Cape Hatteras Lighthouse

Buxton, NC


Latitude: 35.2501

Longitude: -75.5295



[UPDATE COMING SOON] In 1796 The United States Congress took up the debate as to whether a lighthouse should be constructed on the Outer-Banks of North Carolina. Shippers had been complaining for years about the dangerous shoals located off the coast. But because of fiscal restraints and indecision, nothing was done for six years.


Finally, in 1802, money was appropriated to build a light at Cape Point. The new tower was originally 95 feet above sea level. It was an octagonal tower built of brick, sitting on a stone foundation. The builder was Henry Dearborn, a man who had attained a respected reputation as a physician, congressman, Revolutionary war officer and later, Ambassador of Portugal.


The lighthouse, which contained Argand lamps and parabolic reflectors, was considered by most ships' captains to be unsatisfactory. Their complaint was that the light had little or no visibility during haze or low fog. So, in 1851 the Lighthouse Board, after hearing many complaints and recommendations, decided to have the lighthouse raised to 150 feet as well as be fitted with a new first-order Fresnel lens.


At the end of the Civil War, the new Lighthouse Board found the existing light to be in bad shape and beyond repair. It was the board's recommendation that the lighthouse be replaced with something more modern in order to handle the evergrowing shipping needs in that area. In 1867, Congress appropriated the necessary funds and construction was begun in 1868. At $155,000 the second Cape Hatteras Light was one of the more expensive lights on the East Coast. The present lighthouse contains approximately 1,250,000 bricks, which came from various brick kilns along the James River in Virginia. Dexter Stetson was the superintendent of construction.


On September 16th, 1870, the light was activated and the new conical shaped brick tower became the tallest lighthouse in the United States, at 198 feet tall, overall.


Because of erosion and the shifting barrier islands of the Outer Banks, the encroaching sea has always been a problem. When built in 1870 the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse was approximately 1,600 feet from the sea. By 1930 the water was only 150 feet from the base.

In 1999, International Chimney Corporation began moving the 4,800 ton structure inland 1,600 feet and at an angle away from the coastline some 2,900 feet, putting it in the same relative location from the sea that the original light was located 100 years earlier.

2003 marked the 200th Anniversary Year of the first lighthouse at Cape Hatteras!!


Open All Year except Dec. 25, 9am - 6pm in summer, 9am - 5pm rest of year. The lighthouse opens for climbing  mid-April and the last day for climbing is Columbus Day in October. 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 required; please visit for more information or call252-995-4474. During the summer CAHA offers ‘full moon’ climbs. Two groups climb the evening of full moons aided only by flashlights.


Cape Hatteras Lighthouse is located within the Cape Hatteras National Seashore. The NPS celebrates it's 100th anniversary in 2016. The grounds are open year-round. A Condition Assessment for the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse was completed by Joseph K. Oppermann, Architect, P.A. in 2014.  The NPS Historic Preservation Training Center (HPTC) will be developing a Historic Structure Report for the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse to include a Management Summary, Developmental History, and guidelines for Treatment and Use; work on the report will begin this spring.  These reports will serve as guidelines for future lighthouse renovations (no set dates available at this time).


The lighthouse opens for climbing each year in April and the last day for climbing is Columbus Day in October. For more information visit:


DirectionsThe lighthouse is located just off Hwy 12 near the small town of Buxton, NC. Buxton is located approximately 50 miles south of Nags Head, NC. If you are traveling south on Hwy 12 the turn off is on your left just after you drive through the town. Watch for the signs.