The lighthouse has played a pivotal role in the history of North Carolina and is one of the state’s most recognizable figures. While today’s modern navigational equipment has rendered the lighthouses along the NC coast less necessary, they still stand as an important reminder of days gone by. For decades, the waters along the NC coast have been regarded as some of the most treacherous anywhere. This is due to large shoals such as Diamond Shoal that extends up to 15 miles out into the open Atlantic ocean and the shallow constantly shifting inlets. It wasn’t uncommon for ships to get slightly off-course and end up grounded on the sandy shoals-hence the name “Graveyard Of The Atlantic”. Lighthouses served as a warning beacon to mariners traveling along the coast and helped guide ships navigating these waters.


Bodie Island Lighthouse: is the third lighthouse that has stood in this vicinity of Bodie Island.  It was built in 1872 and stands 156 ft. tall. The lighthouse was automated in 1954 with the first Fresnal Lens which gives two flashes every 22 seconds and can be seen for 19 miles. Although the lighthouse is not open to visitors, it is a great place for bird watching.  Located in the old keeper’s quarters is a visitor’s center that features many historic exhibits.


The Cape Hatteras Lighthouse: is a well known symbol for North Carolina and it is the tallest in the nation. The original lighthouse was built in 1803. In 1860 during the Civil War it was reported by the lighthouse board that the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse required protection. In 1862 after things had moved on, it was reported that the lens and lantern had been destroyed. New construction started in 1868 but since the construction, there have been many issues with beach erosion. Due to beach erosion, the lighthouse had to be moved from its original home to safer grounds-2,870 ft. inland. Cape Hatteras Lighthouse is fully opened to the public from early April until mid-October. Close by the lighthouse are the quarters that served to the keepers of the light and one of those buildings has been restored to serve as the visitors center.


Roanoke Marshes Lighthouse: This lighthouse is located on the Manteo waterfront. It is an exterior reconstruction of the cottage-style, screw-pile lighthouse that stood at the south end entrance to the Croatan Sound near Wanchese. It was taken out of commission in 1955 and during an attempt to move it to private property, was lost in the sound.


Ocracoke Lighthouse: Located in Hyde County on Ocracoke Island, the Ocracoke Lighthouse was built in 1823.  The Lighthouse house stands 75 ft. tall and its diameter narrows from 25 ft. at the base to 12 ft. at its peak. The first Ocracoke Lighthouse was built in 1803 on Shell Castle Island inside the Ocracoke Inlet. In 1818, the original tower was destroyed by lightning and was then replaced by the current tower. Ocracoke Lighthouse is the oldest operating light station on the southern coast.