Can You Climb All 10 Lighthouses In North Carolina In One Day?

This road trip will take you to the 10 lighthouses in North Carolina that are still standing today. You’ll even get the adventure of hopping on a ferry to get from one lighthouse to the next! Most of these stops offer seasonal lighthouse tours or opportunities to climb the lighthouse stairs. Read on to check out some details for each stop on your journey. 

Currituck Beach lighthouse

Kick off your NC lighthouse tour in the quaint Outer Banks village of Corolla, at the Currituck Beach lighthouse.

Currituck Beach Lighthouse

Nestled along the pristine shores of North Carolina lies the historic Currituck Beach Lighthouse, a marvel of maritime engineering and a beacon of coastal heritage. Built in 1875, this majestic structure stands at 162 feet tall, boasting a distinctive unpainted red brick exterior, setting it apart from its neighboring lighthouses in North Carolina.

Unlike many of its counterparts, the Currituck Beach Lighthouse was constructed without the need for a painted finish, as the bricks used in its construction were selected for their natural ability to withstand the harsh coastal elements. This unique feature not only enhances its aesthetic appeal but also underscores the craftsmanship of its builders.

Steeped in history, the lighthouse has witnessed the passage of time and the evolution of maritime navigation. Throughout its storied past, it has weathered storms, guided countless ships to safety, and served as a steadfast guardian of the coast.

Visitors today can climb the 220 steps to the top of the lighthouse, where they are rewarded with breathtaking panoramic views of the surrounding landscape and the vast expanse of the Atlantic Ocean. It stands as a testament to the resilience of those who built it and continues to inspire awe and wonder in all who behold its grandeur. The views from the top are incredible, offering a glimpse at the Whalehead in historic Corolla, the Atlantic Ocean, and the Currituck Sound. 

The lighthouse and keepers’ dwelling (now a museum gift shop) are open 9-5 daily (weather permitting), from March 23 to November 30, 2024.

Admission: $13 to climb the lighthouse tower (ages 4 and up)

Address: 1101 Corolla Village Road, Corolla, NC 27927.

Roanoke River lighthouse in Edenton, NC

The Roanoke River lighthouses formed a chain of navigational light, guiding sailors through the Albemarle sound into the Roanoke River.

Roanoke River Lighthouses

In the late 1800s, there was a system of twelve screwpile lighthouses in North Carolina that helped mariners navigate the complex system of sounds and waterways that lie between the Outer Banks and the North Carolina mainland. None of these lighthouses remains at its original station, and only the Edenton lighthouse is still intact. Screwpile lighthouses were constructed on top of wooden piles that are screwed into muddy or sandy ground.

Roanoke River Lighthouse – Edenton 

The Roanoke River Lighthouse was originally built in 1886 and stood at the mouth of the Roanoke River. It was moved to it’s permanent location in 1955 and for many years it was kept as a private residence. Now, it is restored to its historic condition and is open for tours. It's a short walk from downtown Edenton and an excellent place to take photos of Edenton Bay.

Open Tuesday-Saturday 10-4, (252) 482-2637.

Address: 7 Dock Street, Edenton, NC 27932

Roanoke River lighthouse in Plymouth, NC

This lighthouse is a faithful reproduction of an original Roanoke River lighthouse that was near Plymouth, NC.

Roanoke River Lighthouse – Plymouth

This faithful replica is the second of three significant Roanoke River Light Stations. The first, built by the United States Lighthouse Service in 1810, was a three-masted lightship stationed near the river's mouth. Sailors used whale-oil lamps with red, green, and blue lenses to find a safe passage to the river. When Union forces invaded eastern North Carolina in 1862, Confederates took control of the lightship and sailed it up the Roanoke River, where it was later sunk. Historians believe the station was hauled upriver and wrecked with other vessels to prevent the renowned ironclad Ram Albemarle from passing.

Open in the summer, (252) 217-2204.

Address: Roanoke River Lighthouse, W Water St, Plymouth, NC 27962

Roanoke River marshes lighthouse in Manteo, NC, Outer Banks

Loop back to Manteo, NC, in the Outer Banks to tour the last of the Roanoke River lighthouses.

Roanoke Marshes Lighthouse – Manteo

The Roanoke Marshes Lighthouse, has been reconstructed and placed atop pilings just offshore from the town of Manteo on Roanoke Island, where it is easily accessible via a short pier. The actual Roanoke Marshes Lighthouse was not reached so easily as it stood offshore between the southern end of Roanoke Island and the mainland, where it served to mark the southern entrance to Croatan Sound from Pamlico Sound.

Open in the summer, (252) 475-1750.

Address: 104 Fernando St, Manteo, NC 27954

Bodie Island lighthouse in the Outer Banks of NC

Distinguished by its black and white stripes, the Bodie Island lighthouse is open for lighthouse tours.

