Although it is the shortest lighthouse in North Carolina standing only 75 feet tall, the Ocracoke lighthouse, as well as the island upon which it is built, has quite a colorful history. Ocracoke became known in 1585 when English explorers shipwrecked there and within two centuries became one of the busiest inlets and inland travel routes along the East Coast. In the early 1700’s it was known as a favorite anchorage of Edward Teach, the notorious pirate known as Blackbeard, who eventually was killed and beheaded by Lieutenant Robert Maynard of the Royal Navy.
The Ocracoke light is the second oldest operating light station in North Carolina and was originally constructed in 1823 by Massachusetts builder Noah Porter. Its walls are 5 feet thick at the base tapering to 2 feet at the top. Its distinctive white color was the result of a whitewash consisting of lime, salt, whiting, ground rice and glue combined with boiling water which was applied while still hot.
As it is located at one of the highest points on the island the light has survived many storms and hurricanes and, along with the light keeper’s station, has sheltered many an Ocracoke resident in the past. Often residents arrived in boats as flooded streets became otherwise impassible.
A resident lightkeeper is no longer needed for the fully automated facility and it is now overseen by the United States Coast Guard. Although the lighthouse cannot be climbed it is open to the general public to tour and photograph.