Cape Hatteras Lighthouse is the tallest and among the most well known lighthouses in the United States. It is located in Cape Hatteras National Seashore on The Outer Banks of North Carolina. We visited the lighthouse as part of our Memorial Day weekend camping trip in The Outer Banks.
The lighthouse is about an hours drive from the Wright Memorial Bridge connecting the northern end of The Outer Banks with the mainland. An adult ticket to climb costs $8.00 and $4.00 for senior citizens. National park annual passes do not cover admission.
Approaching the lighthouse from the parking lot there is a viewing area with a small amphitheater of rough quartz sitting stones, each marked with the names of the eighty-or-so different former light house keepers. Its a nice spot for photos if the light is right, but there is plenty of room to take photos from other angles.
The climb to the top is slightly strenuous, but not exhausting. A wide and not particularly steep spiral staircase leads up 248 steps to the top. I know the exact number because we bought a refrigerator magnet that says “I climbed 248 stairs to the top of the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse.” There are eight landing areas on the way up to stop for a rest and let others pass.
The view from the top is gorgeous. You can perfectly see the cape where the islands sharply cut back west towards the mainland from their north to south run. It was windy up there, but not terribly, although I am certain it can be worse. You can make out the beach, a few hundred yards, away where the lighthouse stood until it was moved a number of years ago because of the encroaching shoreline.
There is a small museum in the old keepers quarters with a ho-hum film and exhibits. We found the most interesting part to be the exhibit on how they moved the lighthouse and the display of the rollers they set it on. The lighthouse is still functions and comes on automatically each night. It blinks every eight seconds or so.
There are a number of lighthouses in The Outer Banks, but if you are planning to climb just one, this would be a good choice.