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Cape Hatteras Lighthouse

The Cape Hatteras Lighthouse is located on the Outer Banks in North Carolina. Its black and white stripes make it one of the most widely recognized lighthouses in the nation. The area surrounding the lighthouse is known as the Graveyard of the Atlantic due to the hundreds of ship wrecks that have happened there over the years. The Outer Banks are a beautiful and unique landscape with a background of the Atlantic Ocean. You can see wild horses or the many varieties of seabirds that call the islands home.

The lighthouse has some interesting history. It is actually the second lighthouse to stand at Hatteras Island. The first was built of sandstone and was 90 feet tall and completed in 1803. It became evident fairly quickly that it wasn’t sufficient for the ships coming in and out of the area. Later on 60 feet were added to the lighthouse and the bottom was painted bright red to help with visual effect. This still wasn’t enough so they started over again. The second lighthouse, the one that stands now, was started in 1868 and was first lit in 1870. This lighthouse stood in its original location for over 100 years, but due to erosion from storms and hurricanes the beach around the lighthouse was disappearing and putting the lighthouse in danger of falling into the ocean. The lighthouse itself was actually moved 2,900 feet inland in 1999. This move allowed the lighthouse to maintain it’s historical significance without the threat of further erosion.

The Cape Hatteras Lighthouse is located on Old Lighthouse Road in Buxton, North Carolina. The lighthouse historic site can be accessed by car from the NC-12 highway. When traveling from the South in the direction of Ocracoke it’s important to note that your route will include a ferry. The lighthouse is open for climbing seasonally and can close anytime due to inclement weather. It opens the third Friday in April and closes after Columbus Day. During high season the hours are from 9:00 A.M. through 5:30 P.M. Ticket sales begin at 8:15 A.M. In early spring and late fall the hours are more limited. Once a month the light house holds a full moon climb which is a very popular event so be sure to purchase tickets ahead of time. The facility also does weddings and special events. Tickets are $8 for adults and $4 for children and seniors.

The lighthouse has limited accessibility. It has 257 steps which is equal to a 12 story building. There is no wheelchair access inside the lighthouse. Those with limited physical abilities may struggle with the climb. The lighthouse has no air conditioning and it is often hot and humid inside. Those with heart or respiratory conditions should be cautious. Small children must be able to climb the stairs on their own as holding children while climbing is not allowed. The climb can be strenuous but the view at the top is worth it. You can see everything from Avon to Hatteras Village. There is also a lighthouse gift shop for souvenirs.

The Cape Hatteras Lighthouse is one of many amazing sites on the Outer Banks. There is also the Bodie Lighthouse which offers another climbing opportunity and the Ocracoke Island Lighthouse. The local beaches offers hours of entertainment for the family and you can’t go wrong with sightseeing for local wildlife like seabirds and dolphins. Snorkeling, surfing, crabbing and swimming are also very popular activities in the area.

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Written by Marie Nichols

Carolina Aviation Museum

NC Zoo at Asheboro