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6+ Best Lighthouses in the Outer Banks (2024 Updates!)

From the tallest brick lighthouse on the continent to a replica of a lighthouse lost to the sound, the four majestic lighthouses in the Outer Banks are unique and stunning.

Serving as both an educational landmark and connection to the east coast’s unparalleled maritime history, a visit to the outer banks area isn’t complete without a fantastic lighthouse tour of the area.

Currituck Beach Lighthouse

Standing over 160 feet tall, the Currituck Beach Lighthouse is located in Corolla, North Carolina as one of the top lighthouses in the Outer Banks.

Highlighted by a powerful Fresnel lens that can be seen over 15 miles away, Currituck Beach Lighthouse flashes every 20 seconds to aid boats located offshore.

Popular for its original brick color, this lighthouse is the northernmost lighthouse found in North Carolina with the next closest lighthouse located in Fort Story, Virginia nearly 35 miles north.

This lighthouse offers amazing panoramic views of the surrounding Currituck landscape and the Atlantic coastline.

Adventurers brave enough to climb to the top will need to complete 220 steps to reach the breathtaking viewing area. Open year-round, this lighthouse is free of charge to visit, however, guests will have to pay a $10 admissions fee to climb to the top.

This is one of the top activities in the Outer Banks to explore on your travel adventure.

Roanoke Marshes

Roanoke Marshes Lighthouses in the Outer Banks

In contrast to the mighty Currituck Beach Lighthouse, this light is quite shorter, resembling a coastal lightkeepers house.

This lighthouse is one of the most beautiful lighthouses in Outer Banks and is stationed along a 40-yard-long boardwalk that sticks out into the waters of Manteo. The Roanoke Marshes Lighthouse is a replica of the original Wanchese lighthouse dedicated in 2004 by the town of Manteo.

Now managed by the North Carolina Maritime Museum, this lighthouse is a local historic landmark the helps boats enter and leave the Shallowbag Bay area.

This lighthouse utilizes a fourth-order Fresnel Lens loaned from the US Coast Guard to emit a fixed white light.

Visitors are welcomed to the Roanoke Marshes Lighthouse and walk along the long boardwalk year-round. However, to explore inside the building, visitors will have to schedule an “in-season” visit to learn about the history of the lighthouse.

cape hatteras lighthouse

Cape Hatteras Lighthouse

Easily recognized for its mesmerizing diagonal black and white stripes, the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse is the tallest brick lighthouse in America.

Standing at 208 feet, this automated lighthouse is powered through electricity with a rotating light beacon.

Home to a visitor center and two historic lightkeeper’s quarters, the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse offers a unique experience to all its visitors.

Those bold enough to climb up will enjoy 257 steps to the top balcony where they will be rewarded with stunning, 360-degree views of Hatteras Island, the Atlantic Ocean, and the Pamlico Sound.

The Cape Hatteras Light Station is open from mid April to mid October every year. Tickets are $8 for adults, $4 for seniors over 62, and free for children under 11 and those with disabilities.

Bodie Island Lighthouse

Located along the southside marshes of Nags Island, the Bodie Island Lighthouse is a popular 156-foot tall lighthouse as one of the best lighthouses in the Outer Banks.

Sitting north of Oregon Inlet, this lighthouse is managed and operated by the National Park Service as part of the Cape Hatteras National Seashore. Equipped with a first-order Fresnel lens, this lighthouse has a unique rotational pattern aiding ships from up to 19 nautical miles away.

The site hosts a ranger’s office, a visitor center, and the distinct white and black lighthouse displayed above.

Those who decide to climb up will enjoy 214 stairs to the top to enjoy panoramic views of the Pamlico Sound and the Atlantic Ocean in addition to the surrounding marshes.

The Bodie Island Lighthouse is one of the top lighthouses in the Outer Banks and is open to visitors from mid-April to mid-October.

While on opening day lighthouse climbs are free, any other day the admission cost is $10 for adults and $5 for seniors over 62, children under 11, and those with disabilities.

Ocracoke Island Lighthouse

Ocracoke Island Lighthouse

Nestled on the southern end of the Outer Banks, the Ocracoke Island Lighthouse stands as a testament to the enduring legacy of maritime navigation and the rich history of North Carolina’s coastal region.

Unlike its more patterned and towering counterparts, this lighthouse distinguishes itself with its stark white facade and simplistic design, making it a beacon of understated elegance against the backdrop of Ocracoke’s vibrant natural landscapes.

Historical Significance

Constructed in 1823, the Ocracoke Island Lighthouse is not only one of the oldest lighthouses in the United States but also the oldest in continuous operation in North Carolina.

