The Cape Lookout Light Station has developed a rich and colorful history ever since the federal government first authorized funding in 1804. A year later, a four-acre parcel was deeded to the government in order to begin construction of the much-needed Light. The land was located at the south end of beautiful Core Banks.
The first tower was interesting, to say the least.
It actually consisted of "a tower within a tower." The inner tower was constructed of brick and was round in design. The outer tower was constructed of wood consisting of local white pine and oak. The tower was 96' tall and was fitted with a first-order Fresnal lens.
In 1857 Congress authorized a new, more modern and much taller light. This tower would be 156 tall and would be conical in design, made entirely of brick. Because of its coastal location the taller tower would better serve the increased shipping demands of the area.
On November 1, 1859, the new light at Cape Lookout went into service for the first time. The first-order lens was transferred from the old tower to the new.
After being heavily vandalized and damaged by Confederate soldiers in 1861 it wasn't until 1863 that the Lighthouse Board relighted the tower, only this time with a third-order Fresnel lens (Later on the original first-order Fresnel lens would be repaired and placed back into the tower.)
It wasn't until 10 years later (1873) that the tower received its internationally famous black and white diamond (or "checkers" as they were known) paint scheme in order to give it its distinctive daymark pattern.
In 1950 the United States Coast Guard automated the light, which is still an active aid to navigation, today.
The Keeper's Quarters have been restored and presently serve as a small museum and gift shop.
On June 14, 2003, the Cape Lookout Lighthouse was transferred from the United States Coast Guard to the National Park Service as part of Cape Lookout National Seashore. The light remains a working aid to navigation, warning ships of the location of Cape Lookout Shoals.
Dates & Hours of operation:
The Harkers Island Visitor's Center is on the mainland near the NPS headquarters and is open year around from 8:30 A.M. until 4:30 PM.
Cape Lookout Lighthouse is part of Cape Lookout National Seashore. Park headquarters and the Visitor Center are located on Harkers Island and are open year-round from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. except Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s days. The grounds are open year-round. In the winter the Visitor Center is closed on Sundays. The Keepers' Quarters Museum and facilities at the lighthouse and the Portsmouth Village Visitor Center open in April. The Park has partnered with the Island Express Ferry Service for transportation to the Cape and other locations within the seashore. Ferry departures in Beaufort are from Graydon Paul Park across the street from the Visitor Center. Ferry tickets for Cape Lookout and Shackleford Banks will be sold at both Visitor Centers. Departure in Harkers Island will be from the dock at the Visitor Center. More information about reservations, fees and schedules about the ferries can be found at www.islandexpressferryservices.com. The lighthouse is open for climbing mid May through mid September. People may climb Tuesdays through Saturdays. Also, it will open for climbing on some Sundays. visit http://www.nps.gov/calo/planyourvisit/lighthouse-climbs.htm for more information or call (252) 728-2250. Ticket prices are $8; for children 12 and under and seniors, tickets are $4. Tickets may be purchased from TUESDAY through SATURDAY at the Light Station Visitor Center during the hours of operation. Tickets are sold on a first come / first served basis. Moonlight climbs are also offered. See http://www.nps.gov/calo/learn/news/2014-06-02.htm for more information.Cape Lookout National Seashore celebrates its 50th anniversary in 2016. Also, the National Park Service will celebrate its 100th anniversary in 2016.. Established by President Johnson, the 56 miles of wild and beautiful shoreline within Cape Lookout National Seashore has been a favorite recreational location for generations.
For information on becoming a volunteer you can go to http://www.nps.gov/calo/getinvolved/volunteer.htm