5 Great Lighthouses in The Outer Banks to Visit
Looking for Lighthouses in the Outer Banks?
From the very top of the Outer Banks, in Corolla, all the way to the very bottom, in Ocracoke, lighthouses make a stand and guide ships through the dangerous passes and sounds. Each lighthouse has its own personality, its own distinctive features, and fascinating history, but all are very important to the Outer Banks coastline and for the safety of the ships making their voyage through the area.
The article below is a Outer Banks lighthouse guide, including historical information on each lighthouse, general information on visiting, the best times to go, where you can stay near the lighthouses, and more. We hope this helps you map out your exciting trip to see the grand lighthouses down the North Carolina coast.
Lighthouses In The Outer Banks
1. Currituck Beach Lighthouse
Address: 1101 Corolla Village Rd, Corolla, NC 27927
Currituck Beach Lighthouse is a beautiful lighthouse found in Corolla, NC, making it the northernmost lighthouse on our list and in the Outer Banks. The lighthouse was first lit in 1875 and remains one of the few lighthouses left in America that still uses a first-order Fresnel lens that can be seen from 18 nautical miles away.
The 162-foot lighthouse has 220 steps that reach the very top. Anyone is welcome to take a self-guided tour up the steps, or visitors are welcome to indulge in a guided tour. It costs $12 (ages four and up) to enter the lighthouse, though it is free to walk around outside.
There is a small but lovely gift shop next to the lighthouse with souvenirs and other lighthouse-related trinkets. Guests can visit the lighthouse seasonally seven days a week from March-December.
Currituck Beach Lighthouse is a very popular lighthouse to visit because it’s very accessible and fun to climb. Once you are at the top, you’ll get a view unlike any other in the Outer Banks it is well worth the trip.
2. Bodie Island Lighthouse
Address: 8210 Bodie Island Lighthouse Rd, Nags Head, NC 27959
In the Southern end of Nags Head, and on the Roanoke Sound side of the peninsula, is the fascinating Bodie Island Lighthouse. This black and white striped lighthouse is the third and only lighthouse left standing on Bodie Island and was built in 1871, first operated in 1872.
Since then, the lighthouse and the keeper’s building have undergone lots of restorations, the most recent being in 2013. Visitors can climb the 214 steps to the top for views of the surrounding marshland and ocean.
This fully functioning lighthouse shines a flashing light that can be seen over 20 miles out to sea. Visitors may walk up the lighthouse at their own pace or book a tour with an experienced tour guide to climb the 214 steps.
Tickets to enter Bodie Island Lighthouse are $10 for adults and $5 for senior citizens or kids under 11. Bodie Island Lighthouse is open seasonally from April 26-October 9, 2023. Bodie is pronounced “Body”; you don’t use the long “OH” sound.
3. Roanoke Marshes Lighthouse
Address: 104 Fernando St, Manteo, NC 27954
Roanoke Marshes Lighthouse is a small lighthouse down a boardwalk sticking out into Shallowbag Bay in Manteo, NC. Similar to Bodie Island Lighthouse, Roanoke Marshes Lighthouse is also the third lighthouse to carry the Roanoke Marshes name after the other two were lost and abandoned. The one we see today was built in 2004.
Roanoke Marshes Lighthouse is unique because it looks more like a quintessential New England coastal cottage, with a small lighthouse sticking from the top. Visitors can enjoy the cottage below and explore the historical and educational exhibits. Climbing the actual lighthouse is prohibited for public safety.
Roanoke Marshes Lighthouse is open in the spring, summer, and early fall Tuesday-Saturday from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm, although the boardwalk is always open, year-round, for anyone to explore. This area is a gorgeous place for pictures and for learning more about Outer Banks’ history. It’s one of the most overlooked lighthouses on the Outer Banks due to its size and location.
4. Cape Hatteras Lighthouse
Address: 4673 Lighthouse Rd, Buxton, NC 27920
Built in 1870, the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse is like something you’ve never seen before with a unique black and white strip pattern covering the entire structure. The point of the stripes was so sailers could recognize the pattern, and know exactly which lighthouse they were looking at.
Cape Hatteras Lighthouse is the tallest brick lighthouse in the United States, possibly even the world, standing 198 feet tall. There are a whopping 257 steps to reach the top, however, the actual lighthouse is closed to the public because of major restoration projects. Information on when the lighthouse will reopen has yet to be released.
