Dynamic Variation:

Cape Hatteras Lighthouse

The Cape Hatteras Lighthouse is the biggest and baddest when it comes to reputation. It’s the most recognized, most represented beacon in art and photography in the world. It was built 198 feet tall to cast a sweeping light visible for more than sixteen miles in every direction. Its sole mission, gleam by day and beam by night; warning sailors of the Diamond Shoals that lie just below the surface of the Atlantic.

The present lighthouse, officially completed & lit in December 1870, is the second built of three that have been constructed in Buxton. The first Cape Hatteras Lighthouse was built in 1803. It was a sandstone structure 90 feet tall that projected an insufficient light beam using a collection of Argand lamps and reflectors. Stairs to a new height of 150 feet in 1854, and a first order Fresnel lens was installed, the most powerful of its day. During the Civil War in 1861, retreating Confederate soldiers took the Fresnel lamp from the lighthouse, to keep it out of Union hands. Shell damage during the war & structural deterioration prompted the construction of a replacement lighthouse in 1870, the one we enjoy today. The original lighthouse was demolished in 1871.

Whale oil was replaced by kerosene by the 1880’s, & by 1934, the beam was electrified. Beach erosion threatened the base of the lighthouse by 1935, prompting the construction of a third lighthouse some distance away in the Buxton Woods. It was a steel skeleton tower that utilized an airport beacon. Fifteen years later, the 1870 lighthouse was again put back in operation, as erosion patterns changed. The Fresnel lens was vandalized in the 1940’s when the older lighthouse stood empty during those years. Now it uses two active 1000-watt lamps, visible for more than 20 miles. In 1999 the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse was moved a half mile inland, to save it from the encroaching Atlantic.


cape hatteras lighthouse night stars


Climbing the historic Cape Hatteras Lighthouse is a unique experience. The climb is self-paced and provides views from the tallest brick lighthouse in North America.

The Cape Hatteras Lighthouse is normally open from the third Friday in April through Columbus Day in October. Climbing hours are 9 am to 4:30 pm daily. Tickets are required.

Climbing tickets are $8 for adults and $4 for senior citizens (62 or older), children (11 and under, and at least 42" tall), and the disabled. Tickets are available on a first come, first served basis and can only be purchased in-person at the site the day of the climb. There are no advance ticket sales for regular climbs.

Ticket sales begin at 9:00 am and climbs begin at 9 am, running every 10 minutes with a limit of 30 visitors per climb. Ticket sales close at 4:25 pm. Ticket holders should arrive at the base of the lighthouse five minutes prior to their ticketed climb time.