NC Touring rolled out of the triangle on Tuesday evening for a 6 day tour traveling the coast of North Carolina and visiting all of the lighthouses. Day 1 was spent traveling up to Kerr Lake so that we would start close to the Virginia border for this trip. Morning started early on Day 2 as we cruised 262 miles finishing up on Bells Island, NC. Along the way we stopped by the Roanoke River Lighthouse (replica) in Plymouth, as well as the original, screwpile lighthouse that is located in Edenton. Both of these were inland lights.
Day 3 continued along to the start of Highway 12 in Corolla, NC. This is home to the Currituck Lighthouse, which was built in 1875. It is a beautiful lighthouse in that it was not painted and the wonderful redbrick shows through. This is one of several coastal lighthouses that allow you to climb to the top. We continued along Highway 12, avoiding the more popular “by-pass” as we wound our way down the outerbanks till we reach the Bodie lighthouse.
The Bodie light had been under a recent restoration, so we were not able to climb to the top. It is interesting that the area is named Bodie (pronounced “Body”) because of the large number of bodies that washed up from ship wrecks (it is the graveyard of the atlantic afterall). From there, it was a short trip to one of the most famous lighthouses and the tallest one in the country: Cape Hatteras (it is also incorporated in our logo).
Cape Hatteras Lighthouse was built 1802 and was moved just short of 3000 feet in 1999 to avoid being lost to the sea. This lighthouse is open to the public and we were able to climb it. Off in the distance, we could see the Diamond Shoals Light Station. Day 3 is still not over, with one more ocean lighthouse on our list. We took the ferry from Hatteras to Ocracoke and completed our day with a stop at Ocracoke Lighthouse.
Ocracoke Island is one of my favorite places, and I had the privilege of sailing to the island when I was in graduate school and spending the night “on the hook” at Silver Lake, a hurricane hole that the notorious Blackbeard spent many a night. The quaint village is a wonderful stopping point for the night and is only accessible by boat (ferrys from three different areas can get you here. Total mileage for today was 188 miles.
Morning for Day 4 started early with a 7:30am ferry ride to Cedar Island (2.5 hour boat ride). Once off of the boat, we meandered our way to Harker’s Island to arrange ferry service to Cape Lookout Lighthouse. There are several “taxi” services to the barrier island, and we found great captains and nice boats at Calico Jacks. The Cape Lookout Lighthouse is open during the summer months for climbs, but we were a week or two early for this visit. We still had a great time exploring the grounds. After our boat ride back, we cruised down to Emerald Isle for third night camping. By mileage standards, a quick day, with only 82 miles traveled.
The only rain we saw the entire trip was that night as we slept. Our Mountain Hardware tent kept us dry and secure, despite the tremendous downpour. The weather broke and we awoke to a pleasant morning. On Day 5, we continued our route down to Wilmington for a brief break before heading to our last two ocean lighthouses. We joined up with one of our regular tour leaders, Shannon Stewart, and we all rode over to Oak Island to view the working light for the Cape Fear River. This lighthouse is quite “new”, having been constructed in 1958 and it has moved away from the traditional pyramid shape.
After a wonderful lunch at the Provision Company in Southport, we made our way by private ferry to Bald Head Island to walk the grounds and view the lighthouse. This private community is secluded on a island along the Cape Fear River and the Ocean. The lighthouse is not working, but had recently been under repair so that visitors could climb to the top. The lighthouse was not very tall, but was worth the $50 round trip it cost us to just see this structure.
Day 6 was our last day of the tour, as we made the journey back home. We took the Fort Fisher / Southport Ferry and saw our final lighthouse, a river light: Price Creek. This abandoned lighthouse is on private property, so you cannot walk over to see it. We then headed down to Sunset Beach, the last island in NC. We met family for lunch at Ella’s of Calabash (one of our most favorite lunch spots) and then started heading back toward the triangle.
Several stops were made as we meandered through the coastal / piedmont area of North Carolina. Overall, it was a wonderful trip and the weather could not have been any better. No rain during the day, with highs approaching 80’s and great camping in the 60’s at night. We covered 1015 miles for the journey and had a great time. Look for a portion of this tour to be repeated in the 2012 Tour Season!