That doesn’t mean you still can’t visit! The grounds around the lighthouse are open 24/7 for pictures and exploration.
5. Ocracoke Lighthouse
Address: 360 Lighthouse Rd, Ocracoke, NC 27960
The last lighthouse on our list and the Southernmost lighthouse in the Outer Banks is Ocracoke Lighthouse, located in Ocracoke, which can only be reached by ferry or small plane. The 75-foot lighthouse stands at the Southern end of Ocracoke and was built in 1823 to help guide ships through the Pamlico Sound.
The Ocracoke Lighthouse is a simple white brick lighthouse with a small keep building. Due to safety reasons, the lighthouse is closed to the public, though the grounds around the lighthouse are open in the summer for visitors to explore the area, read the informational plaques, and take pictures. It is free to check out the lighthouse land.
Things to Do Near the Outer Banks Lighthouses
Seeing the lighthouses isn’t the only way to spend your time in the Outer Banks. There are some excellent activities right nearby some of the lighthouses that are worth checking out while you are in the area.
✅ Wright Brothers National Memorial
Address: 1000 N Croatan Hwy, Kill Devil Hills, NC 27948
The Wright Brothers flew the first powered flight in 1903 in Kitty Hawk, NC, and this is a large area dedicated to this history-making moment. The park is over 420 acres and visitors are welcome to walk around the grounds, enjoy picnics, take pictures, and visit the 60-foot granite monument dedicated to the Wright Brothers. There is a small fee to visit the park, but you can stay as long as you please.
✅ Corolla Wild Horse Tours
Address: 1159 St F, Corolla, 27927
In the northernmost point of the Outer Banks is a town called Corova Beach where a large pack of wild horses have been living on the land for centuries.
These majestic horses can be seen by off-roading tours, such as Corolla Wild Horse Tours and many others to choose from. You can hop aboard the 15-passenger open-air safari truck for an experience unlike any other!
👉 Book a Wild Horse Tour Before it Fills Up!! 👈
✅ Cape Hatteras National Seashore
Address: Buxton, NC 27920
Cape Hatteras National Seashore is the largest preserved parcel of land in the Outer Banks and stretches for 70 miles encompassing seven villages on Hatteras Island. The land provides a palace for many outdoor activities, including public beach access, hiking areas, beach driving, camping, fishing, and many opportunities to see local wildlife.
Cape Hatteras National Seashore has some of the best camping in the Outer Banks. There are four campgrounds located throughout the 70 miles which provide the most beautiful beach camping. These campsites are called Oregon Inlet, Cape Point, Frisco, and Ocracoke Campground.
✅ Jockey’s Ridge State Park
Address: 300 W Carolista Dr, Nags Head, NC 27959
Jockey’s Ridge State Park is home to the largest sand dune system on the East Coast. This 427-acre park has beachfront, maritime forest, and dunes for miles! There are hiking opportunities, beach activities, and this is a popular spot for hang gliding and windsurfing. Jockey’s Ridge State Park is the number one most visited state park in North Carolina and for good reason!
✅ Jennette’s Pier
Address: 7223 S Virginia Dare Trail, Nags Head, NC 27959
Jennette’s Pier is the oldest and longest pier in the Outer Banks and a great place for a panoramic view of the Atlantic Ocean. The long pier brings lots of visitors to the public fishing areas, outdoor exhibits, indoor aquarium, weather station, and more! The pier also has public beach access, boat rentals, and kayak loading areas.
✅ Nags Head Dolphin Cruise
Address: 7517 S Virginia Dare Trail, Nags Head, NC 27959
Conducted on a 40-foot pontoon boat, the Nags Head Dolphin Cruise is the ultimate way to get out on the water and see these beautiful sea creatures. The cruise starts in Nags Head and travels through the Roanoke Sound for about two hours. Researchers and experienced guides talk about their work and teach passengers more about the wildlife in the Outer Banks along the way.
✅ Roanoke Island Festival Park
Address: 1 Festival Park Rd, Manteo, NC 27954
Roanoke Island Festival Park is an exciting, immersive 27-acre park that celebrates the first English settlement in North Carolina. The historical park has something for everyone of all ages, including historic costume demonstrations, boat replicas, hands-on history lessons, museum exhibits, and more. Visitors are welcome to explore the park at their own pace or book a tour for a better insight into the park and its importance.
