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.
My wife and I camped at Oregon Inlet Campground in The Outer Banks, North Carolina over Memorial Day Weekend, 2016. I reserved a tent only site in March on the Reservation.gov website without any problem. The site allows you to reserve a slot, but you can not choose a specific site. You have to do that when you arrive. The cost was $28 per night and I payed that immediately online with a master card.
The campground is about a thirty minute drive from the Wright Memorial Bridge connecting the north end of The Outer Banks to the mainland. It is just a few miles past the enterence to Cape Hatteras National Seashore. The campground entrance will be on your left just before reaching the gorgeous Herbert C. Bonner Bridge.
There are three campground loops. We camped on loop A, which has tent only camping. Loop B and C allow for RVs. For loop A, the sites on the right at the first half of the loop are nestled up agains the dunes that separate the campground from the beach. We were lucky to get site 005 and loved it because with this site, and the next few on the right, the dunes and brush create a greater sense of privacy, and it is a quick jaunt to the restrooms just across the street in the center of the loop.
There is no shade at any of the sites. Each site has a charcoal grill, a tent pad, and a paved area to back into. The restrooms were clean and there were three separate showers, although only two were working. The showers did not have any heat adjustment but the water was warm and comfortable. There is a place to fill water bottles with cool drinking water at the water fountains near the restroom doors. There is also a double faucet near the showers to get water for dishes etc.
It is a short walk through the dunes to the beach. A trail begins at the entrance to loop A. It is an attractive walk, but we did not find the beach very attractive because four wheel drives were allowed to drive on the beach and there was a system of dirty looking tire trenches all up and down in the sand. The beach here was also narrow. We found a number of much more attractive beaches a short drive away.
On the whole, we loved our visit. One tasty surprise was that the dunes behind our campsite were rolling with blackberry vines and the blackberries were in season. We had all the fresh blackberries we could eat. There are still some in our fridge now.On a negative note, the biting insects were too bad to stay outside after the sun set. I still have some pretty fiece bites on my arms and legs a week later that show no sign on going away.