Guide to OBX Lighthouses: Know Where and When to Go

The Five Lighthouses of the Outer Banks

How many lighthouses are on the Outer Banks of NC?

There are five Outer Banks NC Lighthouses. From Corolla to Ocracoke Island, there are five different lighthouses on the Outer Banks, each one distinctly different from the others. OBX lighthouses are historic landmarks and must-see attractions while visiting the Outer Banks. We’ll take a look at each of the Outer Banks lighthouses, including the history, facts and figures, best times to visit each lighthouse, directions, and recommended places to visit in the immediate vicinity of each lighthouse. 

currituck beach lighthouse

Currituck Beach Lighthouse

Currituck Beach Lighthouse is located in the northernmost Outer Banks town of Corolla. Construction of the Currituck Beach Lighthouse began in 1872, and it was lit for the first time on December 1, 1875. The lighthouse once belonged to the state of North Carolina but is now privately owned by Outer Banks Conservationists. The keepers’ house has hosted many families over the years and currently houses a family that helps maintain the lighthouse, including cleaning the lens and its grounds. 

There is a lighthouse site identical to the Currituck Beach Lighthouse, the Morris Island Lighthouse in Charleston, South Carolina. The Morris Island Light Station is now completely surrounded by water and only has part of the original lighthouse remaining. The Morris Island Lighthouse may look familiar, as it was featured in the show Outer Banks on Netflix.

What color is Currituck Beach Lighthouse? 

The 162-foot tall Currituck Beach Lighthouse is red. It is the only unpainted coastal NC lighthouse. While the other tall OBX lighthouses are painted in various patterns of black and white, the Currituck Beach Lighthouse stands out with an exterior of unpainted brick.


Is the Currituck Beach Lighthouse still working?

The Currituck Beach Lighthouse still works to this day. The light is visible from up to 18 nautical miles, and it has a 20-second flash cycle. 

Walking distance from the Currituck Beach Lighthouse is charming Historic Corolla Village, which the Twiddy family has contributed to restoring over the years. 

Currituck Beach Lighthouse
climb OBX lighthouses

Climbing Currituck Beach Lighthouse

To get to Currituck Beach Lighthouse, head north on highway 12 through Southern Shores, Duck, and Corolla. The lighthouse is just north of the Whalehead Club in Historic Corolla. If the road ends and the 4×4 beaches begin, you’ve gone too far!

You can climb Currituck Beach Lighthouse. There are 220 steps from the base of the Currituck Beach Lighthouse to the lens. 

How much does it cost to climb Currituck Beach Lighthouse? 

The cost to climb Currituck Beach Lighthouse is $13 per person for ages 4 and up. Children must be 4+ years old to climb. Children under 4 years old may go to the top of the lighthouse in a carrier/backpack only for free. For more information on climbing hours, click here

roanoke marshes lighthouse

Roanoke Marshes Lighthouse

Roanoke Marshes Lighthouse is the smallest of the lighthouses on the Outer Banks, standing at just 37 feet tall. Its shorter stature and design is commonly known as a river lighthouse. Located at the end of a 40-foot pier in the sound, the lighthouse is accessible from quaint Downtown Manteo. The original lighthouse was built in 1877 and decommissioned in 1955. The current structure is a replica, completed in 2004 after the original structure was lost to the sound in an attempt to move it to private property. The original Roanoke Marshes Lighthouse stood at the south entrance to the Currituck Sound in Wanchese. 

Can you climb the Roanoke Marshes Lighthouse?

Roanoke Marshes Lighthouse is not suitable for climbing, but it’s still worth a visit. You can walk inside the museum-like visitor’s area where there are informative historical displays, courtesy of the Roanoke Island Maritime Museum. Roanoke Marshes Lighthouse is one of a handful of historic sites in the town of Manteo. The monthly street festival in downtown Manteo, First Friday, is a fun way to explore the beautiful area and enjoy local offerings. 

You may visit Roanoke Marshes Lighthouse Monday through Friday, from 8:30 am to 5:00 pm. Closed on Saturdays and Sundays.

Bodie Island Lighthouse

Just south of Whalebone Junction in south Nags Head, the Bodie Island Lighthouse stands tall on the soundside of Route 12. This lighthouse, with its horizontal black and white stripes, is easily recognizable on the soundside of the road as visitors travel to Oregon Inlet Fishing Center or to Hatteras Island. Bodie Island Lighthouse was completed and operational in 1872. It was the third lighthouse built in the immediate area, as the first two were either not constructed well or built on an unsuitable site. The current structure and site are owned and operated by the National Park Service. The lightkeepers’ house is now a park ranger station and OBX information center. The immediate area surrounding the Bodie Island Lighthouse is majority wetlands, perfect for observing birds and other wildlife. 

