Think you’ve seen all there is to see in OBX? Missed the Bodie Island Lighthouse? Hold onto your beach hats,—you’re about to get schooled on why the Outer Banks Bodie Lighthouse is a historical gem is a can’t-miss.
Picture this: You’re in the Outer Banks, soaking up the sun, riding the waves, and living your best beach life. Sounds like the dream, right? Well, pump the bicycle brakes because if you haven’t visited the Bodie Island Lighthouse, you’re missing out on a slice of OBX that’s as iconic as the sea salt in the air.
Let’s get you up to speed on this must-see monument that’s chock-full of history, haunts, and mind-blowing vistas. We love visiting this lighthouse, and we hope you will too!
Table of Contents
20 Bodie Island Lighthouse Facts You Gotta Know!
This guide is your lighthouse encyclopedia packed into one easy read. Whether you’re an OBX first-timer or a lighthouse buff, we’ve got you covered with facts that’ll brighten your visit.
1. The Unlucky First Build Of The Bodie Island Lighthouse
You’re not going to believe this. The very first Bodie Island Lighthouse had more drama than a reality TV show. Built in 1847 on Pea Island (not even on Bodie Island, mind you!), the foundation was so shoddy it started leaning within a few years.
Yep, we’re talking Pisa-level tilt here, folks. Engineers ultimately gave it the side-eye and decommissioned it in 1859. So, if you’re having a bad day, just remember: at least you’re not the structural engineer who screwed up the foundation of a lighthouse.
One more juicy tidbit about the Bodie Island Lighthouse: The cost of the land for the Bodie Lighthouse was only $150 in 1846.
2. A Civil War Casualty: Bodie Island Lighthouse
You’d think after the first disaster, the second Bodie Island Lighthouse would be smooth sailing, right? Wrong. This one had the misfortune of being caught up in the Civil War. Built in 1859 as a do-over, this lighthouse became an unwitting pawn in the conflict. In 1861, Confederate troops took the lighting apparatus to keep it from aiding the Union Navy. And the kicker? The lighthouse was ultimately destroyed in 1862 during a Confederate retreat. Talk about a series of unfortunate events.
3. Standing Tall Since 1872: The Bodie Island Lighthouse Defies the Odds
Forget the doom and gloom of the past, let’s celebrate a win. The third and current Bodie Island Lighthouse has been giving us lighthouse envy since 1872.
With a towering height of 156 feet and a beacon that can be seen for 19 nautical miles, this one’s a keeper. Built on the Roanoke Sound side of Bodie Island, it’s like the Beyoncé of lighthouses—talented, iconic, and here to stay. So, if you’re ticking off lighthouses on your bucket list, make sure this diva is right at the top.
Why Bodie Island Lighthouse is More Than Just a Pretty Beacon: The Graveyard of the Atlantic
Before we go on, let’s take a moment to get real about why the Bodie Island Lighthouse is so damn crucial. Trust me, it’s not just for those dreamy Instagram posts.
This area has a darker side—a lot darker. Locally known as the Graveyard of the Atlantic, the waters around here have witnessed over 600 shipwrecks. Let that sink in for a second.
You can learn all about this grim history at the Graveyard Museum in OBX, but here’s where it gets even more eerie. Locals say bodies from these shipwrecks used to wash ashore near the lighthouse.
Yep, the place practically served as a grim drop-off point. Now, we mentioned earlier that the lighthouse’s name comes from the Body family who owned the land, but local folklore has its own take.
According to area whispers, the name ‘Bodie’ was inspired by the bodies that washed ashore, adding a hauntingly poetic twist to the lighthouse’s backdrop. Whether you believe the history or the mystery, it’s a tale that adds a little extra shiver to your visit.
Now, given that this is the third iteration of the Bodie Island Lighthouse, it’s hard not to think that its predecessors might’ve been, let’s say, ‘cursed’ by this whole Graveyard situation.
But our current tower? It stands tall, as if defiantly challenging the waters that brought its predecessors down. Talk about a comeback story.