Lots of events take place at the park year-round, such as live music concerts, the famous Elizabethan Christmas program, firework shows, and more. Roanoke Island Festival Park is definitely something you don’t want to miss while in the Outer Banks area. Many guests who visit the park say they can easily spend an entire day exploring and seeing everything there is to offer.
✅ North Carolina Aquarium
Address: 374 Airport Rd, Manteo, NC 27954
The North Carolina Aquarium is an exciting, unique aquarium, located on Roanoke Island. Inside the aquarium, visitors will see a 285,000-gallon shark tank, a wetland exhibit, a touch tank with stingrays, jellyfish, thousands of species of fish, and a display of sunken sea treasures.
The aquarium also has an important sea turtle assistance and rehabilitation (STAR) program. Visitors can enjoy daily indoor and outdoor learning programs that include fishing, kayaking, animal health tours, behind-the-scenes tours, and lots more.
✅ Elizabethan Gardens
Address: 1411 National Park Dr, Manteo, NC 27954
The Elizabethan Gardens are beautiful elaborate botanical gardens that resemble the gardens made for Queen Elizabeth I during her time. Seasonal blooms all year round attracts thousands of visitors with native Southern plants, flowers, shrubs, trees, and wildlife.
Sections of the garden include a butterfly garden, birdbaths, a discovery cottage, a rose garden, and so much more. After a stroll through the park, guests are encouraged to visit the Royal Exchange shop for small gifts and plant sales.
✅ Fort Raleigh National Historic Site
Address: 1401 National Park Dr, Manteo, NC 27954
Fort Raleigh National Historic Site preserves the site of the Roanoke Colony, the first English settlement in the state. The site also provides information on the cultural heritage of the area including Native Americans and other Europeans who arrived on Roanoke Island.
The large park has hiking trails, fishing areas, a visitor center with informational videos and artifacts, an 1896 monument, and the popular Waterside Theatre where actors put on the play, “The Lost Colony,” a symphonic drama of the lost Roanoke colony. The play is the nation’s first and longest-running outdoor symphonic drama.
✅ Outer Banks Adventures – Sunset Cruise
Address: 1205 North Hwy, Manteo, NC 27954
Outer Banks Adventures has been running tours and providing lifelong memories for over 40 years. They offer one-of-a-kind airboat tours and have a large variety of times, dates, and styles of cruise. Their most popular tour is either the sunrise or sunset adventure where guests can embark on a two-hour adventure to get the perfect picturesque moment on the water.
✅ Chicamacomico Life-Saving Station
Address: 23645 North Carolina Hwy 12, Rodanthe, NC 27968
Chicamacomico Life-Saving Station is one of the most unique historical sites on the East Coast and one of the few remaining mostly complete life-saving stations in the country. The fascinating building was built in 1874 and was the most important life-saving service building in the area for decades.
Visitors are welcome to go inside and explore the exhibits that highlight the history of the Outer Banks, and of the life-saving station. There are hands-on exhibits, along with real artifacts, maps, and more.
✅ Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge
Address: 14500 North Carolina Hwy 12, Rodanthe, NC 27968
The Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge is a national protected area of land established in 1938 for birds to have a safe place to rest, settle for the winter, and to have a resting point during migration. The land also provides a place for turtles, and other threatened species to safely reside.
There are over 370 species of birds alone that visit the island throughout the year. The island is very small, but there is a lovely half-mile hike, fishing points, kayak or canoeing places, and beachfront. Guided tours are available to learn about all the species that call the island their home.
✅ Graveyard of the Atlantic Museum
Address: 59200 Museum Dr, Hatteras, NC 27943
Graveyard of the Atlantic Museum is one of the most well-renowned museums in the Outer Banks. This popular museum is a maritime museum dedicated to the ships that have wrecked on the coastline of the Outer Banks, as well as maritime history. Apart from having fascinating exhibits and relics, the museum also provides a fun family/youth scavenger hunt with items around the museum and prizes at the end.
✅ Hatteras-Ocracoke Ferry
Address: 59063 NC-12, Hatteras, NC
If you would like to visit the Ocracoke Lighthouse, perhaps after your visit to the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, then you must take a 70-minute ferryboat ride. Ferries take off every frequently from the Hatteras terminal to Ocracoke throughout the day, and the ride is free. You can also take your vehicle on this ferry in case you have a car or a rental car that you want to easily get around the island.