Bodie Island Light Station — Closed For Climbing Through Summer Of 2026 Due To Restoration

Perched proudly on the Outer Banks of North Carolina, the Bodie Island Light Station stands as a testament to maritime history and coastal resilience. Constructed in 1872, this iconic lighthouse boasts a striking black and white horizontal striped pattern, earning it a distinctive place among its peers.

Bodie Island Light Station is, perhaps, one of the lighthouses in North Carolina with the most tumultuous past. Originally planned for construction in the 1840s, the project faced numerous setbacks, including funding issues and the Civil War. It wasn't until 1872 that the current lighthouse was completed, replacing its predecessor, which had succumbed to erosion and poor construction.

Another fascinating aspect of Bodie Island Light Station is its innovative design. Standing at 156 feet tall, it features a unique first-order Fresnel lens, which served as a powerful beacon for mariners navigating the treacherous waters of the Atlantic Ocean.

Over the years, the lighthouse has undergone several renovations and restorations to preserve its historic charm and ensure its continued operation. While this is one of the lighthouses in North Carolina typically open to the public, Bodie Island Light Station is currently closed for climbing due to restoration efforts (likely through the summer of 2026). Upon completing renovations, visitors will be able to climb the 214 steps to the top, where they are treated to breathtaking views of the surrounding landscape and the shimmering waters beyond.

The lighthouse is open for climbing mid-May to Columbus Day, 9-5:30. When open for climbing, tickets are $10, $5 for seniors and children, and must be purchased in advance the day of the climb at https://www.nps.gov/caha/planyourvisit/bils.htm

Address: 8210 Bodie Island Lighthouse Nags Head, NC, 27959

Cape Hatteras lighthouse in the Outer Banks

Check the Cape Hatteras lighthouse website for tour dates and options.

Cape Hatteras Light Station — Climbing Closed For Restoration Until Summer 2026

The Cape Hatteras Lighthouse marks one of the Atlantic Coast's most dangerous stretches. Just off the coast, the Gulf Stream collides with the Labrador Current from Canada. This current draws southbound ships onto Diamond Shoals, a treacherous twelve-mile-long sandbar. Hundreds, if not thousands, of shipwrecks have given this area the moniker “Graveyard of the Atlantic.” 

The original Cape Hatteras Lighthouse built in 1794 was only 90 feet tall and was not able to be seen by ships along the coast. The Lighthouse Board agreed to increase the tower height by another 60 feet in 1853, but by 1860 the lighthouse required extensive repairs. Construction was started on the current lighthouse in 1868 and it was completed in 1870. The old lighthouse was demolished in 1871. 

Years of beach erosion and unsuccessful attempts to stabilize the beach made it necessary to move the lighthouse in 1999. Over the course of 23 days, the lighthouse was moved 2,900 feet to its present location. This version of the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse stands 198.49 feet tall, making it the tallest brick lighthouse in the US.

There have been many changes and even moves in the history of this lighthouse, making it a fantastic place to visit with lots of history and intriguing stories to hear. 

Cape Hatteras is one of those lighthouses in North Carolina where climbers should expect seasonal operations. When open, tickets are $8 to climb, $4 for children and seniors.  https://www.nps.gov/caha/planyourvisit/chls.htm

Address: 46379 Lighthouse Rd, Buxton, NC 27920

Take the ferry from Hatteras to the island of Ocracoke and picturesque lighthouse there.

Ocracoke Lighthouse — Climbing Closed Due To Renovation

Nestled amidst the windswept dunes of North Carolina's Outer Banks, the Ocracoke Light Station stands as a venerable guardian of maritime history and coastal lore. Dating back to 1823, this historic lighthouse holds the distinction of being the oldest operating of the lighthouses in North Carolina.

One captivating aspect of the Ocracoke Light Station is its rich history intertwined with tales of piracy and seafaring adventures. Legend has it that the infamous pirate Blackbeard once prowled these waters, and the light station served as a guiding beacon for ships navigating the treacherous waters of Ocracoke Inlet.

Standing at a modest 75 feet tall, the lighthouse features a simple yet elegant design, with its white conical tower rising above the sandy shores. Throughout its long and storied existence, the Ocracoke Light Station has weathered storms, wars, and the passage of time, steadfastly guiding mariners to safety with its powerful beacon.

Today, visitors can explore the grounds of the Ocracoke Light Station and learn about its fascinating history through interpretive displays and guided tours. As a symbol of resilience and maritime heritage, it continues to inspire awe and wonder in all who visit its hallowed grounds.

Address: 360 Lighthouse Rd, Ocracoke, NC 27960

Cape Lookout Lighthouse

Here's a trip for the most intrepid lighthouse climbers – make your way to the visitor's center on Harker's Island, then find a ferry to get you over to the lighthouse.

