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Lighthouses of North Carolina

  • Coastal Lights

There are several types of lighthouses on the coast of North Carolina. Each type serves a different purpose. Our tall lights (coastal lights) often are warnings to avoid offshore shoals. These are Currituck Beach, Bodie Island, Cape Hatteras (Diamond Shoals), Cape Lookout (Lookout Shoals) and Oak Island (which has a dual role and warns of Frying Pan Shoals). Bodie Island Lighthouse is a "special warning" for southbound ships to head east to miss the Diamond Shoals (about 40 miles to its south off Hatteras).

Currituck Lighhtouse Cape Hatteras Lighthouse Cape Lookout Lighthouse Oak Island Lighthouse

Currituck Beach Lighthouse | Bodie Island Lighthouse | Cape Hatteras Lighthouse
Cape Lookout Lighthouse | Oak Island Lighthouse

  • Harbor Lights

Harbor lights guide ships into a body of water near a coast in which ships can anchor safely. These are Old Baldy and Ocracoke Lighthouses. Oak Island took the job of coastal watch from Old Baldy. When Old Baldy was first built, it was to guide ships from the Atlantic into the Cape Fear to NC's major port at Wilmington. It was built as tall as the old lights were for its time, so Oak Island was built as a first order light (150'+ tall) to serve as a better coastal light that could be seen many miles further at sea.

Ocracoke Lighthouse Old Baldy Lighthouse

Ocracoke Lighthouse | Bald Head Island Lighthouse

  • River Lights

We have three reproduction river lights in North Carolina. These helped with maritime traffic that was beyond the barrier islands on their way to and from mainland ports.

Roanoke River Lighthouse Roanoke Marshes Lighthouse

Roanoke River Lighthouse | Roanoke River Lighthouse-Edenton |
| Roanoke Marshes Lighthouse |

  • Range Lights

Range lights still help guide boats into the channels today. They mark a safe channel into smaller bodies of water including inlets, rivers, and harbors.Designers made two lights work together. One shorter tower built close to the water teamed up with a second taller tower built behind it. As vessels entered the channel navigators lined up the taller light directly above the shorter light. When the lights were aligned captains were able to navigate safely.

Price's Creek Range Light


Our colonists arrived to North America by boat. The sea was the only method of transportation for hundreds of years. In many ways lighthouses served the purpose that our traffic lights do today!

Photo Acknowledgements:
Currituck, Bodie, Hatteras, Lookout, Oak Island, Roanoke River, & Price's Creek © Bruce Roberts
Ocracoke,© Virginia Chadwick Howell
Roanoke Marshes, © Beth Deese

This Site Last Updated: Monday May 23, 2011 9:00 AM