✅ Dine at Local Restaurants
The Outer Banks is pretty well-known for having some of the best local restaurants and a variety of delicious cuisine. There are over 300 restaurants spread across the Outer Banks that all have their own flare, their own style, and food you can’t get anywhere else.
Many places serve the best fresh, locally caught seafood, along with Southern-style fare, North Carolina barbecue, handmade ice cream, other treats, and almost anything you could imagine. There is a little something for everyone within the amazing Outer Banks restaurants.
Some of the most popular restaurants in the Outer Banks include Diamond Shoals Restaurant (Buxton,) Sam & Omie’s (Nags Head,) Tortugas Lie (Nags Head,) Black Pelican Oceanfront Restaurant (Kitty Hawk,) and, of course, the famous, Duck Donuts (multiple locations in the Outer Banks.)
Where to Stay Near Outer Banks Lighthouses
Want to see the lighthouses without traveling far from your vacation home? That’s very possible! Here are some of the best hotels that are minutes away from the magnificent Outer Banks lighthouses.
📍Sands to Sea 139– Sand to Sea is a beautiful vacation beach home in Corolla, NC. This particular home is just minutes from Currituck Beach Lighthouse and other Corolla attractions. The home includes four bedrooms, four bathrooms, a full kitchen, clean linens, access to an outdoor swimming pool, grills, and more. It is also pet friendly.
📍Roanoke Island Inn– The Roanoke Island Inn is a popular place to stay in Manteo, NC. This gorgeous Southern-style Inn is just one mile from Roanoke Marshes Lighthouse, and you have a gorgeous view of the water and the boardwalk on which the lighthouse stands. The inn is a bed and breakfast style hotel with delicious continental breakfast. Visitors can also enjoy the land, beautiful outdoor gardens, snack bar/lounge, and parks within walking distance.
📍Hatteras Island Inn– The Hatteras Island Inn is a beautiful beachy vacation hotel in Buxton, NC. The hotel is situated just a mile from Cape Hatteras Lighthouse and less than a mile to beach access. Besides the excellent location, the hotel also has perfect rooms, an outdoor swimming pool, boat parking, and a fish cleaning station.
📍Pony Island Inn– Looking to stay next to the stunning Ocracoke Lighthouse? The Pony Island Inn is just a half mile away and one of the best spots in Ocracoke to spend a vacation. The motel is clean, comfortable, and has great views of the coastline. Amenities include spacious rooms, sun terraces, and an outdoor swimming pool.
Outer Banks Lighthouse: FAQs
📌 What is the most famous lighthouse in the Outer Banks?
The most visited lighthouse in the Outer Banks is Cape Hatteras, followed by Currituck Beach Lighthouse.
📌 How many lighthouses are there in NC?
There are a total of seven lighthouses in North Carolina.
📌 What are the names of the seven coastal lighthouses in North Carolina?
The names of the seven coastal lighthouses are Currituck Beach Lighthouse, Bodie Island Lighthouse, Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, Ocracoke Lighthouse, Cape Lookout Lighthouse, Oak Island Lighthouse, and Old Baldy Lighthouse.
📌 What is the oldest lighthouse in the Outer Banks, NC?
Ocracoke Lighthouse is the oldest lighthouse in North Carolina, built by hand in 1823. This year, it celebrates its 200th birthday.
📌 What is the largest lighthouse in the Outer Banks?
Cape Hatteras is the largest lighthouse, standing 208 feet tall.
📌 What is the best time of year to visit Outer Banks lighthouses?
Because most of the lighthouses are only open seasonally, the best time to visit is usually from May-mid October.
📌 How far apart are the lighthouses in the Outer Banks?
Generally, each lighthouse is 40-50 miles apart with the exception of Bodie Island Light and Roanoke Marshes Lighthouse being 12 miles apart. Currituck Beach Lighthouse, Bodie Lighthouse, and Roanoke Marshes Lighthouse can all be visited in one day. Cape Hatteras Lighthouse is farther south. Ocracoke Lighthouse should have it’s own day due to using a ferry to access.
The lighthouses in the Outer Banks hold a special place in history, and it is truly incredible that we get to experience them, and even climb inside some of them. During your trip to the Outer Banks, there is no doubt that you should try and see these majestic lighthouses to learn more about the area, and to see these fascinating pieces of history. We hope this guide helps you map out your travels so you can fully enjoy everything the Outer Banks has to offer.