Currituck Beach Lighthouse
Fact Sheet:
  • Completed - (activated) Dec. 1, 1875
  • Height to top - 162 ft.
  • Height to focal plane - 158 ft.
  • Beacon Type - First order Polygonal Fresnel lens, 1000 watt light
  • Beacon distance - 18-19 nautical miles (about 16.5 statute miles)
  • Light pattern - On 3 sec./Off 17 sec. - dusk to dawn
  • No. of lighthouse steps - 214
  • Open to public to climb - Yes (approx. Easter through Thanksgiving)
  • Location - Corolla: 36° 22'36" N latitude, 75° 49'51'W longitude
    (at beacon - N 36.37684  W 75.83069 or 36° 22'14.44"N  75° 49'50.48")
  • Keeper's House - Not open to public. The only surviving Victorian stick style grand Double Keepers Quarters of three ever built by the U.S. Lighthouse Board. Exterior restored. Interior mostly restored, but not period furnished at this time.
  • Management - Beacon operation maintained by the U.S. Coast Guard. Lighthouse and grounds owned by the non-profit group Outer Banks Conservationists, Inc.
  • How to get there - From US 158 at Martin's Point (between Kitty Hawk and Southern Shores), take Highway 12 north 21.5 miles to Corolla. Turn left into the Whalehead Club entrance and then right at the "guard house". This drive takes you around to the lighthouse parking and entrance. Or you can turn left just past the Whalehead Club entrance onto Corolla Village Road between the Whalehead Club and the lighthouse.

Currituck Beach Lighthouse is certainly the most elegant of North Carolina's lighthouses. It was the third of three lighthouses built under the skilled supervision of Dexter Stetson, who was construction forman for the Cape Hatteras and Bodie Island lighthouses as well.
Currituck's beacon pierces a foggy, rainy night. Note the beams project only to the east toward the ocean.

As fate would have it, construction on Currituck Beach Lighthouse had only begun the year Cape Lookout, Cape Hatteras and Bodie Island received their black and white markings. So Currituck was spared from the painters brush, and stands today as bare red brick. But it's this very distinction that not only lets us see what the others once looked like, but allows the architectural dignity and detail of this brick marvel to be appreciated.

Like Bodie Island, this lighthouse has a First Order Fresnel lens. When lit with its 1000 watt lamp, it provides a comforting site against the deep blue of a cool night sky. On a foggy night the beacon's eastward orientation becomes evident.

Currituck's First Order Fresnel lens.
These photos show that some of the elements are not present at the top and bottom on the west side of the Fresnel lens (left of images).

The upper and lower lens elements are present only on the east side of this non-rotating Fresnel lens, shown in the photos at left. Alt Though the beacon is visible from all directions, the Fresnel lens elements focus the light into an array of beams projected eastward toward the ocean, providing greater visible range over the Atlantic.

Much less visibility range is needed to the west because Currituck Sound is only about seven miles wide, and the lighthouse was never meant to be a warning to vessels on the sound. Its purpose was to warn ships on the Atlantic to stay away from the coast line, and to help them identify their location by referencing the lighthouse.
The lighthouse is a virtual twin in it's design and construction to Bodie Island Lighthouse. Comparing these images below of the workroom/entrance to those from the Bodie Island Lighthouse pages makes this quite evident. The layout inside the workroom building and the detail of the construction inside and outside the lighthouses are identical in almost every respect.

The granite arch over the entrance says "1873", the year construction began. The eave brackets, the brackets supporting the entrance roof, and the Victorian stick decoration over the entrance look identical to those of Bodie Island's workroom. Everything was true to the Victorian spirit. Even the hinges on the entrance door are ornately decorated, as shown in the far right photo below.

The south workroom is now used as an office for ticket sales to climb the lighthouse. The north workroom is shown in the panoramic photo at left. It contains a display of information and historical items. The photo at immediate right shows the view up the entrance hall, looking up the steps to the "well" inside the base of the lighthouse. At far right is the view from the "well" looking down the hallway to the entrance. Note the hall floor is tiled in black and white marble, just like the Cape Hatteras and Bodie Island Lighthouses.The hall ceiling is high and arched, giving the feeling of great space.

