Lighthouses along the Outer Banks From Currituck to Ocracoke

4 Photos of Outer Banks LighthousesWhat a great time to plan a North Carolina OBX lighthouse tour. Here’s a pocket guide to four lighthouses perched along the Outer Banks. The tour spans more than 118 miles across three barrier islands. Most of the two-lane drive includes 82-miles on the Outer Banks National Scenic Byway. Highlights abound including the Cape Hatteras National Seashore, two national wildlife refuges, a state ferry ride, about a dozen coastal villages and four historic lighthouses. Please don’t try doing it in one day but instead, savor the experience and take in all the sights, sounds and scenes along the Outer Banks.

Spring at Currituck Beach Lighthouse

North of Whalebone Junction

Whalebone Junction is an Outer Banks landmark in Nags Head, NC where three major highways intersect. NC 12 links the three islands of the Outer Banks and all four lighthouses. Cape Hatteras National Seashore begins just south of the junction. We start our lighthouse journey 36 miles north in Historic Corolla Village.

The 162’ unpainted brick Currituck Beach Lighthouse was completed in 1795 and was the final station constructed along the Outer Banks. It was strategically built to guide vessels through the “dark spot” of the Atlantic that existed from Bodie Island to the Cape Henry Lighthouse in Virginia. You don’t have to climb the lighthouse to enjoy the experience. Take a stroll along the lighthouse station and admire the grounds, the Victorian Lighthouse Keeper’s house and the smaller “keeper’s” house, which was moved to the property in 1920. It now serves as the lighthouse station’s museum and gift shop. Admission to grounds and parking are free. There’s a $10 fee to climb the lighthouse tower. Click here for more info.

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Cape Hatteras National Seashore

Bodie Island Light Station is located off of NC 12 between Nags Head and the Oregon Inlet approximately eight miles south of Whalebone Junction (US 158 and US 64 intersection).

The “climbing” season opens the third Friday in April and continues through Columbus Day. Reward yourself after the strenuous climb with the towering views of the sound, surf and sea. Visitors can also conveniently discover a variety of habitats including open fields, remote wetlands, maritime forests, salt marshes, beaches and dunes. The wildlife trail from the parking area leads visitors along a half-mile boardwalk to an observation deck that overlooks an expansive freshwater pond. Climbing tickets: $8 adults/ $4 senior citizens (62 or older), & children (11 and under, and at least 42″ tall). More info.

Sign welcoming visitors to Cape Hatteras Light Station

Cape Hatteras Lighthouse

Cape Hatteras Lighthouse is located approximately 47.5 miles south of Whalebone Junction on Hatteras Island in the town of Buxton, NC.

In 1990, Cape Hatteras Lighthouse was moved nearly 1,500 feet from the eroding shoreline to its present site. In 1999, other facilities also had to be relocated including the Oil House, two cisterns, double keepers’ quarters and principal keeper’s quarters.

The lighthouse, standing 208′ ft. over the treacherous Diamond Shoals, is the world’s tallest and one of the most popular sites on Hatteras Island. Each year, more than 175,000 visitors climb the 257 steps to the top of the 1870 lighthouse.

Self-guided climbs are available from the 3rd Friday in April to Columbus Day in October. Climbing tickets: $8/adults and $4/senior citizens (62 or older) & children (11 and under, and at least 42″ tall), and the disabled. Tickets are available on a first come, first served basis and can only be purchased in-person at the site the day of the climb. (252) 995-4474. Click here for more info.

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Ocracoke Lighthouse

The final leg of the tour includes an adventurous 36-mile ride south of Cape Hatteras Lighthouse and a 45-minute ferry which connects Hatteras Island with Ocracoke Island. The 1823 Ocracoke Lighthouse is located in Ocracoke Village at the southern end of Cape Hatteras National Seashore. The 75’ solid white lighthouse is the second oldest operating lighthouse in the U.S. and is open daily (It is not open for climbing). There is limited parking so most visitors walk or bike to the lighthouse. More info.

