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The North Carolina Outer Banks are famed nationwide for many things, from the most popular beaches in the state to excellent marine life exploration in the form of snorkeling and aquariums. These parts are also renowned for being their black-and-white striped lighthouses at Bodie Island and Hatteras - moreover, a particular specimen stands out tall and captivatingly crimson.

Currituck Beach Lighthouse in Corolla is a gothic-inspired attraction that putting this place on the map; not only is it the northernmost of North Carolina’s coastal lighthouses, but it's also the last bright lighthouse to be built in all of North Carolina.

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While its neighbor lighthouses are operated by the National Park Service, the Currituck lighthouse is privately operated and funded, but that's not the only factor that sees it blow others out of the water. The extraordinary, unpainted red-bricked exterior distinguishes Currituck's lighthouse from others, an intentional design to set it apart from its fellow Outer Banks lighthouses and one that lets visitors marvel at the incredible number of bricks used to build it.

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Where Is Currituck Beach Lighthouse Located?

The marvelous Currituck Beach Lighthouse is situated right in the heart of Corolla in the northern Outer Banks and stationed along Corolla Village Road. It's a 'first order' lighthouse, a term that means it contains the largest Fresnel lens size that has a signature interval of three seconds on and 17 seconds off. When it flashes, it can be seen from 18 nautical miles away.

Amazingly, the Currituck lighthouse was constructed with more than a million bricks and stands 162 feet tall, rendering its overall weight of more than six million pounds unsurprising. At the building's base, it's 5 feet 8 inches thick, while the wall of its parapet measures 3 feet thick. Inside, the lighthouse boasts a beautiful spiral staircase, which comprises 214 stairs to the very top.

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The History Of The Currituck Lighthouse

The Outer Banks of North Carolina have a prolific history of lighthouses; they're not an uncommon feature to find along its captivating coastline. But the Currituck Beach Lighthouse, in particular, has a long past, one that visitors to the attraction would appreciate knowing before they attend.

For centuries, the treacherous waters off of the Outer Banks claimed hundreds of ships. In the Northern Outer Banks, ships would cruise close to the shore to avoid the swift and kinetic Gulf Stream, but that in itself was a risky feat; vessels could easily become shipwrecked against the shoreline.

The many miles of Currituck's barrier island remained relatively uninhabited in the past, and a dark coastline would often disorient the passing boats and their confused sailors.

Because of the amounting shipwrecks occurring away from and out of view of other lighthouses in the Outer Banks, a solution was needed. The answer? The construction of Currituck Beach Lighthouse began in 1872 and was completed three years later, on December 1, 1875.

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The lighthouse at Currituck Beach first glowed as a beacon to ships passing by, originally powered by an oil lamp with five concentric wicks. The keeper’s assistant would carry fuel up to the top and maintain the wicks, the lenses, and the flash mechanism.

The following year in 1876, a Victorian-style lighthouse keepers’ home was erected next to the lighthouse, intended to house the main lighthouse keeper, the two assistant keepers, and their families.

After many subsequent decades, Currituck Beach Lighthouse gained electricity in 1933, and come 1937, the keepers' positions were discontinued since automation of turn-on and turn-off times left their services no longer needed.

Over the next four decades, after the lighthouse became uninhabited, the keepers' home fell into disrepair; left to the elements, the years of harsh weather, and a spot of some vandalism, the lighthouse, and its surrounding buildings sadly ended up in rough shape.

However, in 1980, the non-profit organization Outer Banks Conservationists, Inc., and the state of North Carolina realized the poor state of the property and thus launched a complete restoration of the original keepers' home and the entirety of the grounds.

Naturally, a hefty renovation project commands lengthy, intricate work; as such, the home's redevelopment continues.

Although the work involved in the lighthouse grounds' bringing back to life is complex and takes time, the other buildings within its vicinity have been remodeled, now employed as storage areas, gift shops, and visitor information centers.

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Can You Go In Currituck Beach Lighthouse?

The public can visit and even go inside the Currituck Beach Lighthouse, which is indeed a fantastic daytime activity to add to the to-do for those in the area.

Tours of Currituck Beach Lighthouse are self-guided and offer an interesting insight into the history of the structure and the Outer Banks' maritime past.

Visitors can discover the historical significance and science of the lighthouse as they look at the wall-mounted exhibits set along the steps and landings, learning all about coastal lighthouses and their history, the lighthouses keepers, shipwrecks, and the Fresnel Lens.

