 miles of cross-ferry routes.1 One toll ferry from Ocracoke to Cedar Island, the other Hatteras to Ocracoke is a free ferry. Begin at the Northern point by going to Whalebone Junction, where three highways meet near a Visitor Center. Ideal place to stop in for info on the route.4 
Pier into the Atlantic Ocean on the beachJennette's Pier in Nags Head, NC
  • Find that start just South of Jennette's Pier in Nags Head. Where US Hwy. 64 meets Hwy. 158, to begin Rt. 12. Then head South.3 Give yourself at least 6 hours for the trip. 
A black and white striped lighthouse with a glowing sunset sky, with suggestions of touring the outer banks lighthouses
  • You know, to really delve in and enjoy it fully, we'd recommend dividing it into two days. That way there's no rush. You'll get to explore and enjoy every part. That includes all the fabulous Outer Banks lighthouses you'll see along the way. For instance, these icons:5
  1. Bodie Island Lighthouse
  2. Cape Hatteras Lighthouse
  3. Ocracoke Island Lighthouse
  4. Cape Lookout Lighthouse

North Carolina Hwy. 12

  • From the South - Like to follow the coastline? This is the scenic road for you. It includes some of the Byway, but instead goes along the ocean's shoreline. It has a History of Development, because North Carolinians recognized the value. Let's begin in the village of Sealevel.
Map locating Sealevel North CarolinaLocate Sealevel NC
  • From there the general trajectory is northward along the coast for 148 miles. What's nice is you get a feel for Outer Banks communities, with original homes of the past.2 Stop along the way to do a little shopping and get the local flavor. And of course you'll be able to tour Outer Banks lighthouses as you travel. So plot your course!
Map locating the drive and timing for NC Hwy. 12Scenic Drive: North Carolina Hwy. 12
  • First get to Ocracoke via the two-1/4 hour long ferry ride (fare charged), then you'll enter Cape Hatteras National Seashore. Take some time to see the Ocracoke Island Lighthouse.
Ocracoke Lighthouse, all white, and surrounding grounds with a walkway and lush tree gardens.Ocracoke Lighthouse - Photo Credit: Marygasaway
  • In Point Beach you'll take the next ferry (free) to Cape Hatteras, arriving in the village there. Watch for the left turn onto Coast Guard Rd. to follow Hwy. 12 to Frisco, and then on through Buxton Woods Coastal Reserve. Very scenic! You'll get to Buxton - where you'll discover the emblematic Cape Hatteras Light!
Distinctive photo of Cape Hatteras Lighthouse with it's black and white stripes that slant downward, a brownish grassy meadow surroundings, trees in the background.Cape Hatteras Lighthouse - Photo Credit: GeorgeB2 at Pixabay
  • Next sequentially survey the OBX communities of Avon, Salvo, Waves, and then Rodanthe.2 Now exiting Hatteras Island, go over the New Inlet Bridge to Pea Island. 
  • Shortly after crossing Oregon Inlet via Marc Basnight Bridge to Bodie Island, you'll view the Bodie Island Lighthouse. You then reach Nags Head, where NC Hwy. 12 is also the S. Virginia Dare Trail, and parallels the Virginia Dare Trail adjacent walkway.
Blue town welcome sign for Nags Head North Carolina on the Outer Banks. Bush vegetation surrounding it.Entering Nags Head - Photo Credit: Sinneed via CCbySA3.0
  • Enter Kill Devil Hills, then Kitty Hawk, and Southern Shores. Finally NC Hwy. 12 is also Ocean Trail in Corolla North Carolina, where you'll pass the Currituck Lighthouse. 
Aerial view focusing on the memorial to the Wright Brothers at Kitty Hawk, with its tall white monument at that time.Kitty Hawk Wright Brothers' Memorial & Monument to a Century of Flight
View of the top half of the brownish Carrituck Lighthouse across a pond with a boathouse, boardwalk and boat dock and grassy park with trees.Carrituck Lighthouse is Seen Across the Pond & Park

This scenic drive officially ends when reaching Currituck Banks North Carolina National Estuarine Research Reserve. With changing weather all the time be sure to get the most Recent Updates when you plan to travel this Outer Banks Scenic Drive and observe some favorite lighthouses.


All the Outer Banks Lighthouses

If you're intent on seeing all of the Outer Banks Lighthouses, you can plan a whole trip to do this. Stay awhile in North Carolina, because it would be difficult to do this in just one day!

You will be allowed to climb most, but not all of the lighthouses. So we'll take a look at them all, with a bit of the details you'd like to know for background info and planning. We want you to have a great trip! We loved traveling the Outer Banks, ourselves (still do love it!) - visiting some of these Outer Banks lighthouses.

