The Story of the Cape Fear Lighthouse

The Outer Banks of North Carolina are home to a number of lighthouses, each with its own rich history and tale. The Cape Fear Lighthouse has as unique a story as any in the area, and its history reaches back as far as any. So, why should you check out the Cape Fear Lighthouse? That’s easy. If you love history and love the scenery lighthouses create, then this lighthouse is for you!

Are you looking for the best things to see and do in the Outer Banks area? Then, look no further than the FREE Vacation Guide from Shoreline OBX! It’s full of great ideas for ways to spend your time on your Outer Banks vacation.

The Cape Fear Lighthouse Story

It all started in the late 1700s when four lighthouses would warn ships of the Frying Pan Shoals, a danger to mariners of all stripes. These lighthouses also served to guide these same ships into the Cape Fear River toward the Port of Wilmington, an important center for trade in colonial times. These lighthouses were built in 1795, including one that was torn down in 1813 after significant threats of erosion. Then, in 1817, a new lighthouse was erected on a ten-acre tract of land for a shade under $16,000. “Old Baldy” was its name and you can still visit it today! It was deactivated in 1903 when the Cape Fear Lighthouse project finished. “Old Baldy” still stands today as the oldest standing lighthouse in North Carolina, and you can even climb to the top!

In 1903, the Cape Fear Lighthouse began operation on the southeastern end of Bald Head Island. It cost $70,000 way back then to construct the wrought-iron and steel tower. It stood at 161 feet, and it used a first-order Fresnel lens that directed ships as far as 19 miles away. The lighthouse was demolished in 1958 to eliminate confusion occurring as a result of the nearby Oak Island Lighthouse.

The Brightest Lighthouse in the U.S.

In the 1950s, the Corps of Engineers and the Coast Guard began automating lighthouses, doing away with keepers, fuels, weights, and wick-trimming. As a result of Bald Head Island lacking electricity until 1978, the Oak Island Lighthouse began its operation in 1958 next to the Caswell Beach Coast Guard Station. At 153 feet tall, the Oak Island Lighthouse is visible from 16 nautical miles out. It’s built of steel-reinforced concrete with three embedded colors. It lacks a spiral staircase, but rather has 131 steps of “ship’s ladders” leading up to the observation level. For the first five years of its operation, the lighthouse produced 70 million candle power. At that time, that made it the brightest lighthouse in the U.S. and second-brightest in the world. In 2004, the lighthouse and the land it was on were deeded to the Town of Carswell Beach as a part of a Federal Lands to Parks program, meaning you can visit it on your vacation to the Outer Banks!

See All the Lighthouses in the Outer Banks

There’s an abundance of great lighthouses to visit during your Outer Banks vacation. And, when you stay with us at Shoreline OBX, you’ll be just minutes away from each of them. Our beautiful vacation rentals are both comfortable and convenient, meaning your vacation is easy and stress-free. So, check out our available rentals and contact us today to book your stay! And, if you need ideas for things to do on your Outer Banks vacation, then download our FREE Vacation Guide! It has everything you could need in a guide to the area. We guarantee it!