Its light, which shines from 75 feet above the ground, has been a guiding star for sailors navigating the perilous shoals surrounding the Outer Banks for nearly two centuries.

The lighthouse’s steady beam serves as a constant reminder of the area’s storied past, from the age of exploration to the bustling maritime routes that define the East Coast.

Ocracoke Island Lighthouse

Visiting Information

Although the interior of the lighthouse is not open to the public, the grounds surrounding this historic beacon offer ample opportunities for visitors to immerse themselves in its serene beauty.

The site is a must-visit for photography enthusiasts, who can capture the lighthouse’s elegant silhouette against the stunning sunsets that grace the island.

History buffs will appreciate the informational plaques that dot the property, offering insights into the lighthouse’s construction, operation, and role in Ocracoke’s community through the years.

The lighthouse is accessible year-round, with no admission fee to explore the grounds. It’s a perfect stop for those looking to combine a love of history with the natural beauty of the Outer Banks.

While there, visitors can also explore the nearby village of Ocracoke, a charming community filled with local shops, restaurants, and the Ocracoke Preservation Society Museum, which delves deeper into the island’s rich cultural heritage.

A Beacon of Tranquility

The Ocracoke Island Lighthouse stands not just as a navigation aid but as a symbol of tranquility, resilience, and the enduring connection between the Outer Banks and its maritime roots.

Its presence reminds us of the lighthouses’ vital role in guiding mariners safely home and the importance of preserving these historical landmarks for future generations to admire and learn from.

Visiting the Ocracoke Island Lighthouse offers a unique, introspective experience, inviting travelers to step back in time and contemplate the lives of those who have looked to this lighthouse for guidance over the centuries.

It’s a poignant stop in any Outer Banks lighthouse tour, embodying the spirit of exploration and the timeless allure of North Carolina’s coastal treasures.

Portsmouth Island Lighthouse

Portsmouth Island Lighthouse (Replica and Information Center)

Portsmouth Island, a remote barrier island situated within the Cape Lookout National Seashore, holds a unique place in the maritime history of the Outer Banks.

Though the original Portsmouth Island Lighthouse no longer stands, the efforts to commemorate its history live on through replicas and an information center dedicated to preserving the island’s legacy.

This section of the Outer Banks offers a blend of natural beauty and historical significance, providing a deeper understanding of the area’s past.

Portsmouth Island and its Lighthouses

Portsmouth Island was once a bustling port community, with its lighthouse serving as a crucial navigation aid for ships braving the shifting shoals off the North Carolina coast.

Today, the island is largely uninhabited, offering a glimpse into a bygone era through the preserved buildings and the stories encapsulated within the information center.

The replica lighthouse, while not functional, stands as a tribute to the original structure, offering visitors a visual anchor to the past.

Cultural and Educational Experience

The Portsmouth Island Information Center serves as a gateway to the island’s history, offering visitors insights into the lives of the people who once called this place home.

Exhibits and displays recount the challenges and triumphs of the island’s inhabitants, from the lighthouse keepers and their families to the maritime workers who contributed to the island’s once-thriving community.

Educational programs and guided tours further enrich the visitor experience, providing a comprehensive look at the island’s role in regional maritime history.

Portsmouth Island Lighthouse

Access and Activities

Reaching Portsmouth Island requires a bit of adventure, as access is primarily by private boat or ferry service from nearby locations such as Ocracoke.

Once on the island, visitors can explore the replica lighthouse, the information center, and the remaining historical structures at their leisure.

The island’s pristine beaches also offer excellent opportunities for fishing, bird watching, and simply enjoying the solitude and natural beauty of the Outer Banks.

Beyond the historical attractions, Portsmouth Island is a testament to the power of nature and the passage of time.

The quiet streets and abandoned homes stand as a poignant reminder of the Outer Banks’ ever-changing landscape and the resilience of its people.

A Journey Through Time

Visiting the Portsmouth Island Lighthouse replica and information center is like stepping through a portal to the past.

It’s an opportunity to reflect on the Outer Banks’ rich maritime heritage, the evolution of lighthouse technology, and the enduring spirit of the communities that once thrived in this secluded part of the world.

For those looking to delve deeper into the history of the Outer Banks or seeking a quiet retreat from the modern world, Portsmouth Island offers a unique and memorable experience.

Chicamacomico Life-Saving Station-2

Chicamacomico Life-Saving Station

Delving deeper into the rich tapestry of the Outer Banks’ maritime heritage, the Chicamacomico Life-

Saving Station offers a compelling glimpse into the heroic efforts of the U.S. Life-Saving Service, the precursor to the modern Coast Guard.

