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North Carolina Lighthouses

Another great trip with Holiday Tours visiting all seven of the coastal lighthouses. This web site has a very good map of the seven lighthouses covered during our four day trip August 16 - 20, 2001

My parents and I left Winston-Salem at 3:30 on Thursday morning to get the bus from Holiday Tours located in Level Cross, NC. We arrived with plenty of time to spare for our 5 am departure time. After picking up other passengers in Greensboro and Burlington we stopped for breakfast at a nearby Hardee's then headed on our way.

You will notice as you go along on my trip that the light houses are painted in different designs of black and white to allow sailors the ability  to distinguish one lighthouse from another. Links to each lighthouse will explain the history and physical information for each one as well as explain the meanings for the various paint designs. 

TMP4.jpg (20189 bytes)  After about a four hour drive we reached our first lighthouse Oak Island located on Caswell Beach.  After a short time for picture taking we were back on the bus. After our lunch stop we loaded back on the bus for the short drive over to Southport to catch the ferry for our second lighthouse, Old Baldy, Cape Fear Lighthouse located on  Bald Head Island. TMP5.jpg (28466 bytes) Here is a picture of the type of ferry that took us over and back on the 25 minute ride across the Cape Fear River.

 

TMP6.jpg (33267 bytes)   Upon arriving we had to wait for our tour director to get our golf carts for touring the island that you can see in the foreground of this picture. There are no gasoline powered vehicles allowed on the island except for the emergency vehicles. Tourists and residents use bicycles and golf carts. We had six carts that held either four or six passengers. Several of our tour group members drove the carts. Equipped with a map of the island we spent several hours riding around the island seeing the various sites including the Old Baldy. 

TMP23.jpg (36763 bytes)  Myself and several others on the tour chose to climb the lighthouse while the other folks  waited below. The 108 stair climb was hot and difficult. As you ascended the wooden stairs they became narrower until there remained only a small ladder of nine rungs left to step into the Lanthorn, the room that held the lens and lamp. In order to get into the room you had to negotiate a tiny trap door only 24" x 30".

After three hours of touring the island which is very pretty with lots of scrub pine and sand dunes we took the 4:30 ferry back across the water and proceeded to our hotel located in nearby Wilmington, NC for the night. It was a long day and we were all in bed asleep by ten o'clock.

Next morning we were up at 6:30, showered, breakfast, and on the road by 9 am for the two hour ride over to Beaufort, NC. This stop was a nice extra thrown in to the trip by the tour director because we had time to make a stop on the way to our ferry for the afternoon lighthouse. We spent a couple of hours walking around the shops along the waterfront and eating lunch at one of the local cafes.

   TMP9.jpg (33767 bytes)    TMP10.jpg (45355 bytes)  Then on to Harker's Island and Cape Lookout National Seashore. We unloaded at this building which serves as a small store for buying fishing supplies, cold drinks, souvenirs, ferry tickets, etc. There is not any food or drink available on the island. We then loaded onto those boats for a fast 25 minute ride across the water to one of the few Natural Barrier Islands left on the east coast. Upon arriving at the island we were loaded onto trucks with very hard wooden benches for our island tour. The first picture is the shore where they let us off and picked us up on the island. That's my dad waving from the truck he was riding on.

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TMP24.jpg (25517 bytes)   This lighthouse is still used today and is not open to the public. There are no paved roads on the island except a short stretch leading up to the coast guard station for transport of tanks during WWII. The island is now part of the National Parks Service and contains lovely stretches of natural beach and wild flowers. 

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We drove 8 miles around the island to this beautiful beach. The tour guide left us at the beach for a thirty minutes to look for shells and stroll along the water. He then returned to take us the 8 mile  back to the lighthouse on a different route to see some of the other areas of the island. The sand roads are rutted and very difficult to drive making our journal rather bumpy. It was very hot and sunny but a lot of fun. Any trash you take along with you like drink bottles or food wrappers must be taken back with you when you leave. That night we drove on to Morehead City, NC for our nights lodging. 