4. Haunted Grounds?
Not only does the Bodie Island Lighthouse offer a rich historical tapestry, but it also brings a bit of the paranormal. Visitors have reported hearing footsteps where there are none and even catching glimpses of apparitions. Are these tales folklore or fact? You’ll have to visit to find out. One thing’s for sure, though—it adds an extra layer of intrigue.
5. The Magical Fresnel Lens
Imagine having a Hubble Telescope but for maritime safety—that’s what the Fresnel lens in this lighthouse does. This intricate piece of glass wizardry amplifies the light beam, sending it up to a staggering 19 miles into the sea. If you’re a fan of ingenious tech, this is nothing short of remarkable.
6. Climb if You Dare
Take on the 214 steps, and let me tell you, it’s more than a StairMaster workout. The panoramic views? Totally worth it!
Plus, the Bodie Island Lighthouse steps are narrow with very thin rails. If you have a fear of heights, this may not be the climb for you.
You’ll find nine landings in this lighthouse to catch your breath, just like in the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse. A tidbit I think you may want to know!
Ready to ascend? Keep in mind:
- Size Matters: If your kiddo isn’t at least 42 inches tall, they’re staying on terra firma.
- Dress Smart: Forget the stilettos; this is a tennis shoes kind of adventure.
- Check the Weather: Sudden coastal changes can mean the lighthouse is closed. Plan.
- Beat the Heat: No A/C here, folks, so consider the temperature before you climb.
- Physical Effort: No elevators, just old-fashioned leg power.
Ah yes, it’s not just a haven for history buffs or paranormal investigators; the kids will love it, too! The expansive grounds offer ample space for little ones to run around and burn off that extra energy. This makes the Bodie Island Lighthouse a multi-generational hotspot.
8. What’s in The Bodie Island Lighthouse Name?
“Bodie,” often mispronounced, actually rhymes with “body.” Fun tidbit: it was named after the Body family who owned the land.
However, speaking with the locals in Outer Banks, you get a whole different story about the name, which is this: the story the locals in the OBX provide claims that the lighthouse was named after all of the bodies of all of the dead sailors that that area would actually wash up to the land after being shipwrecked.
9. Yes, the Bodie Lighthouse in The Outer Banks Is Still Functional
It’s not just an Insta-worthy backdrop; it still serves its purpose by guiding ships with its light beam, as we shared in point number 5 and the Fresnel lens.
So, yes, the lights on the lighthouse function nightly to keep those dark waters that have been so treacherous before lit just enough; quite the site to see! The light flashes every 30 seconds and is relied upon by many.
10. The Bodie Island Lighthouse is Definitely Selfie Central
Photographers and selfie aficionados, eat your heart out. With the stunning surroundings, you’ll be snapping away, and while you may not think this is a must-know item, photos are something so many take; you’ll want to know that you can snap great images from any angle and from any vantage point (high above or on the ground)
If you make it to the top and can stand the heights and the stairs, you will be rewarded with a spectacular view of the Oregon Inlet, The Bonner Bridge, The Atlantic Ocean, and of course, the surrounding marshes.
The Bodie Island Lighthouse offers nature at its best and a view that can not be challenged by anything as you have a bird’s eye view!
11. Photographers’ Paradise
Cue the camera clicks! The Bodie Island Lighthouse serves as a majestic centerpiece to an already photogenic setting. But don’t just focus on the tower—the surrounding landscape, with its unique flora and fauna, makes it a double whammy for photography enthusiasts. In essence, it’s a destination, not just a pit stop.
12. National Park Service Management
This isn’t some rundown, forgotten monument—no siree! Managed by the National Park Service, it’s as well-kept as they come. And moms, here’s the inside scoop: the bathrooms are clean. So, yes, you can comfortably plan that family outing.
13. The Bodie Island Lighthouse Gift Shop
Before you leave, why not take a piece of the lighthouse home with you? The on-site gift shop is a treasure trove of interesting finds. From historical books that dive deep into lighthouse lore to cute trinkets, there’s something for every lighthouse lover.
