(Photo courtesy of NC Division of Travel and Tourism.)
Click on the pictures to see a larger view.

More Lookout Pictures

  • Name: Cape Lookout Lighthouse

    County: Carteret

    Built: 1859

    Operational: Yes

    Body of Water: Atlantic Ocean, Core Sound

    Color: Black - White

    Design: Checkers

    Height: 169 feet overall
    (includes lightning rod)

    Signal Visible: 19 miles
  The painting pattern on the Cape Lookout Lighthouse is many times refered to commonly in local lore as being a diamond pattern. However it is not a diamonds pattern. The pattern is in fact checkers, in several books about the Light it has been shown the Light House Board ordered it painted in "Black and white checkers." Circa 1873. The NPS and the USCG support this position.


Overlooking the treacherous 14-mile Lookout Shoals, the Cape Lookout Lighthouse is part of the Cape Lookout National Seashore. The shoals remain treacherous for deep draft commercial freighters for 21 miles. There is a sea buoy, called "Nuckle" buoy, located at the 21 mile point of the shoals. The lighthouse marks these Shoals, which early sailors called "Horrible Headlands," at the outer point of Core Banks. The first Cape Lookout Lighthouse, completed in 1812, was 96 feet high and consisted of a brick tower covered by a wooden tower. This lighthouse was too short for its light to be effective in times of mist and poor weather. In 1857, the current lighthouse was authorized by Congress and construction was completed in 1859. Confederate forces darkened the lighthouse during the Civil War (Federal Forces occupied the light from the spring of 1862 until the end of the war): in the spring of 1862, they blew up the stairs leading to the lamps. The Light was restored with a temporary lens until the original was repaired, in 1867 the stairs and lens were fully restored. The checkers pattern was painted in 1873 as a means for sailors to distinguish several identical lighthouses in the daylight (Cape Lookout Lighthouse was used as the model for construction of the Cape Hatteras, Bodie Island, and Currituck Lighthouses). To reach the Cape Lookout Lighthouse, visitors must approach by boat. Visitors can tour the lightkeeper's home, but the automated lighthouse is not open to the public.

  Special thanks to John Loonam, Cape Lookout Tours, guide. Harkers Island, NC, for assistance in making this information accurate. Mr. Loonam has been most gracious to provide his book, Cape Lookout Lighthouse, South Core Banks, Carteret County, North Carolina, for North Carolina's students to use in their classrooms and for their research projects.