North Carolina Ocracoke Lighthouse is one of a string of lighthouses that can be found along the 200 mile chain of barrier islands that make up the state’s Outer Banks. The low lying islands have been a cause of shipwrecks for centuries; in fact, the area of water just off the Outer Banks has become known as the Graveyard of the Atlantic. The infamous pirate, Blackbeard had a hideout on Ocracoke island for several years and it was also the place where Sir Walter Raleigh landed.
lighthouse ocracoke, 2
The lighthouse at Ocracoke was constructed in 1823 and is one of the oldest in the country; it is the oldest lighthouse in the state still in continuous use. During the 18th century, an increasing number of early settlers moved to Ocracoke Island, and the island became a major shipping port. The increase in population meant that some type of light was needed to help boats navigate the inlet, and the General Assembly approved the construction of a lighthouse. The 65 foot structure cost just over $11,000 to build, including a three roomed structure for the lighthouse keeper to live in. The living quarters and lighthouse still serve as a refuge for island residents during hurricanes and extreme weather.
The Ocracoke Lighthouse was originally equipped with a Fresnel lens, which was dismantled in 1864 by Confederate troops. The Lighthouse had no light until it was replaced by Union forces some time later. The lighthouse and light were electrified during the early 19th century. Although the lighting mechanism has been replaced and upgraded over the years, the current 8,000 candlepower light is visible from almost 15 miles out at sea. The lighthouse’s distinctive white exterior also means that it is easily visible from out at sea during the day. In 1946, the last lighthouse keeper left Ocracoke after almost 50 years as the keeper; today the light is fully automated.
Today, unfortunately the lighthouse itself is not open to visitors, although the adjoining cottage and the grounds can be enjoyed. Ocracoke itself is a quaint fishing village and makes a good base for exploring the beautiful Outer Banks. Ocracoke’s several historic sights and spectacular sand dunes are among the tallest on the east coast, and make it a wonderful place to visit. Ocracoke Island itself is a good place to enjoy some one-of- a kind shopping, some of the freshest seafood anywhere, as well as some some much needed peace and quiet.