This station, located in Rodanthe, North Carolina, stands as a monument to the bravery and dedication of those who risked their lives to save shipwrecked mariners from the treacherous waters off the Outer Banks coast.

Beyond Lighthouses – The Life-Saving Station

The Chicamacomico Life-Saving Station is not just a museum; it’s a portal to the past, allowing visitors to explore the rich history of maritime rescue operations in the Outer Banks.

Established in 1874, Chicamacomico is one of the most complete and well-preserved life-saving station complexes in the United States.

Its buildings and artifacts tell the story of the U.S. Life-Saving Service and its critical role in ensuring the safety of ships and sailors navigating the Atlantic.

Historic Tours and Demonstrations

One of the highlights of visiting Chicamacomico is the opportunity to witness live reenactments of the breeches buoy rescue method, a dramatic and innovative technique used by life-saving crews to save shipwreck victims from perilous situations.

These demonstrations, typically held during the summer months, offer a vivid portrayal of the courage and ingenuity of the life-saving service personnel.

In addition to the reenactments, guided tours of the station provide insights into the daily lives of the service members and the evolution of life-saving techniques and equipment over the years.

The station’s museum houses an extensive collection of artifacts, photographs, and documents that chronicle the history of maritime rescue operations in the area.

Chicamacomico Life-Saving Station-2

Visitor Experience

Open to the public from April through November, the Chicamacomico Life-Saving Station invites visitors to step back in time and experience the legacy of the U.S.

Life-Saving Service. Whether exploring the historic buildings, participating in a rescue demonstration, or simply enjoying the scenic views of the Atlantic, guests of all ages will find something to inspire and educate.

Admission fees and operating hours are available on the station’s official website, with discounts offered for seniors, children, and military personnel.

Special events, including the annual “American Heroes Day,” celebrate the station’s history and honor the legacy of those who served.

A Tribute to Courage and Innovation

The Chicamacomico Life-Saving Station is more than a historical site; it’s a tribute to the unyielding spirit of the men and women who dedicated their lives to saving others.

It stands as a testament to human courage, innovation, and the enduring bond between the Outer Banks communities and their maritime heritage.

Visiting the station offers a unique and deeply moving perspective on the challenges and triumphs of life at sea, making it an essential stop for anyone interested in the history and culture of the Outer Banks.

lighthouses in the outer banks


The lighthouses and life-saving stations of the Outer Banks are not merely historical landmarks; they are vibrant gateways to understanding the rich maritime heritage and natural beauty of this unique stretch of the North Carolina coast.

Each lighthouse, from the towering beacon of Cape Hatteras to the understated elegance of Ocracoke Island Lighthouse, along with the heroic legacy of the Chicamacomico Life-Saving Station, tells a part of the larger story of the Outer Banks.

These sites offer visitors a chance to step back in time, to explore the challenges and triumphs of coastal life and navigation, and to connect with the enduring spirit of the communities that have called this place home.

Reflections on the Outer Banks Lighthouses

The Outer Banks’ lighthouses serve as enduring symbols of guidance, resilience, and the human connection to the sea.

Each one, with its unique history and character, contributes to the tapestry of stories that define the Outer Banks.

The Cape Hatteras Lighthouse with its iconic stripes, the historical significance of the Ocracoke Island Lighthouse, the replicated Portsmouth Island Lighthouse, and the Bodie Island Lighthouse’s serene setting, along with the life-saving heroics commemorated at Chicamacomico, offer diverse and enriching experiences to visitors.

Encouragement to Explore

Exploring these lighthouses and life-saving stations is not just about witnessing the beauty and architectural marvels of these structures; it’s about immersing oneself in the history, culture, and natural wonders of the Outer Banks.

Visitors are encouraged to take the time to visit each site, to climb the lighthouses where possible, to walk the grounds of the life-saving stations, and to imagine the lives of those who kept the lights burning and the shores safe.

Practical Tips for Lighthouse Tours

Planning a lighthouse tour in the Outer Banks requires some preparation to make the most of the experience:

  • Timing: Consider visiting during the off-peak seasons (spring or fall) to avoid the crowds and enjoy cooler weather.
  • Tickets and Tours: Check the operating hours and ticket requirements in advance, especially for climbing tours, as some lighthouses have seasonal schedules.
  • Accommodations: The Outer Banks offers a range of lodging options, from quaint bed and breakfasts to beachfront rentals. Booking in advance is recommended, especially during the summer months.
  • Other Attractions: Beyond the lighthouses and life-saving stations, the Outer Banks is rich in natural beauty, with miles of pristine beaches, national wildlife refuges, and state parks to explore.
  • Respect and Preservation: Remember to respect the historic sites and natural landscapes. Follow all guidelines and regulations to help preserve these treasures for future generations.