The lighthouse tour can be enjoyed over a long weekend or extended into multiple seasons. Like they say around here, “Whatever floats your boat?” Complete the OBX Lighthouse Bucket List at your own pace and create your own personal Outer Banks adventure. To learn more about these OBX treasures and other lighthouses in the region, please visit our interactive map and select “lighthouses” category.

Lighthouse Guide to the Outer Banks

Roanoke Island Paddling Excursion

 

break along Roanoke IslandSugar sand beaches, calm waters and Carolina blue skies welcomed us on our paddling group’s first summer outing. Allan, our trip leader, had sent us three wonderful options along the Albemarle Sound corridor. The group’s top choice was a half-day circuit on the southern shores of Roanoke Island. The paddle trail description showcased a variety of interesting features including views of Jockey’s Ridge, open waters, beaches, tidal creeks and numerous areas to observe wildlife. Boaters often see dolphins playfully swimming and feeding around the Roanoke Sound Channel.

We put in at the convenient Washington Baum Bridge landing east of Manteo which dropped us directly onto the channel. Since the wind was light, we opted to paddle the open water section first then complete the loop through a series (maze) of tidal creeks, ditches and cuts. The total distance was approximately seven miles.

The five of us never saw any dolphins in the sound. However, as we paddled around Broad Creek Point, we spotted a sweet little sandbar perfect for our first snack break. The water was so clear that we observed several crabs in the shallow waters. Blue Herons and Great Egrets were feeding in the marshes and we sighted an armadillo scurrying along the banks.

We looked over the large creek and noticed the secluded fishing village of Wanchese, NC. Allan said he had heard of paddlers who paddled directly up to the marina for cold beer and delicious fresh seafood. But today it was P & J sandwiches, a banana and lots of water. The first summer heat wave had come early this year and today’s forecast predicted mid-90’s. With this on all of our minds (and cold beer) and the fact that we would have zero shade for the rest of the day, our group packed up and launched the boats back into the water.

Using a primitive map of Roanoke Island, we navigated our way up a diminishing creek. I’d been stranded at low tide on tidal creeks before so I was a bit anxious about finding the correct cut through the island. The map revealed several dead-end waterways so I continuously checked the map and looked for telltale landmarks. Unfortunately, there were no trail markers so we were now on a discovery tour – or scavenger hunt as it turned out.

Most of the land surrounding the creek is managed and owned by the NC Wildlife Resource Commission. According to the Nature Conservancy, this tract of 1,766 acres includes one of the most undisturbed black needlerush marshes remaining in North Carolina. Smooth cordwood grass is also common along the brackish waters. The marshlands and associated waters offer a rich biological soup of nutrients and habitat for wading birds, shorebirds, mammals, fish and crustaceans.

After a few hours in direct sunlight, some in our party were beginning to second guess our current route and the “biological soup” metaphor wasn’t exactly the best choice of words since we were slowly starting to “stew” ourselves in the blazing sun. We ventured into a couple of smaller creeks only to have to turn around and search for another outlet. This created a chain reaction of boats having to reverse their course, sweep their paddles wide and turn back toward the larger opening. Finally, just when we were getting close to a modern day mutiny of the bounty, we found the opening to John’s Ditch. More importantly, a motorboat full of enthusiastic teenagers assured us that we were back on track. Allan and I knew it all the time. Sure thing!

The final couple of miles of paddling turned out to be some of the best as we meandered through the waters of Sand Beach Creek to the beautiful beaches at Johns Creek along the Roanoke Sound. Just beyond the point we discovered safe haven and the expansive bridge above the take out. A few of us took a break on the sandbar and I finally ate my delicious sandwich, swam in the refreshingly clear water then tanked up on more water for the last section of the trip.

Back again on the sound, the wind was still light but the increased afternoon motor boating around the landing created lots of chop within the wake zone. Tough day out in the sun but a great trip and one which I’ll do again and again!

 

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