I love North Carolina’s four tall brick lighthouses. They are spaced about forty miles apart along the Outer Banks. From north to south, they are the Currituck Lighthouse, the Bodie Island Lighthouse, the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, and the Cape Lookout Lighthouse. Mariners called this stretch of the North Carolina coast the “Graveyard of the Atlantic” due to the number of shipwrecks that occurred along the Outer Banks.
The light beams from these tall lighthouses had a range of approximately twenty miles. The lighthouses were positioned along the coast so that ships would not be out of range of light very long in clear weather. Cape Hatteras is the most visited and most famous lighthouse, but my favorite is the Cape Lookout Lighthouse.
Cape Lookout Lighthouse and Sea Oats
These lighthouses were built between the late 1850s and the mid 1870s. They were not the first light stations to grace these islands. Earlier lighthouses failed since their light beams were too weak, their foundations were not strong, and the structures could not withstand powerful Atlantic storms.
Location of the first Cape Lookout Lighthouse
The current Cape Lookout Lighthouse is the second lighthouse on Cape Lookout. It replaced a lighthouse built in 1812. The first lighthouse was only 107 feet tall. The following facts are from the park newspaper at the Cape Lookout National Seashore.
Year current lighthouse completed 1859
Year painted with daymark pattern 1873
Year automated 1950
Height above sea level 169 ft.
Height above ground level 163 ft.
Focal plane of the lantern above mean high water 150 ft.
Wall thickness at the base 9 ft.
Wall thickness at the top 1 ft. 7 in.
Base diameter 28 ft. 7 in.
Top diameter 13 ft. 3 in.
Number of steps to gallery 207
Number of stair landings 5
Number of windows 10
Number of doors 2
When this lighthouse was finished the U. S. Lighthouse Board knew they finally had a suitable plan for tall lighthouses. The Civil War interrupted the construction schedule, resulting in more ship wrecks along the North Carolina coast. Once the war finally ended, the government made construction of the remaining three lighthouses a priority.
You can drive to the Currituck, Bodie Island, and Cape Hatteras Lighthouses, but you have to take a boat to get to Cape Lookout. I think that is why it has fewer visitors and is less famous. You have to go out of your way to visit the Cape Lookout Lighthouse.
Cape Lookout Lightkeepers’ Quarters and Lighthouse from the ferry
Once you arrive on Cape Lookout, you will find a wilderness island with few amenities, except the beauty of nature.
There are birds of varying colors and sizes. . .
. . . sea shells . . .
. . . an island forest . . .
Cape Lookout National Seashore on a late summer day
. . . and miles of unspoiled beaches.
Lighthouses appear often in church names in North Carolina. The churches are the lighthouses, guiding us safely to our heavenly destination. But like these tall brick Outer Banks lighthouses, churches are not perfect and wrecks still occur even when following the “light.”
I think that is the case with many religions when it comes to gay people. Most churches don’t know what to do with us, so we are criticized, reviled, cast out, or beaten down until we walk away.
Looking across the dunes of Cape Lookout
I made a strange discovery some years ago. I felt closer to God on this island, out in nature, and in my home than I ever felt in a church. I can’t visit these islands often, but I can enjoy the beauty that surrounds where I live.
I feel rejuvenated each time I visit Cape Lookout. And while I am not anxious to leave, the journey from Cape Lookout back to Harkers Island and then to my home is beautiful.
Back Sound looking towards Shackleford Banks, between Cape Lookout and Harkers Island
May you find light and beauty on your journey. And if you are really lucky or blessed, may you, too, find a tall brick lighthouse.