If you love lighthouses or are looking for the top things on OKI, we highly recommend visiting the Oak Island Lighthouse! Located in the Town of Caswell Beach, the lighthouse grounds are open year-round for viewing and picture taking, with limited 30-minute parking provided at the tower’s base from sunrise until sunset.
There are also two tours that will take you inside to explore the interior — with one that will allow you to climb all the way to the top of this 153-foot tall coastal marvel. Keep reading to learn about what makes this North Carolina lighthouse unique and how to plan an interior tour below:
About the Oak Island Lighthouse
Completed in 1958, the Oak Island lighthouse was built upon 24 concrete-filled steel pilings that hold a 30-foot wide octagonal base and the lantern gallery. The coloring of the lighthouse is one of the things that makes it highly distinctive. The first 50 feet is comprised of a natural gray Portland cement, and the next 50 feet was poured with white Portland cement and white quartz aggregate for the white color. The top 52 feet is a gray Portland cement with black coloring.
Curious to know how the 11-foot tall aluminum lantern housing was installed? They did it by Marine Corps helicopters! How cool is that? What’s also unusual about this lighthouse is a series of ships ladders to get to the lantern gallery level instead of a spiral staircase typically found in older lighthouses.
It’s also the first US lighthouse to use rotating LED technology as of December 2020. After it experienced a few power outages in the fall of 2020, the group responsible for maintaining the light (USCG Aids to Navigation Team Oak Island) decided it was the perfect time to upgrade the lighthouse and had new LED lights installed.
How to Tour the OKI Lighthouse
There are multiple ways to tour the lighthouse! Like we mentioned above, the lighthouse grounds are open year-round for viewing and picture taking from sunrise until sunset. There is limited 30-minute parking provided at the base of the tower at no charge.
All of the tours are provided by Friends of Oak Island Lighthouse — a not-for-profit organization dedicated to the protection, preservation, maintenance, and development of the Oak Island Lighthouse, lighthouse site, and related oceanfront property.
The Top Tour
The most popular tour option is the “Top Tour,” where you will be able to climb up the 131 metal ship stairs to an outside balcony! We will say there is nothing like the view from the top — you can see the old lifesaving station and Bald Head Island’s “Old Baldy” lighthouse off in the distance! These tours are available year-round and free of charge, but there are a few things to keep in mind to make sure you’re able to experience the views from the top.
First, you will need a reservation. If you’re visiting during the summer months (June, July, and August), they request at least 4 weeks advanced notice for a reservation. For all other times of the year, you’ll be able to snag a reservation with at least 2 weeks’ notice.
They are only available in the mornings on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Sundays for most of the year. From October to December, you will find that tours are only available on Wednesdays and Saturdays starting at 9:30 am.
Open House Tours
From Memorial Day through Labor Day every year, you can tour the inside of the lighthouse without a reservation! They are offered on Wednesdays and Saturdays from 10 am to 2 pm. But, keep in mind that these tours to the second level will take you up 12 steps to a solid concrete floor (not the top). Also, visitors must be at least 7 years of age or older to climb to the second level.
Please keep in mind that there may be restrictions due to COVID. We recommend visiting the official tour page for the most up-to-date information. You can also contact them directly at firstname.lastname@example.org to find out more.
Other North Carolina Lighthouses Nearby
If you’re on a North Carolina lighthouse road trip, the next place you’ll want to visit is “Old Baldy“! It’s located on a 10-acre site on Bald Head Island, a short ferry ride away. While this 110-foot tall lighthouse is no longer operational, it is still open for visitors to enjoy and climb to the top.
Ready to begin planning your trip to see the Oak Island lighthouse? You can start by browsing through our OKI vacation rentals, and please don’t hesitate to call us if you have any questions. Our team would love to help you plan your next coastal North Carolina vacation.