The spiral stairs inside the lighthouse's shaft send tourers up 214 steps and an elevation of 150 feet to reach the observation deck just below the lens room, a journey that can take anywhere from a few minutes to 20 minutes, depending on walking speed and fear-of-heights factor.

There are also nine landings for resting, checking out the many exhibits, and enjoying the outside views as people gladly (or nervously) hike the staircase to the top.

Visitors should note that, while this lighthouse is spectacular and fascinating to explore in person, it's also not for the faint of heart; the height-phobic may meet their match on its beautiful yet sometimes scary spiral staircase.

Sometimes, people can look down from above and see the winding staircases through the semi-transparent stairs, potentially causing any fear of heights to take hold.

Still, after going through a narrow walkway (known as the parapet) at the base of the light and reaching the lighthouse's summit, the 360-degree vistas make the climb and nerves worth it.

At the top, sights to soak up are blissfully panoramic, rewarding stair-climbers with sweeping scenes of Currituck Heritage Park, Currituck Sound, Corolla Village, and the Outer Banks heading towards Duck and Southern Shores.

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Visit The Currituck Beach Lighthouse Museum

Alongside touring the very lighthouse itself, The Currituck Beach Lighthouse Museum also complements a visit to the historic site. Its namesake museum is housed in the original Keeper’s Quarters just across from the lighthouse, where photos, artifacts, and memorabilia from the approximate 150-plus years that it's been standing tall.

Furthermore, there's also the gift shop to check out, which is attached to the museum. There, guests can purchase all manners of souvenirs, such as hats, t-shirts, postcards, books, taffy, jewelry, ornaments, and many more lighthouse-themed goods.

How To Get To Currituck Beach Lighthouse

North Carolina Outer Banks visitors can find the Currituck Beach Lighthouse by heading north on N.C. Highway 12 toward the northernmost OBX town of Corolla.

The lighthouse is situated next to the Historic Corolla Park along Corolla Village Road and is very easy to spot upon arrival, given its huge red appearance that sticks out like a beautiful and majestic sore thumb.

Currituck Beach Lighthouse Address: 1101 Corolla Village Rd, Corolla, NC

Currituck Beach Lighthouse Admission Information

  • Parking is free, but the entry fee to climb the lighthouse costs $12.00 for anyone four years of age or older
  • Children aged three and under are admitted free of charge
  • Children aged three and under must be with an adult and are required to be secured in carriers for the climb
  • No height restrictions are currently in place; however, climbers must be at least four years old
  • All children 12 and younger are allowed to climb only when accompanied by an adult
  • All visitors must sign a liability waiver since there's a risk when climbing a building constructed before modern building codes
  • Parents or guardians of children aged 13 to 17 must sign a waiver for unaccompanied climbers
  • Lighthouse admission is paid at the front door and includes NC sales tax
  • Currently, advance and online tickers are unavailable
  • Admission can be paid with cash, checks, or credit card
  • 75% of admission to the lighthouse is deductible as a charitable donation
  • Drones are only permitted to be flown outside the wooden fence surrounding the lighthouse compound

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Currituck Beach Lighthouse Opening Hours

Currituck Beach Lighthouse is open to visitors from mid-March until December every year, with daily hours of operation set at 9 am to 5 pm.

However, for safety reasons, the outside gallery or even the whole lighthouse tower might be closed to climbers during high winds or extreme weather. Whatever the season, visitors are highly recommended to arrive at the lighthouse early.

Lines appear quickly, not solely because it's a historic landmark with an enthralling backstory, but it's also down to the breathtaking views at the top.

Visit the Currituck Beach Lighthouse website for more information.

What Attractions Are Near Currituck Beach Lighthouse?

Currituck Beach Lighthouse forms an excellent itinerary item on an Outer Banks day trip or indeed a longer vacation in North Carolina.

Of course, the lighthouse is the headliner of the day, but its position on the map near a good number of top Corolla attractions makes it all the more appealing to travelers.

The lighthouse sits adjacent to popular sites, including the historic Whalehead Club, the Outer Banks Center for Wildlife Education, and, of course, the Historic Corolla Park. Thankfully for visitors, they'll delight in being able to walk from one attraction to the next with ease, as they're conveniently close to one another.

So, if not for North Carolina's pretty beaches, its world-class snorkeling, its hiking trails, or its globally famed aquariums, at least come for the state's seafaring history and the landmarks it left behind - notably, those taking the staggering shape of towering Outer Banks lighthouses.

Out of them all, the lighthouse at Currituck Beach absolutely deserves a place on that bucket list for its intriguing stories of the past, its beautiful interiors and views from the top, and its out-of-the-ordinary, gorgeously gothic allure.