Since 1875, this lighthouse has kept mariners from danger, night and day. The Keepers’ Dwelling has housed more than two dozen families, as their duties of “Lighthouse Keeper” were carried out. Today, our on-site keepers and staff continue the tradition: cleaning the lens, maintaining the structure and grounds, and most importantly, now – sharing it with you.
Hours of Operation
2023 Season March 18 – November 30
The Lighthouse and Museum Shop are open daily 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Free Climb Day on Season Opening Day: March 18
Open *weather permitting* – Closed for thunder, big storms, & Thanksgiving Day
$12 to climb lighthouse tower (ages 4 and up)
Admission is paid at front door of lighthouse and includes NC sales tax. (Advance and online ticketing are not available.)
We accept cash, checks, or credit cards.
75% of admission is deductible as a charitable donation
Admission to the grounds and the museum shop is free, along with parking.
There are no height restrictions but climbers must be at least 4 years old to climb. Children ages 0-3 may go to the top in a carrier/backpack only (free).
To climb the tower, visitors must sign a liability waiver. It indicates that there is risk in climbing a building where the architecture is preserved and interpreted for a period before modern building codes.
Drones and their pilots must stay outside the wooden fence that surrounds the Currituck Beach Lighthouse compound.
Leashed pets welcome on grounds.
Come See The Light
Currituck Beach Lighthouse towers above the northern Outer Banks in the Historic Corolla Village. The last brick and mortar lighthouse built in North Carolina, its unpainted red brick served as a day marker to distinguish it from other coastal lighthouses.
The Currituck Beach Lighthouse is a first-order lighthouse, having the largest of seven Fresnel lens sizes. With a 20-second flash cycle, the light can be seen from 18 nautical miles away. Upon entering, you will find exhibits interpreting the history and significance of the Currituck Beach Lighthouse; its role in cultural and maritime history on the Outer Banks is robust.
Climbing the Currituck Beach Lighthouse is always rewarding; at the top, you’re greeted with expansive views of the Currituck Sound, the Atlantic Ocean, and the northern Outer Banks.
Events & Programs
The Currituck Beach Lighthouse gladly welcomes large school or tour groups. To qualify for our guided-tour group rate, your party must have 15 or more guests and make arrangements at least 3 weeks in advance.
* Prior to climbing the lighthouse, we ask that each person in the group sign a liability statement. Don’t worry, we never share your information. To save time, the waiver will be mailed to the tour coordinator and must be turned in to Lighthouse staff upon arrival.
Get Married at the Lighthouse
We love sharing the lighthouse with you. If you need an unrivaled venue for your special day, look no further. Whether your party is 5 or 150, our grounds can provide a perfect environment for your wedding ceremony.
History of the Currituck Beach Lighthouse
1874 – Currituck Beach Lighthouse construction begins
At Morris Island, S.C. “Major Hains noted [in reference to the Morris Island Lighthouse, a sister lighthouse of the Currituck Beach Lighthouse in size and construction techniques] …’more careful estimate places the weight [of the tower] at 3,200 tons.’ He increased the size of the base to 22 feet, driving piles at 2’8″ centers rather than 2’10”. This increased the total number of piles to 264 and distributed only 12 tons of weight per pile. He was obviously attempting to provide a strong base, since each pile could bear up to 20 tons each.” If Currituck stuck with 230 pilings then each pile bears about 13.8 tons a pile… (which, according to math above is what Morris started out with before Major Hains changed it…)
December 1, 1875 – Currituck Beach Lighthouse is first illuminated.
It is a “fixed white light, varied by red flash every 90 seconds.”
May 8, 1876 – The Lighthouse Keepers’ dwelling is completed
The “graphic representation” is shown in the Currituck Beach Lighthouse at the 1876 Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia.
January, 1878 – The wreck of the Metropolis occurs near the Currituck Beach Lighthouse.
Lighthouse Keeper Nathaniel Burris cared for the shipwrecked, by his firsthand account: “I furnished food and shelter for sixty-one persons that night, and for about seventy-six for breakfast and dinner; also sheltered them that night and gave them a breakfast the following morning (Saturday). They left at noon for the steamer to Norfolk, Va.”
February, 1881 – Keeper’s dwelling is built at Long Point Light Station in the Currituck Sound
Now named the “Little Keeper’s House”, this building was moved to the Currituck Beach Lighthouse compound in 1920. The system of lighting beacons by compressed gas is first introduced.
April, 1884 – For the first time, the Currituck Beach Lighthouse is lit with mineral oil instead of lard oil
The new lamp – a Heat Moderator Lamp has 5 wicks instead of 4 with the Funck’s Hydraulic Float Lamp.
May 6, 1895 – A U.S. Post Office is established on Currituck Beach
The place as we know it today, Corolla, is officially named.