14. Bodie Island Lighthouse: Barrier Island Location
The Bodie Island Lighthouse is uniquely situated on a barrier island in the marshes of the Oregon Inlet; the lighthouse has weathered storms but stands as a beacon of resilience. Talk about an indomitable spirit!
15. The Bodie Island Lighthouse Black and White Stripes
Don’t be fooled; those stripes aren’t just for show. The height of each black stripe is 22 feet! They serve as ‘daymarks,’ helping sailors identify the lighthouse in daylight. There’s a reason for everything when it comes to a lighthouse!
16. Historical Tours Available
Walkthrough history with the available guided tours, giving you insights you won’t find in any brochure. I prefer just walking myself, but if you are a history or lighthouse buff, take the tour and gain more knowledge.
17. Price of Admission At The Bodie Island Lighthouse
$10 for adults, and kids get in for less. Your wallet will thank you! Do check the Bodie Island lighthouse website for updates on pricing; things do change.
18. Wildlife Surroundings
Surrounded by marshland, it’s a birdwatcher’s paradise. Don’t forget your binoculars! It’s lush and green and so beautiful; you really can walk around and see so much, and this is just a perk some don’t mention so I am! I also highly suggest using some DEET before you go visiting as you are in the woods, and the bugs Do bite.
19. Seasonal Operation
Note that the lighthouse is seasonal, typically open from late April to Columbus Day. Plan accordingly!
20. Bodie’s Twin
Ever heard of Currituck Beach Lighthouse? Located in Corolla, it’s often considered Bodie’s northern twin. We have visited both so many, and they are twins, in our opinion, just a bit of a different setting in Currituck.
Other OBX Lighthouses to Visit
We’ve covered the bases with the Bodie lighthouse, which is 1 of the 5 Outer Banks lighthouses. But guess what? OBX is a freaking lighthouse bonanza, with many other lighthouses in the OBX!
Here are the other outer banks lighthouses, the luminous wonders to stick on your road trip itinerary!
Currituck Beach Lighthouse 2/5 Outer Banks Lighthouses To Visit
- Description: Located in Corolla, this lighthouse sports classic red bricks and offers a panoramic view of the Currituck Sound and the Atlantic Ocean.
- How it Compares: Unlike Bodie’s classic black and white stripes, Currituck goes all-natural with a red brick exterior. If Bodie is the refined scholar, Currituck is the laid-back jock.
Hatteras Lighthouse 3/5 Other OBX Lighthouses
- Description: Recognizable for its black and white spiral, this lighthouse is a marvel in engineering and aesthetics.
- How it Compares: Hatteras has got the height over Bodie, standing as the tallest brick lighthouse in America. If you’ve got a thing for dizzying heights, this one’s your jam.
- Stop: We visit this one year after year after we take a trip to Ocracoke. It is a great way to round out the adventure!
The Ocracoke Lighthouse Is Another of the Outer Banks Lighthouses to Visit
Albeit not a lighthouse in the Outer Banks you get to enter, it is a postcard.
- Description: This charming, all-white lighthouse is the oldest operating one in North Carolina.
- How it Compares: If Bodie is the middle child striving for attention, Ocracoke is the wise elder who speaks softly but carries a big stick—a historical heavyweight in a small package.
- Visit: when you are visiting the island. You really can’t miss it!
Roanoke Marshes Lighthouse Makes 5/5 Of the Other OBX Lighthouses Collection
- Description: Nestled in Manteo on Roanoke Island, this lighthouse has a distinct look with its cottage-style architecture.
- How it Compares: Roanoke Marshes is the black sheep of the OBX lighthouse family—in the best way possible. Its smaller size and cottage-like design make it unique, standing out like a quirky cousin at a family reunion.
Tour Route Suggestion TO Visit the Other OuterBanks Lighthouses
- Kick things off at Currituck Beach Lighthouse in Corolla.
- Slide down to Bodie Island Lighthouse.
- Cruise further south to Cape Hatteras Lighthouse.
- Zip over to Ocracoke Lighthouse via the ferry.
- Swing back north to cap your tour at Roanoke Marshes Lighthouse in Manteo.