Bodie Island Light House in the Outer Banks

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Are you looking for something to do while in the Outer Banks besides enjoying the Cape Hatteras National Seashore? Make a stop at Bodie Island Light House! This lighthouse is open for climbing and offers stunning views from the top!

boardwalk at bodie island lighthouse.


This iconic lighthouse on the Outer Banks of North Carolina has been guiding sailors safely through the treacherous waters of the Atlantic since 1872. Today, visitors can climb to the top of the tower and take in panoramic vistas of the ocean and surrounding marshlands.

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Before the tower that stands today, two smaller lighthouses had fallen. The first lighthouse opened in the spring of 1848 and was a mere 54 feet tall. However, the structure was demolished in 1859 due to poor construction.

Construction of the second lighthouse was completed in 1859. This tower was taller than the last, standing 80 feet tall. Sadly, this tower only stood for a couple of years. In 1861, Confederate troops blew it up because they did not want Union troops using it as a lookout.

The third lighthouse, which is the one that still stands today, was first lit on October 1st, 1872. The lighthouse was lit with a first-order Fresnel Lens, which has over an 18-mile range, and this range is much better than that of the first two lighthouses.

First-order Fresnel Lens at the top of the lighthouse.
First-order Fresnel Lens in the current Bodie Island Light Station.

Soon after the first lighting, the lighthouse keepers’ quarters duplex was completed. The lighthouse had various keepers over the years, and it operated under a series of primary and assistant keepers for decades. In 1932, the lighthouse was electrified, meaning an on-site lighthouse keeper was unnecessary.

In 1953, the National Park Service acquired the property where the lighthouse stands today. However, they didn’t have jurisdiction over the lighthouse until July 2000.

Getting There

The Bodie Island Lighthouse is located at the northern end of the Cape Hatteras National Seashore in Nags Head, North Carolina. This lighthouse sits near a freshwater marshland, which is not typically where you’d imagine a lighthouse. The area is quite stunning.

Bodie Island Light Station in the outer banks.

To get here, take you’ll take North Carolina Highway 12. Then, you’ll turn onto Bodie Island Lighthouse Road, across from Coquina Beach. Parking is free. However, visitors should note that parking at the lighthouse can be limited, so arriving early in the day is recommended.

Things to Do

There are multiple things to do during your visit to Bodie Island Lighthouse. Whether you’re looking to take photographs, learn history, or enjoy the lighthouse, there’s something for everyone to do at this Outer Banks lighthouse.

Visitor Center

The visitor center is a great place to start your visit. The visitor center is in the old on-site lighthouse keeper’s quarters. Inside, you’ll find displays that give you a glimpse into the history of the Bodie Island Lighthouse. You’ll find exhibits showcasing artifacts from daily life for keepers and their families throughout its operation.

Views of Visitor Center from the top of the lighthouse.
View of the Visitor Center from the top of the ligthouse.

Additionally, you’ll learn the history of lighthouses and their vital role in maritime navigation. From antique lanterns to modern GPS technology, you’ll learn how lighthouses have evolved to help ships avoid dangerous shoals and reefs.

After you’ve soaked up the history and fascinating facts, be sure to check out the park store to get yourself a souvenir to remember your visit!

Climb The Bodie Island Lighthouse

One of the most popular things to do is climb the lighthouse. To climb up the tower, you’ll have to reserve a spot. Tickets are available online and can only be purchased on the day that you plan to climb the lighthouse.

Bodie Island Light Station ticket.

It should be noted that this is seasonal, with the season being spring through fall. Additionally, tours might be canceled due to poor weather conditions that make climbing to the top of the tower unsafe.

To get to the top of the lighthouse, you’ll climb 214 steps. It’s like climbing a 10-story building! There are various landings to take a breather at as you make your way up to the top. Also, fair warning, it can get quite hot inside the lighthouse in the summer months.

Spiral staircase in the lighthouse.

When you reach the top, you will have stunning views of the surrounding landscape. You’ll get spectacular views of the marshlands below, Roanoke Sound, and the Oregon Inlet. Additionally, you’ll be able to view the first-order Fresnel lens while you’re at the top of the tower!

Marshlands from the top of the lighthouse.

Walk Around The Property

And last but not least, be sure to walk around the beautiful property that the lighthouse stands on. Take the boardwalk to the viewing platform for the marshlands. You might even see some wildlife in the marsh!

posing at the viewing deck by the bodie island marshlands.

Why Visit Bodie Island Lighthouse

Bodie Island Light Station is a must-see destination for anyone who loves history, nature, and stunning views of the shoreline and marshlands. There’s a little something for everyone at this beautiful Outer Banks lighthouse.


Can you go inside the Bodie Island Lighthouse?

Yes, you can go inside and climb to the top of this Outer Banks lighthouse. To climb up the lighthouse, you must reserve tickets online on the day you plan to visit, and unfortunately, you cannot order tickets ahead of time.

Why is it called Bodie Island Light House?

The lighthouse is named after the area where it was built – Bodie Island, known initially as Body Island. The site is reportedly named after a family who owned the land. However, folklore also says the name is from the many shipwrecked bodies that washed ashore.

How many stairs does Bodie Island Light Station have?

The Bodie Island Lighthouse is just over 200 steps from the ground to the top, equivalent to climbing a 10-story building.


Are you looking for more lighthouses to visit on the east coast? Be sure to check out these other lighthouse guides too.

While you’re in the Outer Banks, be sure you also check out Jockey’s Ridge State Park!

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