You can't miss it. It's that visible.
If you're driving along NC Highway 12 between Nags Head and Cape Hatteras,you're sure to spot the Bodie Island Lighthouse (pronounced "body,"with a short "o").
This impressive historic structure towers high over maritime woodlands, marshlands,and saltwater ponds in the NC Outer Banks. It looks exactly the way you picturethe legendary light stations of yesteryear - white brick with bold blackstripes, topped by an iconic lantern room. And it's one of just a handful of USlighthouses that still operate today, flashing its navigational beam once every27.5 seconds.
For several decades, this famous lighthouse was closed for extensive repairs,but by 2013 these renovations were complete. Now you can climb its 214 winding ironstairs up to the observation deck, where thrilling views and exhilarating oceanbreezes await you.
Part of North Carolina's Turbulent Seafaring History
Throughout the 19th century, countless vessels wrecked in the turbulentwaters off of the Outer Banks coastline. The danger was especially severe rightaround Pea Island. So, in 1847, construction began at that site on a 54-foot lightstation. Unfortunately the brick foundation was weak, and the tower soonstarted to lean. In 1859 it was torn down and replaced nearby with a sturdier80-foot structure.
However, tensions were growing between the northern and southern statesduring this time. Just a few years later, in 1861, the Civil War broke out.Confederate forces blew up this newer lighthouse to keep it from falling into Unionhands.
But mariners still faced the very real threat of shipwreck. So, after thewar, the lighthouse was rebuilt for the third time. It was relocated a littlefarther north and built taller than its two predecessors - a full 156 feetabove sea level.
Construction began in 1871, and by 1872 the Bodie Island Lighthouse was openfor business, beaming its bright, rotating light 19 miles across the water.Around the same time, a spacious duplex home was built for the light keepers'families.
Initially the First Order Fresnel Lens - the largest kind available - waslit with lard oil and rotated by hand (a backbreaking effort). But in 1932 itwas fully automated and powered with electricity. In 1953 the lighthouse itselfcame under the control of the US National Park Service.
This 1872 light station is the same one still standing today. So, whenyou mount to its summit, you are treading in the footsteps of generations of OuterBanks light keepers. Talk about the mystique of the past!
What to Expect When You Visit the Bodie Island Lighthouse
Ready to climb to the top of the Bodie Island Lighthouse? Visit anytimeduring the warmer months, between the third Friday in April and Columbus Day inOctober. Climbing tours (limited to parties of eight) start every 20 minutes, beginningat 9 a.m. and ending at 4:30 p.m. Tickets are available onsite at the restoredlight keepers' home, which now houses the visitors' center. The fee is modest -just $10 for adults, $5 for seniors (age 62 and older), and $5 for children 11and younger (who must be accompanied by an adult).
To climb, you must be at least 42 inches tall and weigh less than 260lbs. Be sure to wear sturdy, comfortable shoes. (Heels higher than 1.5 inchesare prohibited.) Arrive at the lighthouse base at least five minutes before thetime printed on your ticket. Feel free to bring along drinking water in asealed, non-glass container, but leave other foods and beverages behind.
The climb is strenuous, but you can go at your own pace and pause to restand catch your breath on any of nine landings. At the top, you'll enjoy360-degree views of Bodie Island, Pamlico Sound, and the Atlantic Ocean. (Besure to have your camera on hand to capture the breathtaking vistas.)
Plus, you'll get to gaze upward at the restored First Order Fresnel Lens,the very same light that guided sailors to safety almost 150 years ago. Howamazing to think that it still serves as a guiding beacon today!
The Lighthouse Is Just the Beginning
Before or after your climb, you'll want to explore the beautifulunspoiled grounds surrounding the Bodie Island Lighthouse. Part of the CapeHatteras National Seashore, this undeveloped coastal area includes grassy freshwatermarshes, lush pine and cedar forests, and pristine ocean shoreline. Strollalong the well-maintained wooden walkway to glimpse all kinds of shorebirds andwaterfowl. Plus, visit the nearby Pea Island Wildlife Refuge for an even moreintimate look at colorful Outer Banks wildlife.
How to Get to the Bodie Island Lighthouse
Located at 8210 Bodie Island Lighthouse Road, just south of Nags Head andWhalebone Junction, this popular Outer Banks attraction is easily accessible.If you're traveling from north or west, take US 64 to the NC 12 intersection,then head south for about seven miles. Bring the family... and have a blast!