  • Carrituck Beach Light - There since 1875, modern day climbing mid-March thru November, call (252) 453-4939 for updates. Off Hwy. 12, go to 1101 Corolla Light, Corolla. Lovely gift shop in the entrance, and museum nearby.
  • Roanoke Marshes Light Station - At 300 Queen Elizabeth Ave. on Manteo's picturesque Eastern waterfront. It's out on a pier, into Roanoke Sound. It's a replica of the 1877 3rd namesake placed at the Croatan Sound's South entrance. Two prior were victims of deterioration in 1839 and another in 1872. The third, which this one patterns, built in 1877. Decommissioned in 1955, privately sold. The owner tried moving it. Bad outcome! Fell into the Sound. This re-creation dedicated Sept. 25, 2004. Managed by NC Maritime Museum, focusing on Manteo and Roanoke Island exhibits. Usually open Tues. to Sat., 9am - 5pm. But call: (252) 475-1750

  • Bodie Island Lighthouse - Not the original, two others prior (pronunciation = body). The first in 1847 tilted badly. It's successor was blasted in the Civil War by Confederates. Final structure here first lit on October 1, 1872. The Keeper's home has the wonderful museum/shop. Open late April thru Columbus Day, at 8210 Bodie Island Lighthouse Rd., Nags Head. Call for updates: (252) 441-5711.
  • Cape Hatteras Lighthouse - The tallest brick lighthouse in the U.S. To warn ships off Diamond Shoals, a 12 mile sandbar causing such havoc it's nicknamed "Graveyard of the Atlantic." Climbing available late April thru Columbus Day, but for updates: (252) 473-2111.
  • Ocracoke Light Station - With automated operation, it's the 2nd oldest of the U.S., still in service. The lighthouse isn't open to climb. But visit its grounds accessed by ferry, within Ocracoke Village. From the south-most part of Cape Hatteras National Seashore. Details: (252) 928-6711.
White lighthouse seen above lines of trees along a waterway in North Carolina. A few small clapboard buildings on the shoreway.A View of Ocracoke Island Lighthouse Across Pamlico Sound
On top of a dune type hill with sandy grasses is a lighthouse with a pattern of black and white diamond shapes. Pine trees are also scattered about.Easily Distinguished Diamond Pattern
  • Cape Lookout Lighthouse - Open from May to Sept. mid months, closed Mon. & Tues. Accessed via ferry. For visiting updates call (252) 728-2250. Pay to enter & to get the ferry. Notable by its diamond pattern, and fabulous gallery views. One Keeper's Quarters remains, plus a 2nd built in 1873, is now a museum.

NOT OFFICIALLY ON OBX, BUT

On the Coast of North Carolina, and on the banks of the Intracoastal Waterway - these are close enough, and certainly terrific lighthouses to see while on a North Carolina trip!

  • Oak Island Lighthouse - The output lumen is among the world's most powerful! The Coast Guard owned the land from the 1930s. The lighthouse is from 1958. The 3-striped pattern is the concrete color. Owned by the Town of Caswell Beach, run by a 501c(3) Friends of Oak Island Lighthouse, their volunteers. Find them via GPS: 300 Caswell Beach Rd., Oak Island. For climb details/updates: oakislandlighthouse@gmail.com
  • Old Baldy Lighthouse - The most southerly NC lighthouse. In action starting April 1, 1817 & built with some early recycling! Used bricks and the lantern from the original 1794 dismantled Bald Island lighthouse. Admission gains entrance to the Island History Museum (Keeper's Cottage), the Lighthouse (climb at your own pace) and its grounds. Reach it by ferry from Southport NC to Bald Head Island: (910) 457-5003 for schedule/ticket info.  Call for updates & info: (910) 457-7481.
  • Cape Fear Light Station - Frying Pan Shoals lies off Cape Fear, the entrance to Cape Fear River. Area lighthouses supply shipping protection. In 1903 this skeleton lighthouse was completed at the most southern part of Bald Head Island. When Oak Island Lighthouse was constructed, this light station was decommissioned and dismantled. Some remnants still remain:
  1. Bald Head Island Conservancy is the exact location of the Cape Fear Light Station. There just remains the foundation.
  2. From 1903 to 1933 Cape Fear Light Station's head keeper was Charles Swan. He was given the lovable nickname "Capt'n Charlie" by his friends. Today, his keeper's home, and two of his Assistants' Quarters still stand. They're in an island location known as Capt'n Charlie's Station.

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