Roanoke Marshes Lighthouse

A short walk from Roanoke Island Festival Park, lies the Roanoke Marshes Lighthouse. Lying at the end of a pier in the waterfront harbor, this was the third lighthouse we got to see close-up on our trip.


Very charming!


The Town of Manteo dedicated the Roanoke Marshes Lighthouse on Saturday, September 25, 2004. The lighthouse is on the Manteo waterfront, on the east side of Roanoke Island.The Roanoke Marshes Light  is an exterior reconstruction of the square cottage-style screw-pile lighthouse which stood at the southern entrance to Croatan Sound, near Wanchese. It was decommissioned in 1955, and lost in the Sound during an attempt to move it to private property.

Near the lighthouse, is a Weather Tower. The US Weather Bureau once used Coastal Warning Display towers such as this one to fly signal flags to warn mariners of wind shifts or approaching storms.


The Manteo Weather Tower is believed to be one of only five towers still in use, and may be the only one with all of its original signal lights affixed.

While the lighthouse and the weather tower were undeniably the best sights to see in the harbor, we did see something else that was very cool!


This guy was using a water jet pack to cruise around the harbor! Maybe this is not new to the average joe, but we had never seen one and were enthralled. I wanted to try this so bad, but it just wasn’t in the cards that day.

All in all, our impromptu trip to Roanoke Island was one of the best days of our trip. We left the island, picked the dogs up from the kennel and ended our day back on Hatteras, just in time to view a beautiful sunset.




Ocracoke Island

On Friday, we took a ferry from Hatteras Island to Ocracoke Island. I’m a water person, and the ferry ride itself was fun. The fact that there was no charge (how nice is that?!) simply meant “Free Boat Ride” to me. Our destination became almost an afterthought.


Trixie was eager to get on with it:


At one point, we had a Coast Guard escort:


Although I was really looking forward to seeing Ocracoke, a part of me was sad when the ferry ride ended.

If you’ve never been to Ocracoke, you are missing a very laid-back fishing village. I was delighted to see that it has retained the non-commercialized atmosphere. We saw no chain restaurants or hotels (same could really be said for Hatteras Island too, with the exception of a small Dairy Queen). Like Hatteras, one main road and many quaint side streets. Perfect for bicycling, which we saw was a prevalent activity on the island.

I found a little bookstore that had a mighty good selection of books and art supplies, ‘Books to be Red’ ( For such a small store, I actually found 5 distinct books on brewing beer, which I was happy to tell Eric (who was waiting patiently outside with the dogs) about, so that he could take a look on his turn to go inside.


We got to see another lighthouse, Ocracoke Light. Eric and Trix led the way, Holly in the foreground, yours truly taking up the rear:


Not quite as tall as you might expect in a lighthouse, what it lacked in size was made up for in charm and history. This is the oldest operating light station in North Carolina, and one of the oldest in the nation. We did get to go inside (they even let Trix and Holly go in with us). This being my first time inside of an actual lighthouse, I am getting more and more hooked on them.

All in all, we had a splendid day on Ocracoke (so much so that we went back a couple days later, our last day of vacation).

Next post will describe our visit to Roanoke Island. We hadn’t planned on going there, but sure glad we did!

Cape Hatteras Light Station

We decided to start our first day on Hatteras Island with a visit to the lighthouse, which was only a couple miles north of our motel.  We’ve become a bit fascinated with lighthouses ever since our trip to Florida in 2011, during which we saw the St. Augustine Lighthouse.
According to the National Park Service, which maintains the lighthouse and the keepers’ quarters, the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse protects one of the most hazardous sections of the Atlantic Coast. Offshore of Cape Hatteras, the Gulf Stream collides with the Virginia Drift, a branch of the Labrador Current from Canada. This current forces southbound ships into a dangerous twelve-mile long sandbar called Diamond Shoals. Hundreds and possibly thousands of shipwrecks in this area have given it the reputation as the “Graveyard of the Atlantic”.


This is a beautiful lighthouse, and one of the most famous and recognizable in the world.

Climbing to the top is allowed. If one is up to the challenge, for a fee of $8,  one may climb the “257 steps from the ground to the watchroom, which is equal climbing a 12 story building. The stairs have a handrail only on one side and a landing every 31 steps. There is no air conditioning. It may be noisy, humid, hot and dim inside the lighthouse and there is two-way traffic on the narrow stairs.” Having the dogs with us, we declined. At least, that is our story  and we are sticking to it.

The lighthouse has an interesting history. Constructed in 1802, it apparently did not live up to the task. According to Wikipedia, in July 1851, Lt. David D. Porter, USN, reported as follows:

“Hatteras light, the most important on our coast is, without doubt, the worst light in the world. Cape Hatteras is the point made by all vessels going to the south, and also coming from that direction; the current of the Gulf Stream runs so close to the outer point of the shoals that vessels double as close round the breakers as possible, to avoid its influence. The only guide they have is the light, to tell them when up with the shoals; but I have always had so little confidence in it, that I have been guided by the lead, without the use of which, in fact, no vessel should pass Hatteras. The first nine trips I made I never saw Hatteras light at all, though frequently passing in sight of the breakers, and when I did see it, I could not tell it from a steamer’s light, excepting that the steamer’s lights are much brighter. It has improved much latterly, but is still a wretched light. It is all important that Hatteras should be provided with a revolving light of great intensity, and that the light be raised 15 feet (4.6 m) higher than at present. Twenty-four steamship’s lights, of great brilliancy, pass this point in one month, nearly at the rate of one every night (they all pass at night) and it can be seen how easily a vessel may be deceived by taking a steamer’s light for a light on shore.”

Improvements were made, but in the end, at the behest of mariners and officers of the U.S. Navy, Congress appropriated $80,000 to construct a new beacon at Cape Hatteras in 1868.

Being a barrier island, Hatteras is really just a big sand bar, subject to shifting and constant erosion. Due to this erosion, the lighthouse was actually moved from its original location at the edge of the ocean to safer ground 2,870 feet (870 m) inland. Prior to the move, the lighthouse was just 120 feet from the ocean’s edge and was in imminent danger. (Later in the week, we met a woman who told us more about the moving of the lighthouse from her firsthand perspective.)

While the above information was taken from Wikipedia, we had the good fortune to hear a talk from one of the Park Rangers while we were there. He described the shifting sand and erosion with the use of visual aids such as geological graphs and actual sand.

We walked to the beach area near the lighthouse and found the stones which mark the site where the lighthouse was previously located:


During our explorations later in the day, we quickly saw that sand dunes are one of the prominent features of the Outer Banks. There is really just one main road that runs the length of the Outer Banks, with a few side streets here and there. Much of our driving during the week looked like this:


The Atlantic Ocean to the east and the Pamlico Sound to the west, the road just a tiny strip down the middle, connecting the small villages that dot the island.

More to come, including a visit to the Wright Brothers National Memorial.