The Oldest Lighthouses

Before modern technologies like radar and other navigational systems allow sailors to negotiate the waters with ease, lighthouses stood, literally, as one of the main devices to help ocean travel. Situated along coastlines around the world, light keepers kept large flames alive to alert passing ships to dangerous areas like rocky shores or to guide cargo into ports. It is estimated now that only fifteen hundred lighthouses remain, though not all are operational. Many on the east coast of the United States, including those in the Outer Banks, have been preserved as national or state landmarks, and visitors are welcomed to climb their arduous circular stairs for a bird’s eye view.

For tourists with an interest in pharology, the study of lighthouses (derived from the island of Pharos in Greece, home of the famous Lighthouse of Alexandria), the Outer Banks lighthouses will definitely keep you busy, and in shape! Here are just a few of the sights you can expect to enjoy when visiting the shores:

Cape Hatteras Lighthouse – Perhaps the most famous lighthouse in the state, the Cape Hatteras station is also the tallest and one of the oldest in the nation. An easily recognizable black-striped obelisk, over two hundred and fifty stairs takes visitors to the top, which is the equivalent of twelve stories. The lighthouse is open to visitors normally from March through October, where all can learn the colorful history of this national treasure.

Currituck Beach Lighthouse – Standing tall in Corolla, one of the northernmost points in the Outer Banks, Currituck Beach Lighthouse is unique in that it is one of the few unpainted beacons in existence. Once illuminated by oil lamps, this light station has since been upgraded with the latest technology, and its light can be seen for nearly twenty nautical miles. Visitors are welcome to explore between Easter and Thanksgiving.

Ocracoke Lighthouse – While Hatteras boasts the oldest lighthouse on the shore, Ocracoke has the distinction of being home to the oldest operating station. Ocracoke Lighthouse is also the shortest freestanding one in the Outer Banks, standing at seventy-five feet. As it is still operational, the actual lighthouse is closed to visitors, though pharology enthusiasts are welcomed to tour the grounds.