 TMP15.jpg (50875 bytes)    TMP16.jpg (18854 bytes)    Next morning we were up at 5:30, packed, and had breakfast to be on the bus by 8:00. Today, we rode over to catch the ferry from Cedar Island to Ocracoke. We had a about thirty minutes to shop at the gift shop before getting back on the bus to load onto the ferry. Once the bus was on the ferry we were allowed to leave the bus and walk around. The 22 mile crossing of the Pamlico Sound took two hours and fifteen minutes. Air conditioned lounges are provided as well as benches atop an observation deck. Many of the adults and children on the ferry were feeding the sea gulls.

It was pretty hot on the ferry so we walked around looking for cool places to stand. You could not see anything but water on either side. The ferry was moving so slow there was not really much of a breeze. Fortunately as the ferry steered its coarse toward Ocracoke Island, a breeze picked up and we had a fairly cool ride for the end of the ride.

TMP29.jpg (29904 bytes)  Once on the island we stopped for lunch at a local cafe and then drove over to the lighthouse for photo opportunities before getting back on the bus. As with the other lighthouses, this is one of many that I took.

TMP17.jpg (23677 bytes) We then proceed to drive along the Outer Banks on Route 12 that runs between the Pamlico Sound and the Atlantic Ocean to our next ferry which was a short 45 minute ride over to Hatteras Island to see one of the most famous lights houses in the America. 

TMP25.jpg (30566 bytes) This is the lighthouse that was moved to save it from falling into the ocean due to beach erosion. Unfortunately for us it is closed right now for climbing because of some unsafe stairs. Instead we had to be content with taking pictures and walking around the nearby museum.

TMP26.jpg (24662 bytes) TMP18.jpg (29920 bytes) TMP19.jpg (33705 bytes)From there we continued our ride along route 12 to the Bodie Island Lighthouse. While we could not climb the lighthouse we were able to go inside and take pictures. These stairs are exactly like the ones that I will be climbing tomorrow at our last lighthouse we visit. After visiting the museum and gift shop we loaded the bus for our drive to Kitty Hawk for our nights lodging. We passed the famous Jockey's Ridge well known for its hang gliding facilities. We finally arrived at the hotel around 6:00. It had been a long day but a lot of fun.

TMP27.jpg (28350 bytes)  The next morning we left our hotel for the short ride over to Kitty Hawk the site of the famous first airplane flight by the Wright Brothers. I climbed the hill up to the Wright Brothers Memorial for a picture and walked around the entire sculpture then back down to the bus to ride over to the museum and enjoy a thirty minute talk about the Wright Brothers and how they came to Kitty Hawk by one of the park rangers. 

TMP28.jpg (46890 bytes)Afterwards we loaded back on the bus for the beautiful drive over to our last lighthouse, Currituck in the small town of Corrolla. As I mentioned we were able to climb this lighthouse with its 213 steps up to a viewing platform at the top. This climb was much easier than Old Baldy. Once at the top you could see the wonderful forests surrounding the lighthouse and the small village down below. If you look real close you can see my dad sitting on that bench beside the house. And of course that is yours truly taken by one of our nice folks from the tour that also climbed to the top.

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So far we had been very lucky with the weather. This morning it had rained before we got to the lighthouse and as we were finishing up our tour it began to rain and thunder. 

Back on the bus for the drive back to Kitty Hawk for lunch then on the road for the long trip home. We arrived back at Level Cross at 9:00, loaded the car and set off for home. After dropping off mom and dad at their house I was home by 10:30 pm. 

What a great trip this was. Wonderful scenery, lots of fun, and a great learning experience. My favorite two lighthouses were Bodie and Currituck. My favorite island was Harker's where we rode the trucks. All in all, a great trip. And as usual we met some wonderful people on the tour bus. We had a family of four with two girls and a lady traveling with her 8 year old son. They certainly added to the fun of the trip with their enthusiasm and great company.

If you are coming to North Carolina and do not have a trip planned, I highly recommend the Outer Banks region and visiting some of these wonderful lighthouses along our coast.

Visit my travel page to see some of the other trips I have taken in the last few years.

 

Updated Saturday, April 26, 2003

 

 

Copyright 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004 by Barbara Fritchman Thompson. All Rights Reserved.