OBX History Lesson: The Story Of Our Lighthouses

All throughout history, Lighthouses have been important to the safety of sailors and the coast. Lighthouses have played a huge role in the history of the Outer Banks as well. Learn about the different lighthouses that line the coast and plan to visit them on your next visit to the OBX!

Cape Hatteras Lighthouse

Probably one of the most notable lighthouses, the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse protects the most treacherous waters of the Outer Banks. The Cape Hatteras Lighthouse that’s erect now is actually the 2nd lighthouse to Hatteras Island. The first lighthouse was completed in 1803 but was ineffective. The new lighthouse was first lit in 1870. In 1999, the lighthouse was moved because of beach erosion. The beam of light spans 20 miles into the ocean and the lighthouse stands at 208 feet tall!

Bodie Island Lighthouse

Pronounced “body”, the Bodie Island Lighthouse is located in Nags Head on the sound side and stands 156 feet tall. In 1837, this lighthouse was commissioned by the US government because of how dangerous the waters of the coast were. Construction began but problems in the structure caused an indefinite delay. In 1858, a second lighthouse was commissioned but only lasted 2 years due to the Civil War. The third and final lighthouse was completed in 1872. The Bodie Island Lighthouse that is standing today is the result of the final construction.

Marshes Light Lighthouse

Located in Downtown Manteo, the Marshes Light Lighthouse is one of the smallest lighthouses on the Outer Banks. The lighthouse currently standing today is a replica of the original lighthouse that was constructed in 1877. It was originally located in Wanchese to help local fishermen and sailors find their way to port. The Marshes Light Lighthouse lights up at night, but the light is fixed and is used to help sailors navigate their way to Shallowbag Bay.

Currituck Beach Lighthouse

The Currituck Beach Lighthouse is located in Corolla and borders the historic Whalehead Club. This lighthouse, built in 1875, still functions today as a guide to all mariners. It stands at 162 feet tall. Its’ light can be seen from 18 nautical miles away. The large, red lighthouse was intentionally left unpainted to set it apart from the other lighthouses on the Outer Banks and for visitors to see how many bricks were involved in the construction.

Ocracoke Lighthouse

The Ocracoke Lighthouse is North Carolina’s oldest lighthouse in operation, and the second oldest in the U.S. At only 65 feet tall, the Ocracoke Lighthouse was constructed in 1823. The lighthouse isn’t open for climbing and doesn’t feature a gift shop or museum, but it’s definitely a piece of Outer Banks history you’ve got to see.