Cape Hatteras Lighthouse

The Most Famous of the Outer Banks Lighthouses

Cape Hatteras Lighthouse

Cape Hatteras Lighthouse Facts:

Height of the tower: 210 feet, 198 feet to the focal point (tallest brick lighthouse in North America)

Year Completed: 1870

Signal Distance: 19 Nautical Miles

Signal Pattern: 1 white flash every 7.5 seconds





Cape Hatteras was the third lighthouse my mom and I saw. The lighthouse is located on Highway 12 on Hatteras Island in the town of Buxton.This lighthouse is one of the most well known lighthouses in North America, especially since it is the tallest brick lighthouse in North America. The Outer Banks Lighthouse Society’s website put it perfectly, "[...] the Cape Hatteras Light is the most recognized, photographed, painted, read about and admired lighthouse in North America and is a National Historic Landmark." It’s hard to go anywhere in the Outer Banks without seeing the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse in some form.

View of the visitor centers from atop the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse

Cape Hatteras is the signpost for the Graveyard of the Atlantic, and as such it stands guard over some very rough patches of sea. The first tower was built in 1803, but didn’t quite stack up to what was needed in that particular area. This original tower was even heightened and still didn’t fit expectations. In 1868, construction began on a new tower.

The lighthouse faced being swept out to sea or severely damaged due to coastal erosion. On July 9, 1999 a team of engineers moved the 2,800-ton lighthouse 2,900 feet southwest of the original location. Cape Hatteras was then reset with the keeper’s houses in a similar position as was found originally. The move took 23 days, so you can imagine what an enormous feat this was.

View from atop the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse

My mom and I pulled up to the Cape Hatteras lighthouse and I was stunned to see how enormous the Cape Hatteras light house truly was. I was also excited to see a lighthouse that I had seen pictures of since I had began going to the Outer Banks when I was seven. Eagerly, my mom and I got out of the car and stared up at the massiveness of the lighthouse.

268 steps later my mom and I stood at the top of the lighthouse gasping for air. Once we got hold of ourselves we looked out in amazement. If I thought I was on top of the world at Currituck lighthouse,Cape Hatteras won that battle instantly. My mom and I couldn't believe the view and stood there trying to absorb everything. Reality quickly took over and I was ready to go back down. I have bouts of being afraid of heights and suddenly being "on top of the world" wasn’t really doing it for me.

The Welcome Area to the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse Grounds

After descending the lighthouse my mom and I walked around to the museum and the keeper's quarters. Similar to Currituck lighthouse, Cape Hatteras lighthouse does a good job depicting maritime history. Again, my mom the history buff, needed to read every little detail.

Cape Hatteras gave us a unique experience from the other lighthouses and I did enjoy seeing a huge part of the Outer Banks Heritage. Yet, this was one of my least favorite lighthouses merely for the commercial like feel.

Historical Market in the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse

I felt a lot of what Cape Hatteras had to offer was lost in the massive crowds my mom and I had to fend through. Don't get me wrong I strongly recommend seeing Cape Hatteras, but I think part of the "lighthouse experience" is absorbing how isolated they are and the surroundings each had to offer.

Some useful information:
Cape Hatteras lighthouse is open for climbing Good Friday until Columbus Day. In addition the lighthouse is open from 10:00AM until 4:00PM each day.

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