Skip to Content

Bodie Island Lighthouse, Outer Banks, NC (Add This to Your Lighthouse Tour List)

If you only have time to stop at one lighthouse on your vacation on the Outer Banks, you might as well make it this one.

The Outer Banks of North Carolina is home to several of the country’s most iconic lighthouses. Perhaps the most recognizable and iconic is the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, located in Buxton, NC.

But up and down the chain of barrier islands that make up the Outer Banks, you can find at least five historic lighthouses that are worth adding to your list of destinations.

The Bodie Island Lighthouse is perhaps one of the most accessible of all of these historic landmarks, located just 15 minutes from Nags Head, NC.

If you only have time to stop at one lighthouse on your vacation on the Outer Banks, you might as well make it this one.

Where is Bodie Island?

Bodie Island is located on the Outer Banks of North Carolina. It is about a 15-minute drive south of the city of Nags Head, NC.

To get there, heading south out of Nags Head, follow US-158 until you see signs for a left turn onto US Highway 12, or the Cape Hatteras National Seashore.

As you continue down Highway 12, you will see signs on the right for the Bodie Island Lighthouse. You will also probably catch a glimpse of the lighthouse itself before you spot the signs.

If you are headed there from Manteo, another popular vacation spot on the Outer Banks, it will take about 16 minutes to arrive.

Follow US-64 south out of the town of Manteo. You will cross the bridge off of Roanoke Island, then head south on Highway 12. Again, look for a glimpse of the Bodie Island Lighthouse above the trees, or follow signs to the lighthouse parking area on the right.

How Far is the Bodie Island Lighthouse from the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse?

If you’re going on down to visit the most popular lighthouse on the Outer Banks, the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, it’s worth your time to stop off at the Bodie Island Lighthouse on your way.

It takes just under an hour of driving time to get from the Bodie Island Lighthouse to the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse.

Highway 12 is the only route to access both lighthouses, and you’ll pass right by Bodie Island on your way down.

The Bodie Island Lighthouse is the last stop on Highway 12 before crossing the Oregon Inlet Bridge onto Cape Hatteras Island.

Is the Bodie Island Lighthouse worth visiting?

Like all of the lighthouses on the Outer Banks, Bodie Island offers a beautiful and educational experience, so it is definitely worth the half hour to hour or so that it would take to stop off here.

Here you can take a self-guided tour of the lighthouse, including a climb to the top, during open hours. Be sure to purchase your ticket online to make sure there’s space.

If you don’t want to climb the lighthouse but just visit the keeper’s quarters, grounds and take a short nature walk, there is no charge to visit the site.

You can visit the Lighthouse Keeper’s Quarters and Museum to learn about the history of the Lighthouse and the local area.

A beautiful board walkway leads on a short walk out to the nearby freshwater marsh and an overlooking gazebo. Here you can snap spectacular shots of the lighthouse reflected in the still water.

An early morning or late afternoon visit is ideal to beat the heat, and also to capture the best photos.

Can You Climb the Bodie Island Lighthouse?

The Bodie Island Lighthouse is open for climbing 7 days a week during the summer season between the hours of 9:00 AM – 12:20 PM and 2:20 PM – 5:40 PM.

You must purchase your tickets on the day of your climb, with a maximum of 8 tickets sold for each 20-minute time slot.

Adult tickets cost $10 per person, and children under 12 cost $5 per person.

Children under the height of 42 inches will not be permitted up in the lighthouse. A lighthouse-shaped measuring stick will set the standard for who’s allowed up.

There is no charge to visit the site if you don’t opt to climb up the lighthouse.

How Many Steps Are Inside the Bodie Island Lighthouse?

Standing at 156 feet tall, the Bodie Island Lighthouse has 219 steps from the ground level up to the balcony. This is the same as climbing 10 stories.

As in most lighthouses, the steps to the top are in a spiral stairway. It’s a narrow stairway with a handrail in the center.

In addition to the height of the tower, there are several other reasons that this is not an easy climb. The building is not air-conditioned, making it hot, humid and stuffy inside in the summer months. It’s a slightly cramped-feeling space, and it may be noisy and crowded inside, passing other climbers coming up or down.

Once you’re at the top, you can access the balcony for spectacular views of both the Pamlico Sound and the Atlantic Ocean. But again, if you’re a bit iffy on heights, maybe think twice before stepping out on the balcony.

This may not be something you want to attempt if you have any health concerns, or with young children who are not used to this type of exertion.

If you do make the climb, make sure to bring some drinking water along in a non-breakable, non-glass container.

What to Expect

The Bodie Island Lighthouse is located in a serene natural setting. A freshwater marsh is the nearest body of water, and just a bit farther on is the Pamlico Sound. The ocean shore is about a half-mile away, on the other side of Highway 12.

You probably won’t ever find mobs of people visiting the lighthouse at any given time, but a steady stream of visitors can be expected throughout the summer season.

You’ll find plenty of parking spaces directly in front of the lighthouse, and paved walkways or wooden boardwalks keep your feet dry and sand-free. More importantly, they ensure you don’t step on any unwelcome critters (such as snakes).

A restroom facility on one side of the property makes this an especially handy stopping-off point if you’re headed farther down the beach on a longer drive with little ones along.

How Long to Spend at the Bodie Island Lighthouse

You can expect to spend between half an hour to an hour visiting the Bodie Island Lighthouse. The climb itself (round-trip), if you decide to make the ascent, takes about half an hour.

Add on to the climb the time you’ll want to spend visiting the Lighthouse Keeper’s Quarters and walking out on the nature walk, this will take you to about an hour.

Since we’re not talking about an all-day or even a half-day attraction, it’s best to combine this visit with other attractions in the area or stop off on your way headed somewhere else.

What is there to do nearby?

Just across the Oregon Inlet Bridge heading south, about a 15-minute drive from Bodie Island is the Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge.

This is another worthwhile point of interest along the Highway 12 trek from Nags Head to points farther south on the Cape Hatteras National Seashore.

Stop in to view the birds, turtles, and other wildlife, and check out the Visitor’s Center. Or park at the parking area here, cross the road, and you’re on the beach.

Bodie Island is a very short distance from both Nags Head and Roanoke Island, both of which offer countless activities and interesting places to visit.

On Roanoke Island, you can visit the North Carolina Aquarium for a fun time viewing sea life of all kinds. Or you can head over to the Roanoke Island Festival Park to climb aboard a replica Elizabethan sailing ship and experience living history.

In Nags Head, check out the Jockey’s Ridge State Park, and maybe sign up for parasailing lessons. Or take some time to visit the Wright Brothers Memorial to see where history was made in aviation.