Bodie Island Lighthouse is 156 feet tall. The First Order Fresnel lens makes a full rotation every 27.5 seconds and can be seen up to 19 miles away. 

Can you climb Bodie Island Lighthouse?

The lighthouse has been recently restored and is open for climbing. You can do a self-guided climb from late April until mid-October, beginning at 9:00 am and the last climb is at 4:30 pm. Tickets to climb Bodie Island Lighthouse are $10 for adults and $5 for senior citizens (62 or older), children 11 years of age and under, and the disabled. Tickets can be purchased on the day of the climb only, starting at 7:00 am. Full moon climbs are offered.

The site includes a small gift shop, and many more Bodie Island Lighthouse items can be found at nearby Nags Head souvenir shops. 


How many steps are in Bodie Island Lighthouse? 

There are 214 steps from the foundation to the top, about the same as climbing a 10-story building. After an extensive renovation in 2013, the lighthouse is open to the public for climbing. 

cape hatteras lighthouse

Cape Hatteras Lighthouse

Standing tall at 208 feet tall, Cape Hatteras Lighthouse is the tallest of the Outer Banks lighthouses, as well as the tallest brick lighthouse in the United States. The views from the top reach far and wide. The current Cape Hatteras Lighthouse was completed and first lit on December 1, 1870. The famous lighthouse is easily recognizable with its black and white candy-cane stripes. The light makes a full rotation every 20 seconds and can be seen up to 20 miles into the ocean.

To get to the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, drive south on route 12 until you reach the small town of Buxton. Take a left onto Lighthouse Road and follow the signs until you reach the lighthouse. 

How much does it cost to go to Cape Hatteras Lighthouse? 

Due to ongoing restoration efforts, Cape Hatteras Lighthouse is currently not open for climbing. An estimated climbing opening date is the summer of 2026. In the meantime, watch a video about the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse to virtually climb with a Park Ranger and learn more about its history.

The Cape Hatteras Lighthouse normally offers a picturesque backdrop for vacation photos; however, there may be scaffolding around the structure until restoration efforts are complete. A visit to the lighthouse grounds is free, and the area is open 24 hours per day. 

How did they move the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse? 

The lighthouse was threatened with falling into the Atlantic Ocean due to severe beach erosion caused by many years of hurricanes and nor’easters. In 1999, The Cape Hatteras Lighthouse and its associated buildings were moved inland 2,900 feet to a less threatening location, in Buxton’s maritime forest. Moving the lighthouse was no easy task and proved to be an amazing engineering feat.

Can you climb the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse? 

Please note that Cape Hatteras Lighthouse is closed for climbing due to ongoing restoration efforts, however, the lighthouse grounds are open. The National Park Service estimates that the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse will reopen for climbing in 2026.

Normally, you can climb to the top of Cape Hatteras Lighthouse. The lighthouse is normally open for climbing seasonally, from the 3rd Friday in April through Columbus Day, from 9:00 am to 4:30 pm. Climbing the lighthouse is limited to 30 visitors at a time, as the staircase is narrow with just a hand railing. Full Moon Tours are also offered.


How many steps are in Cape Hatteras Lighthouse? 

There are 257 steps from the base of the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse to the tower’s balcony level. This is about the same as climbing a 12-story building! The steps are narrow, but there’s a landing every 31 steps so you can catch your breath.

ocracoke lightouse

Ocracoke Lighthouse

Ocracoke Lighthouse is on Ocracoke Island, a small island on the southern end of the Outer Banks that is accessible only by ferry. The lighthouse was built in 1823 by Noah Porter, a builder from Massachusetts, and construction was completed in just one year. The lighthouse was built to help ships navigate through Ocracoke Inlet into Pamlico Sound. Ocracoke Lighthouse is the second oldest lighthouse still operational in the United States. 

Ocracoke Lighthouse is still functional, and the beacon completes a rotation every 15 seconds. The lighthouse can be seen from many locations around Silver Lake in Ocracoke Village.


Can you climb Ocracoke Lighthouse?

Ocracoke Lighthouse is 75 feet tall and has 86 steps, but it is not open for climbing. Ocracoke Lighthouse grounds are open to visitors. 

ocracoke lighthouse

More Outer Banks History to Explore

Aside from the lighthouses, the Outer Banks is rich in history. The Twiddy family has assisted in preserving several historic structures on the Outer Banks. Many of the restored buildings are now located in Corolla or the 4×4 beaches. One of the restored Wash Woods Station outbuildings on the 4×4 beach, The Boat House, is now available for booking. Be on the lookout for the Corolla Wild Horses that live and roam through 4×4 the area, as they provide another fascinating layer to Outer Banks history. 

Courtney Wisecarver

Courtney Wisecarver








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