September 16, 1895 – The Currituck Beach Lighthouse keeper requests to build a schoolhouse
The Currituck Beach Lighthouse Keeper’s request to build a schoolhouse in Corolla is recommended for approval.
The Assistant Keeper’s Dwelling (now named the “Little Keeper’s House” in the Currituck Beach Lighthouse Compound) is barged from Long Point to Currituck Beach.
Keeper William Riley Austin describes his duties as a Keeper, by stating the number of hours working the position per day. The average was 15 hours per day, and 105 hours per week.
August, 1927 – The first Assistant Keeper George Johnson’s daughter, Sadie, drowns at Virginia Beach
Historical records state: “The Coast Guard worked for two hours in an endeavor to resuscitate her, without success. The body was taken to Corolla for interment.”
September, 1928 – First Assistant Keeper Johnson describes his job, giving a glimpse into life in of the times
“Enters on duty at 12:00 midnight, inspects working condition of light and machinery, relieves man on duty and takes over responsibility of watch until sunrise. Machinery that runs lens to be wound every three hours, at sunrise extinguishes light, put on lens cover, draw off remaining oil in oil tank, lower sunshades and put the watch room in general order. Enter on book in every detail general condition of watch. Sweep stairway on leaving tower, report to Keeper in charge at 8 a.m. for general work on reservation and tower such as painting, scrubbing paint, polishing brass repairing wood work until 12:00 noon; afternoon man on sunset duty lays in, sleeps or rests, just as he chooses 20 minutes before sunset. Man on watch enters tower preparing to have lamp burning at sunset; occasional trips of 15 miles with motor boat to transport empty oil drums and for supplies.”
July 4, 1933 – The lighthouse is electrified
The Keepers assist workmen to install generators and the clockwork and bullseye are removed from the lantern.
September, 1937 – Currituck Beach Lighthouse is “made automatic, and personnel is discontinued.”
Coinjock Lighthouse Reservation Keeper Bill Tate (who answered the Wright Brothers’ letter decades earlier when he was the Kitty Hawk postmaster) takes over Currituck Beach Lighthouse duties. “…by planning his trips, the shorter run can usually be made, in approximately 3 hours time round trip. In order to charge the batteries properly and inspect lamps and other equipment, the keeper would visit the station every seven (7) days, and since it will require approximately 8 hours charging each trip, he would devote a minimum of four (4) days a month on this additional work. He would pass only one of the lights in his group while proceeding to and from the station…”
July, 1939 – The U.S. Coast Guard assumes responsibility for all national lighthouses
U.S. Coast Guard assumes responsibility for all national lighthouses, taking over for the (now-defunct) Bureau of Light-Houses.
1945 (approximately) – The U.S. Coast Guard vacates the Currituck Beach Lighthouse property after World War II
As such, the site is not maintained and begins its transition into disrepair. Plans were made to update the Keepers’ Dwelling, although the repairs never took place, due to abandonment.
January, 1952 – The 31-acre tract associated with the Currituck Beach Lighthouse is sold by the United States of America
The State of North Carolina paid $3,000 for “muskrat experimentation and research, recreational, or other public purposes…”
The Currituck Beach Lighthouse is entered into the National Register of Historic Places.
January 30, 1980 – Outer Banks Conservationists, Inc. is incorporated
With plans to restore the 1876 Keepers’ Dwelling, the group enters into a long-term lease with the State of North Carolina.
The storehouse, which was moved down the road into Corolla Village around 1960, returns to the Currituck Beach Lighthouse site. Today, it is used as an administrative office.
1980 – 2002
Extensive repairs and renovations begin on the Currituck Beach Lighthouse Keepers’ Dwelling and tower in 1990. For major restoration work on the tower, Outer Banks Conservationists hired International Chimney Corporation beginning in 1999. Larger tasks over the decades have included: lead paint removal, masonry repair, iron repair, rust removal, re-painting, window replacement, iron casting, welding, and more.
October 17, 2003
The deed for Currituck Beach Lighthouse is transferred to Outer Banks Conservationists by the Department of the Interior.
The Currituck Beach Lighthouse remains open to the public 7 days per week during the season, which runs mid-March – December. Outer Banks Conservationists, Inc. continues to maintain and complete all preservation work on the tower, and all structures within the Lighthouse compound.
How to Find Us
The lighthouse entrance is 20 miles north of Highway 158 and Route 12 junction; take the third or fourth left after Corolla’s 11-mile marker, just beyond the Historic Corolla Park sign. The lighthouse is just north of the Historic Corolla Park and Historic Whalehead.
Currituck Beach Lighthouse Office
Currituck Beach Lighthouse Museum Shop
More questions? Contact the Currituck Beach Lighthouse Site Manager.