Ocracoke Island
Lighthouses of North Carolina
The Outer Banks, a chain of barrier islands, which stretch along the coastline of North Carolina, posed a number of navigational hazards to shipping traffic along the eastern seaboard since the colonial times.   Although the coastline itself made safe passage diffucult, the remote and virtually uninhabited islands gave refuge to a number of pirates who looted and pillaged ships almost at will.  Probably the most infamous of all the pirates was known as Blackbeard.  Blackbeard, whose real name was Edward Teach, often used the Ocracoke Inlet as a hideout to avoid the British navy and to surprise unsuspecting vessels.  Finally, in 1718, the British navy caught up with and cornered Blackbeard.  After a fierce battle of cannons, the British managed to board his ship and a hand-to-hand sword fight insuded.  In the mêlée, Blackbeard himself was killed, putting an end to his reign of terror.

In 1803 on Shell Castle Island, near blackbeard’s hideout, the first Ocracoke Island lighthouse was constructed to mark the Ocracoke Inlet.  The lighthouse was only in service until 1818, when lightning struck the tower and destroyed it.

In 1823, the United States Treasury decided to build a new tower near Ocracoke Village.  Henry Dearborn, a well-known builder of lighthouses was contracted to erect the tower.  Fitted with a fourth-order Fresnel lens, the 76-foot stucco and masonry tower effectively marked the inlet.  With the outbreak of the Civil War, the Confederate forces destroyed the lens, darkening the tower.  The tower remained out of service until the end of the war when a new lens was installed
Photo taken October 16, 2004
The easiest and shortest way to get to the lighthouse is to take the Ocracoke Island car/passenger ferry from the southern tip of Hatteras Island.  The ferry ride takes about forty-five minutes, and no reservation is required.  However,  Ocracoke Island residents get first priority on the ferry, and in the summer months, the lines to board the ferry can be quite long.  There is also a ferry that runs from Swan Quarter that takes about two and a half hours.  Reservations must be made to take the ferry from Swan Quarter.  A ferry  schedule is avaliable from the North Carolina Ferry Service or by calling 1-800-BY-FERRY.  Once you reach the island, travel aabout 12 miles south along Hwy. 12 until you reach the village.  Make a left onto Lighthouse Rd.  and the lighthouse will be about a half mile down the road on the right.  Parking space is limited, and signs are posted limiting parking time to 15 minuites.
Ocracoke Island Light
This is one of the many ferries that transport passengers to the island.
Photo taken April 7, 2001
All photos contained in this site, © 2001-2005 Wilmoth Photography.  Images and text may not be used from this website without written permission.
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Photo taken October 16, 2004
Views of the lantern room.
Photo taken October 16, 2004
"Classic Ocracoke"
Photo taken October 16, 2004
Entrance to the lighthouse.
Photo taken October 16, 2004
At the time of its construction, oil used to light the lamps was stored in a seperate oil house to minimize the risk of fires.
Photo taken October 16, 2004
One unique feature of this lighthouse is that the exterior walls of the left side were constructed at a different angle then the walls of the right side, which can be seen in the photo above.
Photo taken October 16, 2004
                                                                                               into the tower in 1864.  In 1955 the lighthouse was automated.  Its fixed white light, which is visible for about fourteen miles at sea, continues to mark the inlet.

Today, the lighthouse is closed to the public.  The Fresnel lens and lighting apparatus are maintained by the Coast Guard while the tower and grounds fall under the care of the National Parks Service.  The lighthouse is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and remains one of the oldest operational lighthouses on the southeastern coast.