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Guiding Light: Exploring the Majestic Lighthouses of North Carolina's Coast

Come along with me to a special place where the ocean touches the sky, and a really tall friend keeps an eye on the waves. We're diving into the amazing world of Lighthouses in North Caroline Coast!

Why They are Patterned Differently?

The painted design on a lighthouse is called a "daymark." Daymarks help ships tell lighthouses apart during the day. Cape Lookout lighthouse was originally red brick colored, like two others nearby. To avoid confusion, they painted each one differently in 1873. This way, sailors could easily recognize Cape Lookout, Cape Hatteras, and Bodie Island lighthouses.

Where to Go?

There are two routes that you can follow to check all the #top5lighthouses in the NC shoreline. This first route is the most scenic one where you can drive along the coast as well as take a car ferry. I have one blog post where you can find the details about it.

  1. Cape Lookout Lighthouse

  2. Ocracoke Lighthouse

  3. Cape Hatteras Lighthouse

  4. Bodie Island Lighthouse

  5. Currituck Beach Lighthouse

This second route will reduce your drive time by 2 hours. But either way for Cape Lookout you have to take a ferry.

Cape Lookout Lighthouse's Dual Role

The Cape Lookout Lighthouse is not only a guiding light at night but also serves as a distinctive daymark with its black-and-white diamond pattern. If you do not have a private boat, the only way to get here is to use one of the ferries offered by NPS. Details here. Before you dive into Cape Lookout National Seashore, check out the Harkers Island Visitor Center. It's on the mainland and has all the info you need—history, activities, maps, and even souvenirs. The perfect starting point for your seaside adventure!

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Take the ferry from Harkers Island. The ferry leaves from Harkers Island and travels for around 20 minutes to get to Cape Lookout. Only two carry-on per person is allowed so if you are planning to camp, make sure you get the essentials. Book your spot ahead!

Usually, during the summer, the lighthouse tower is available for climbing, with a total of 207 steps. However, it is presently closed for maintenance and is anticipated to be accessible again by the year 2025. So, unfortunately, couldn't go to the top :(

Treasure Hunt

One of the best activities at South Core Banks and Cape Lookout Point is collecting seashells. The shores are filled with different kinds like conch, scotch bonnets (the state shell of North Carolina), knobbed whelk, Atlantic Moon Snail, helmet shell, and coquina. You can find them on the beaches and in the shallow water. It's like a treasure hunt by the sea!

According to NPS-

Visitors are allowed to collect up to five gallons of uninhabited shells per person, per day for non-commercial use.


Guess what? At Cape Lookout National Seashore, you can camp right on the beach, and the best part is you don't need any special permission for it! Here's the scoop: there aren't specific camping spots, you just set up wherever you like along the beach. Keep in mind, it's basic camping—no water, no fancy facilities. It's just you, your folks, and the great outdoors. If you're a camping pro, this is your paradise. Picture this: camping on an island with no lights around—just nature and your loved ones. It's a camping adventure like no other!

During certain times of the year, you'll find restrooms, public showers, and drinking water available. Look for them close to the lighthouse and ask the rangers for the location.

Another fantastic option is to reserve a place at the Great Island Cabin Camp! It is on my bucket list for the next time.

Beach Shuttle

Jump on the Island Express Ferry Service Beach Shuttle Tour for just $13 per person! You can book your spot online or decide once you're on the island. Easy peasy!

Shackleford Banks is the place where you can get close to the wild horses, but if you are doing the Corolla wild horse guided tour, I would say it is the same here. So no need to waste your money or time! lol :)

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Round-Trip Ferry Ride: 30$ per person can allow you to get to the both Islands. Harkers Island Visitor Center → Shackleford Banks → Cape Lookout Lighthouse & Return Trip to the visitor center

Ocracoke Lighthouse's Historic Legacy

Built-in 1823, the Ocracoke Island Lighthouse holds the title of North Carolina's oldest continuously operating lighthouse, and it's the second-oldest in the entire nation.

While you can't climb Ocracoke Light, you're welcome to visit anytime and snap as many pictures as you want in front of it. Simply park at the edge of Lighthouse Road, just a few steps away from this historic beacon.

Cape Hatteras Lighthouse's Record Height

Let me tell you about my recent trip to the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse in Outer Banks.

Now, you might wonder why this lighthouse is so special. Well, let me share a secret with you: it's the tallest lighthouse in the United States, standing at a towering height of 210 feet. Imagine standing next to a building as tall as a 21-story skyscraper – that's the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse for you.

There is a small museum and bookshop here - give a short visit to explore more about this lighthouse's history.

This red-and-white-striped giant stands proudly on the Outer Banks of North Carolina, guarding ships from the tricky Diamond Shoals.

The climb to the top was a bit of a workout, but the view was worth every step. From up there, the Atlantic Ocean stretched endlessly, and I felt like I was on a cloud.

If you're ever on the East Coast, make sure to visit Cape Hatteras Lighthouse. It's not just a beacon for sailors; it's a piece of history and a must-see for any adventure seeker.

Bodie Island Lighthouse's Iconic Stripes

The Bodie Island Lighthouse, completed in 1872, stands proudly near the northern border of Cape Hatteras National Seashore. Its iconic black and white stripes were built using materials left over from constructing the newest Cape Hatteras Lighthouse!

If you're up for a climb and the view of the Atlantic, then good news! It is open to the public!

Open from the third Friday in April to Columbus Day (early October), climbing hours start at 9:15 am daily, with tickets priced at $10 for adults and $5 for seniors, children (11 and under), and the disabled.

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Tickets are sold on-site, beginning at 9 am. Please note that there are no advance ticket sales for regular climbs it is first come first serve basis.

Currituck Beach Lighthouse's Unpainted Beauty

Unlike many lighthouses that boast vibrant colors, the Currituck Beach Lighthouse stands in its natural brick beauty. The decision to leave it unpainted is not only unique but also adds to its distinctiveness along the Northern Outer Banks. I haven't been there but learned about it from the museum at Cape Hatteras Lighthouse.

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The ticket to climb the lighthouse is $12.00 for anyone over 4 years.

I hope you guys had a good time reading this post and can easily plan your NC lighthouse hunting now. See you with some more unique getaway ideas and plans.

Till then Happy exploring with Haque's EYE!



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