In middle school, I was lucky enough to go on an actual lighthouse tour of the North Carolina coastline. South to north, we ventured on ferries and rode through the salty night air to reach high destinations that have guided ships since the 19th century.
For all North Carolininas, lighthouse tours are a right of passage. If you’re wanting to plan one this summer, here is a north to south list of North Carolina’s beautiful and historic lighthouses.
1. Climb 220-steps for panoramic views at Currituck Beach Lighthouse, Corolla
As the only natural-brick lighthouse, Currituck is a beautiful, North Carolina example, of Gothic Revival Architecture.
2. Head inland and stop by the quaint and charming Roanoke River Lighthouse in Edenton
Originally built in 1886, in 1955 Roanoke Lighthouse was moved to Edenton as a private residence then eventually sold to the city. Interior and exterior renovations have given a second-life to this little slice of coastal history.
3. Just a little ways southeast is another screw-pile lighthouse in Manteo
Roanoke Marshes Lighthouse was built in the late 19th century at the southern entrance to Croatan sound. It was in operation until 1955. After an attempt to move the decommissioned lighthouse resulted in its destruction, a replica was built in 2004.
4. Third times a charm at Bodie Island Lighthouse
Visit the third exact replica of Bodie Island Lighthouse. Originally built in 1872, this lighthouse was made climbable to the public in 2013.
5. It's not a real trip to the Outer Banks unless you visit the tallest lighthouse in America, Cape Hatteras
Built to help sailors navigate 'the graveyard of the atlantic,' and standing at 210 ft. Cape Hatteras is the tallest brick lighthouse in the US.
6. Just south, visit the original trendsetter of NC lighthouses, Ocracoke Lighthouse
Ocracoke has been guiding ships, and setting examples, since 1823. Competing with Old Baldy for OG status, Ocracoke Lighthouse is a simple but cute antique gem.
7. You'll never get lost standing next to Cape Lookout Lighthouse
As one of few lighthouses painted FOR directions (black diamonds N,S) (white diamond, E,W) Cape Lookout is pretty cool! As the southernmost lighthouse on the Outer Banks, it is the only lighthouse that ALSO blinks during the daytime.
8. A little under the weather, Price Creek Lighthouse is perfect for the abandoned explorer
Near Southport, North Carolina, Price Creek only stands at 20ft. but has been inactive since the Civil War. The slow decay and water-front location make for some really neat pictures.
9. Oak Island Lighthouse is one-of-a-kind
Built in 1952 to replace the 'skeleton tower' aka Cape Fear Lighthouse, this long, skinny, concrete tower had the brightest light in the US from 1958-1962.
10. Pay Old Baldy a visit on your last stop along the NC coast.
Located on Bald Head Island, Old Baldy or Bald Head Light, EARNED its nickname. Old Baldy has been flashing lights and guiding ships since 1817, and is the oldest standing lighthouse in NC.