Ocracoke Lighthouse
Fact Sheet:
  • Completed - 1823
  • Height to top - (Park Service figures conflict) either 75 feet, or 65 feet plus lantern room
  • Height to focal plane - 75 ft.
  • Beacon Type - 4th order Fresnel lens
  • Beacon distance - 14 miles (whether nautical or statute not specified by any official source)
  • Light pattern - fixed, continuous, dusk to dawn
  • No. of lighthouse steps -No official information. One source states "about 100 steps".
  • Open to public to climb - No. (Keeper's Quarters and yard inside fence are off limits. Visitors can walk in a narrow corridor along a fence past the Keeper's Quarters between the street and the lighthouse. Approximately four parking spaces are available, with 15 min. parking limit.)
  • Location - Lighthouse Road past Albert Styron's Store, south side of Silver Lake (harbor), Ocracoke Village.
  • Keeper's Houses - Two-story brick Keeper's Quarters, not open to public.
  • Management - Beacon operation maintained by the U.S. Coast Guard. Lighthouse grounds controlled by National Park Service.
  • How to get there - (1) From the ferry dock on Silver Lake take the drive around the lake to the south side and turn left onto Creek Drive just past "The Castle". Where Creek Drive "Y's" into Lighthouse Road at Albert Styron's Store, bear right. Drive slowly and look to the right for the lighthouse- sits back off the road. (2) From Hatteras ferry dock take NC 12 (the only road) south to Ocracoke village. Turn left at the Island Inn onto Lighthouse Road (last street on the left before you run into Silver Lake). Continue just past Creek Drive on the right. Look to the right for the lighthouse - sits back off the road.

Thank goodness the Ocracoke Lighthouse is on Ocracoke. Any of the "tall" lighthouses from North Carolina's amazing collection of coastal beacons would look grossly out of place next to Silver Lake. The crude asymmetrical construction of Ocracoke Lighthouse left it lop-sided, with its top and lantern room both off center (right photo). But, in spite of it's imperfections, it is a pleasure to behold. The diagonal astragal design of the lantern windows gives its lantern a visual charm quite apart from the "tall" lighthouses. The "beehive" shaped 4th Order Fresnel lens gives its beacon a warmth that befits the Ocracoke community.
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(Stairs photos by Dennis Coz, Parkman Twp., OH)
There is virtually no official information available from the National Park Service or the US Coast Guard about the inside of the lighthouse. It is not open for the public to see or climb. Through acquaintances in Ocracoke village it has been learned the lighthouse is opened on July 4th each year for people to see inside, and sometimes scout troops or other special visitors are permitted inside for a peek. Still, no one supposedly is allowed to climb the stairs because they are in poor condition and quite wobbly.

These photos of the stairs (at left and right), show they are similar in design to the stairs of Cape Lookout Lighthouse, in that they look like fan blades or propeller blades spiraling out from a central pole. The photo of the stairs (left) provided by Dennis Coz of Parkman Twp., OH, is a great view of the metal steps as they spiral up inside the thick-walled lighthouse. The photo at right, also from Dennis, shows the central pole and the thick wall at a window opening. Only a few brackets, spaced randomly along the stairs, secure it to the walls. This makes for a very rickety, wobbly installation, particularly in light of the very slim central pole. It's no wonder the public is not allowed to climb it.

Little is known about the Keeper's Quarters. It is not open to the public, and is said to be used as a "private residence". Whether this is for park service personnel or someone else is not indicated in any park service information.

Flash back 30 years: Things change on the Outer Banks in 30 years. Hurricane Isabel's recent rampage certainly put's the exclamation point on that bit of news. So it's no surprise the Ocracoke Lighthouse grounds look a bit different in 2003 than they did back in 1973.

The old sheds that stood along the fence in front of the Keeper's Quarters (left side of photos at right) are now gone. Back then visitors could walk through the yard, as evidenced by the photographer's camera case left in the middle of the driveway. The second photo shows a little more detail of one of the old sheds.

The first photo at right shows a view framed by a large cedar tree taken from the east end of the Keeper's Quarters. Now the grounds are closed, so you just can't go take a photo from that spot any longer. Note the bush between the old "oil storage shed" and the lighthouse base. It's now gone. The shed itself is different too. The yellow box is now gone, and the door is no longer green. In spite of the changes around it, Ocracoke Lighthouse itself looks just the same today as it did then.
Compare the 1973 photos above with these from 2003 (left & right). The addition of a boardwalk (far right) affords handicapped access and helps keep the grass from being trampled to death by the crowds. The down side is that it greatly detracts from the aesthetics of the view. has over 75 views of Ocracoke Lighthouse, more than anywhere else on the web. Many views are totally unique, and can only be found at

Fred Hurteau
creator, photographer and
web designer,at
Ocracoke Lighthouse.
(click any image for a larger view)

In September, 2003, just after Hurricane Isabel, NOAA took aerial photos of the entire Outer Banks, including all the lighthouses. In this NOAA photo the board walk access to Ocracoke Lighthouse runs along the fence from the road (lower right corner) to the lighthouse (upper left corner). The red-roofed building is the Keepers Quarters, but it and the entire property is off limits to visitors. Standing water (long dark patch) from Hurricane Isabel is evident along the boardwalk.

Many more photos of Ocracoke Lighthouse on page 2.
Continue to Cape Hatteras Lighthouse - Page Two > Ocracoke

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Ocracoke Lighthouse
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Ocracoke Lighthouse in the Lighthouse Gallery

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

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