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CAPE LOOKOUT NATIONAL SEASHORE – Home of one of North Carolina’s Historic Lighthouses

July 28, 2011 by · 4 Comments 


Monday was not a good beach day.

The wind was blowing between 20 and 25 knots.  Umbrellas were flying like kites and the fine, dry sand unaffected by the ocean’s waters cut into your body like thousands of little razors.

We decided to hang around inside the camper.  I finished my book by James Patterson, 4th of July, and started a second by Glenn Beck, The Overton Window. The first was an excellent paperback thriller with a surprise ending.  The Overton Window is getting interesting but is more political than mysterious – both are great beach books.

Tuesday was not much better weather wise.  The wind had died down but the sky’s were overcast and numerous thunderboomers rolled overhead.  We decided to hit an afternoon movie at the local cinema.

We have not watched the first part of the current Harry Potter movie, so felt we should wait on viewing the second.  The entire series has become way too complicated as it is.  Zookeeper seemed like a good alternative.  Boy was I ever wrong!  It was cute but a total waste of good popcorn money.  It never elicited a single laugh on my part.

Now, Wednesday gave us back the magnificent beach weather we have come to love in North Carolina.  We arose early and lumbered down highway 58, across the International Causeway bridge at Atlantic Beach, through historic Beaufort on Route 70 and out to Harker’s Island.

There we boarded a skiff piloted by Captain Calico Jack and  began our water crossing to The Cape Lookout National Seashore and in particular the Cape Lookout Lighthouse.  I sorta wanted to go over to Shackleford Banks where the pure coastal waters are crystal clear, glassy smooth and seashells abound along with wild ponies – but Nancy feared some looming thunderclouds and wanted to beach where there was shelter should a lightning bolt strike.  Wives that have lived through motherhood are like that – conservative non-risk takers.

I was not to be disappointed.  The Cape Lookout Lighthouse is a majestic structure built in 1859 and standing 169 feet above sea level.  It has and still serves as a vital navigational aid to mariners sailing the Atlantic waters off what is known as The Outer Banks.  It has a rather tenacious past mostly relating to control by opposing forces during the Civil War.  The Union gained control of the lighthouse in 1862 after the Confederates extinguished it’s light hoping to destroy any advantage to Union ships moving up the precarious coast of North Carolina. Attempts to destroy the lighthouse in 1863 during a Confederate raid were, fortunately, unsuccessful.

Today the Cape Lookout Lighthouse is threatened by continuing beach erosion.  It is entirely possible that at the current rate of the Atlantic’s encroachment the lighthouse could cease to stand in as little as twenty years.  Of course, future eastern shore hurricanes may speed it’s demise and this majestic piece of history could be washed away forever.

The long barrier island where the lighthouse stands is still almost completely pristine.  There are no hotels or beach houses to clutter the landscape.  It is one of those special places where you can walk out on the beach and look as far as the eye can see without a single umbrella or beach walker in sight.  You can stand at the water’s edge and imagine what it would have been like centuries ago or travel in your imagination to a deserted island.

This is absolutely a fantastic destination – especially if you are camped on or near the Outer Banks for a few days.  Nearby Fort Macon, the historic fishing village of Beaufort, and a trip up the Outer Banks to other famous lighthouses and villages is easily accomplished even with most RVs via Ferry boats.

More Photos from Cape Lookout National Park:

The island is covered with beautiful red and yellow flowers.  According to Rangers, the flow is not native to the island but was planted by one of the early Lighthouse Keepers to please his wife.  The flower, called an Indian Blanket Flower (Gaillardia) by locals, is indigenous of the dry south-west.



A Jellyfish that doesn’t sting?  These are called “Cannon Ball Jellyfish” – again, possibly just a local name.  There are hundreds laying along the Sound beach, washed up on shore by changing tides.  This is the first Jellyfish I have ever picked up and held in my hands.  Yes, they are slimy to the touch and not very pleasant to hold – but they do not sting!



A herd of about 125 wild ponies live on Shackleford Banks that are said to be descendents of horses brought over by early settlers and even some that may have escaped from shipwrecks.

Today a veterinarian oversees the health of the wild ponies and they are allowed to roam and run wild and free along the deserted dunes and grasses of the historic island.

A lonely crab struggles to find his way back into the ocean after a wave washes him ashore.






The fields of Indian Blanket flowers are also know as “Joe Bell’s Flowers”.  Perhaps it was Joe Bell that brought them to the island?

Not too far off shore the sunken ruins of what is believed to be Blackbeard’s pirate ship are being explored by a diving crew.  Sorry, I do not have a photo of this event.





A young couple asked if we would make a photo of them in front of the lighthouse.  We were glad to oblige and in turn I asked them to take a shot of Nancy, Oscar and me in the same spot.  It is kinda difficult to get a close-up of what people look like with the towering lighthouse in the photo.

Standing at the base of the lighthouse and looking up to the top quickly lets you know how tall and massive this structure is.







4 Responses to “CAPE LOOKOUT NATIONAL SEASHORE – Home of one of North Carolina’s Historic Lighthouses”
  1. butterbean carpenter says:

    Howdy Randy,

    Thank you,for the wonderful excursion… The Indian Blanket is a Galardia and one of the prettiest flowers of Texas, except for this year when the drought kept the numbers down… I’ll agree with Nancy about the lightning, tho.. If you can see it it can get you!!!!! You do know that that is Blackbeard’s ship
    because his ghost is seen in the area regularly !!!!!! He was a baaaadbooooy !!!!!

    Smooth roads, clear skies & balmy breezes !!!!!!!!!!

  2. Jackie says:


    Beautiful photos and love the information. Thank you for sharing. My husband and I are newbe’s with RVing this year and we hope to go down to NC this fall and pick up his aunt who lives Cary, NC and take her over to the coast. Where would you suggest we camp? So we can enjoy this area.
    Thanks again for any help.

  3. Professor95 says:


    There are multiple campsites along the Outer Banks. We have come to enjoy the park at Emerald Isle and come here often. It is situated directly on the ocean and you walk to the beach. If you look back about a year you will find where I wrote a review on this particular park, Holiday-Trav-L-Park on Coast Guard Road, Emerald Isle, NC. It is at the end of the barrier islands with the exception of Bear Island, or Hammock’s Beach State Park – a wonderful day trip or escape to yet another deserted, pristine island. One of the reasons we continue to come here is EI allows dogs on the beach. They are never a problem to beach-goers. Sure beats leaving them behind and dogs deserve vacation too. Besides, Oscar loves to dig in the sand!

    Randy, Nancy and Oscar

  4. Thank you for sharing this with us. The pictures are enticing! Makes me want to take a trip out there. Thanks again, very nice blog!

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