The "well" is seen at right, viewed from the first flight of stairs, looking out to the entrance hall. It is a circular depression in the center of the floor. The weights that powered the beacon rotating mechanism were lowered into the "well" for servicing of the mechanism or cable. They worked similar to the weights that are wound up to run a grandfather clock.

Waiting to climb

Click any thumbnail for a larger view.
Stair construction is identical to Bodie Island Lighthouse, as well as the railing and banister design details. Individual risers bolt together to form the staircase, a technique first seen in the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse. But unlike Cape Hatteras which has alternating landings, both Currituck Beach Lighthouse and Bodie Island Lighthouse stairs have landings all on the same side. This allows a wonderful view up the center of the stairwell, as seen in the photos looking up the stairs (lower left), and looking down (lower right).

The rings attached to the edge of each landing in the photos at left are the guides for the cable which held the weight that powered the beacon rotating mechanism. The far right photo shows one of the large museum quality informational and historical displays about Currituck Beach Lighthouse, the Keeper's Quarters, the invention of the Fresnel lens, and about lighthouses in general. These are located on the first floor, and the first two landings.

One detail that is surely missed by most visitors is the interesting glass skylights in the floor of the lantern room. These are seen above the last flight of stairs as you reach the door leading out to the gallery. Since this flight of stairs wraps around the mechanical room, which is encased in metal, no light reaches here from the lower windows in the lighthouse. These skylights let in daylight from above, and also allow the beacon light to illuminate this last flight of steps at night. At right is a photo of those same skylights viewed from the lantern room, inset into the floor. This is but another example of the detail and workmanship that went into the construction of not only this lighthouse, but Bodie Island and Cape Hatteras lighthouses as well. The large cable in the photo is a grounding cable for the lighting rod.

Once you reach the top of Currituck Beach Lighthouse, you find that the view is well worth the climb. The barrier island is narrow here, affording spectacular views of both the sound and the ocean, as exemplified at left in the photo looking south. On a clear day with good binoculars you can see more than 15 miles south beyond Duck, perhaps as far as Southern Shores. In the original large format photo if the image at left, the water tower at Duck is easily identified, as is another water tower and other structures farther south that have not yet been researched for an identity.

Looking northeast over the village of Corolla in the photo at right, the residences along the beach appear to end. This is where the north end of NC Hwy. 12 terminates at a beach access ramp. It is also where the horse fence crosses the island from sound to ocean, to keep the wild horses safe from the dangers of traffic along NC 12. North of here is 4WD traffic only. The only highway is the beach, and the only roads are dirt and sand to reach many more homes farther north in the communities of Swan Beach, North Swan Beach and Carova. To learn more about this area north, read about "Finding The Wild Horses of Corolla".

Looking south again, the next door neighbor to the lighthouse grounds is the historic Whalehead Club property, now being restored and operated by Currituck County as a recreational and historic area. This provides an additional scenic gem to appreciate from atop the lighthouse, as well as some great vistas of the lighthouse from the Whalehead Club grounds.

This aerial view, courtesy of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, will provide a good visual orientation between the lighthouse property and Whalehead Club grounds. In September, 2003, just after Hurricane Isabel, NOAA took aerial photos of the entire Outer Banks, including all the lighthouses. Though these photos have been reduced somewhat, they are still quite large.
The thumbnail at left is actual size and was "cropped" from the large photo. The full image shows Currituck Beach Lighthouse and the entire Whalehead Club property next to it.

In this image, the far left gray object is the duplex Keepers Quarters. The tan object in the center is the lighthouse. The lighthouse shadow stretches from the lighthouse toward the right side of the image.

Next, the unique beauty of the Currituck Beach Light Station is revealed in the immaculate landscaping and Victorian Keeper's house. is very pleased to bring you exclusive photos of some of the interior of this grand duplex Keeper's house on the next page.

Continue to Currituck Beach Lighthouse - Page Two >

Navigate to individual lighthouse pages with these buttons.

Currituck Beach Lighthouse
- Page Two

Related Links -

Scenic Places -
Historic Corolla

Official Currituck Beach Lighthouse web site

Beautiful Photos of
Currituck Beach Lighthouse in the Lighthouse Gallery

Beautiful Photos of
Currituck Beach Lighthouse in the Lighthouse Gallery

Copyright © 2003 Fred Hurteau           * Copyright information and image use policy *

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