Cape Lookout Lighthouse

The Cape Lookout Lighthouse is known for being one of the hardest lighthouses in North Carolina to reach. Due to its remote location along the seashore, the only way to visit this lighthouse is by ferry or personal boat. You can catch a ferry from the visitors center on Harkers Island. You’ll see the lighthouse across the water from the visitors center.

Standing at 163’ tall, Cape Lookout Lighthouse is one of the few lighthouses in North Carolina operating during daylight hours. The current lighthouse was built in 1859. It’s original tower, built in 1812, was then converted into the keepers’ quarters. Today, visitors can climb to the top of the tower, thanks to some reconstruction efforts in the early 2000’s. In fact, the public wasn’t allowed to enter this lighthouse until July 2010. 

The Cape Lookout Lighthouse is currently closed to the public while it undergoes renovations for structural issues. The renovations are expected to last until winter of 2023. 

https://www.nps.gov/calo/planyourvisit/lighthouse-climbs.htm

Address: 1800 Island Rd, Harkers Island, NC 28531 

Tour the Oak Island lighthouse by climbing ship ladders

Currently free to climb, the lighthouse at Oak Island offers a different challenge. Climbers must scale a series of ship ladders, rather than stairs.

Oak Island Lighthouse

On the rugged shores of North Carolina, the Oak Island Lighthouse stands tall against the crashing waves and salty breezes. Built in 1958, this maritime marvel boasts a sleek and modern design, a stark contrast to the weathered charm of its predecessors.

But don't let its youthful appearance fool you. The Oak Island Lighthouse holds a treasure trove of history and intrigue. Standing at an impressive 169 feet tall, it's one of the tallest lighthouses in North Carolina and the United States, with its powerful beacon guiding ships through the treacherous waters of the Cape Fear region.

Yet, the real mystery lies beneath the waves. For decades, Oak Island has been shrouded in tales of buried treasure and lost riches, with countless explorers seeking their fortune on its sandy shores. Some say the infamous pirate Blackbeard himself may have hidden his loot here, adding to the allure and mystique of this coastal gem. Whether you're drawn to its towering stature or its enigmatic past, one thing's for certain: the Oak Island Lighthouse is a beacon of adventure and discovery, beckoning travelers from far and wide to explore its storied shores.

Climbs to the top are free, but require advanced planning and reservations. Carefully read the directions found on the lighthouse website http://www.oakislandlighthouse.org/.

Address: 300a Caswell Beach Rd, Oak Island, NC 28465

Old Baldy at sunset.

We think “Old Baldy” is one of the most beautiful lighthouses in North Carolina.

Bald Head Island Lighthouse 

Lovingly called “Old Baldy”, the Bald Head Island Lighthouse is the oldest of the lighthouses in North Carolina that are still standing. The lighthouse was built in 1817. Its distinctive octagonal shape and stucco appearance evokes a sense of timeless elegance, while its towering height of 110 feet commands attention against the backdrop of the Atlantic Ocean.

But the Bald Head Island Lighthouse is more than just a picturesque landmark. It's a testament to the resilience of the human spirit, having weathered storms, wars, and the passage of time. Throughout its storied history, it has guided countless sailors to safety, earning its place as a beloved symbol of maritime heritage.

Today, visitors can climb the 108 steps to the top of the lighthouse, where they are rewarded with panoramic views of the Cape Fear River Estuary at the top. This is another one of the lighthouses in North Carolina only accessible by ferry, which can be taken from Southport, NCThe Smith Island Museum of History, housed in the keeper's cottage, educates visitors about Bald Head Island's historical significance. Inside the museum, artifacts from the Old Baldy Foundation's collections are on display.

Tickets to climb are $8, $5 for kids. Old Baldy opens March 5, 2024 for the warm season with lighthouse hours running from 9 AM to 4:30 PM Tuesday through Saturday. Visit www.oldbaldy.orgto learn more.

Address: 101 Light House Wynd, Bald Head Island, NC 28461

Tips for Your Lighthouses In North Carolina Road Trip 

Before heading out on your road trip, be sure to remember these tips and tricks: 

  • The total travel time for this roadtrip is nearly 16 hours. You’ll want to pack some tasty snacks and games for the car. 
  • None of these lighthouses have an elevator. Each one requires many stairs to the top so make sure that you’re physically capable of this before heading out. 
  • Because you’ll be climbing so many stairs, closed-toed shoes with a good grip are recommended. 
  • Most of these lighthouses do not have heat or air conditioning. Consider the weather when planning your visit. 
  • Check the websites of all lighthouses before scheduling, as unforeseen closures can occur for maintenance or weather reasons. 

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