An RV Camping Trip to See North Carolina’s Outer Banks Lighthouses
An RV Camping Trip to See North Carolina’s Outer Banks Lighthouses
Exploring the OBX with the Winnebago HIKE 100 FLX.
By: Austin & Kirsten Lawrence (@Adv4two)
Living on the Outer Banks of North Carolina is such a treat with so much history surrounding us. From towering lighthouses to old historical forts, North Carolina’s OBX has so much to offer.
Last year, we had the pleasure of adventuring out to see all the lighthouses with the HIKE 100 FLX in tow for our basecamp. We went in December (which is considered part of off-season), but we still had a wonderful time.
Planning Our OBX Camping Trip & Ferry Considerations
This trip had been planned for quite some time; however, we had to wait until mother nature cooperated since there are two ferry crossings to conquer during this adventure!
Crossing the Pamlico Sound can be a challenge year-round. Though this body of water is somewhat protected from the Atlantic Ocean by the Outer Banks, it still gets very rough when the wind whips up. The Cedar Island ferry and Cape Hatteras ferries run daily, but they have restrictions and precautions when the weather gets rough.
(Note: All of the ferries are run by the North Carolina Division of Ferries and lighthouses are maintained by the National Park Service.)
Getting on the road headed to our first destination was a 45-minute drive to the Cedar Island Ferry. This ferry does require reservations, but also offers a cancelation lane just in case they have room for those without.
We had a beautiful sunny day for our crossing over to Ocracoke Island, even though the wind was gusting up to 25 mph. Luckily, we had our sea legs ready for this 2.5-hour voyage. The Cedar Island Ferry offers plenty of room for your voyage with inside seating, restrooms, and an upper deck for viewing the beautiful waters.
Our first stop was Ocracoke Island which houses the historical white lighthouse that was built in 1823 and stands only 75 feet tall. This lighthouse is only a short drive from the ferry landing to a small gravel parking lot where we were able to comfortably park our truck and HIKE 100 FLX.
A beautiful wooden walkway greets you as you’re walking up to this beauty. We were lucky to find two lighthouse keepers there that gave us a short tour around the inside. The spiral staircase to the top was closed to visitors as this was the winter season.
Next stop would be the Hatteras Island ferry which has a 60-minute crossing time and leaves every hour during off-season.
Once arriving at Hatteras Island, you are greeted by the small town of Hatteras with some gas stations and convenience stores if you’re in need of a stretch or snacks. After leaving town, you are now on the famous Highway 12 that always needs a little help after storms due to its low-lying nature. There are often bulldozers pushing sand to the ocean side to help protect the road and travelers from the ever-rising seawater.
Though we would have loved to see the ocean side while traveling to the Hatteras Lighthouse, we were glad the large sand dunes were in place as the water was raging on the other side. There’s still a lot of natural beauty and plenty to see on HWY 12 as you make your way up the Outer Banks.
Arriving at Cape Hatteras Lighthouse is very easy with plenty of signs directing you there. Since they moved the lighthouse back in 1999 due to severe beach erosion, its hidden behind the tall pine trees off the main road. Parking was a cinch with several large, paved parking areas, one close to the lighthouse and the others close to the beach where the lighthouse was prior to the move.
Originally built in 1870, the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse stands 193 feet tall with 257 steps to the top. It has very distinct black and white stripes that swirl down to the bottom to meet with the beautiful red brick base. Most lighthouses are closed during the off-season for repairs as this one was during our visit. Though we could not enjoy going in, it is still very humbling to stand at the base and look up, admiring its architectural beauty.
The Cape Hatteras Lighthouse has kept many ships and sailors safe in the Graveyard of the Atlantic for hundreds of years. After enjoying the grounds and lighthouse keepers’ quarters, we journeyed over to the beach to stand in the exact spot that the lighthouse stood for hundreds of years until its move in 1999. It was an amazing view to see and to think back to the days of that very historical move of the lighthouse.
Cozy in the HIKE 100 FLX at Frisco Woods Campground
We called it a night at Frisco Woods Campground after tackling two lighthouses and two ferries in one day. The owners were super inviting as we were there on the last day of their open season. The grounds were decorated for Christmas with tons of lights to reflect off the beautiful water.
The HIKE 100 FLX handled amazingly on our first day of ferries, small parking lots, roads with sand, and even some rain. As we settled in for the night, and the temperatures began to drop, we turned on the Truma VarioHeat and, as always, propane heat is amazingly warm and no better way to fall asleep.
Bodie Island Lighthouse
Waking up to a beautiful sunrise is always the way to start the day on the OBX. Our next lighthouse stop was the Bodie Island Lighthouse (pronounced: body). However, between Hatteras and Bodie lighthouses is Pea Island Wildlife Refuge, here you will see all types of migratory birds. Even if you don’t stop at the visitor center and just drive right through, you will definitely still see a lot of birds.
Bodie Island Lighthouse was built in 1872 and stands 156 feet tall with 216 steps to the top landing. It sits in a beautiful area close to the Oregon Inlet with stunning views. The iconic horizontal black and white stripes are amazing to see and sets the lighthouse apart from all others.
Parking is easy to find with a very nice paved area and there are options near picnic tables. Make sure to add this beauty to your list to see!
Staying at OBX Campground
Getting back on the wet roads, we headed north towards Nags Head and Kitty Hawk to check in for our two-night stay at OBX Campground. As we have mentioned, most campgrounds over on the Outer Banks have off-peak seasons which means quiet nights and plenty of spots to choose from. Once getting the HIKE 100 FLX all setup and tucked in for a very wet day, we adventured out for some retail therapy to dodge the storms.
After a stormy night, waking up to a wonderful warm RV was just the way to start our day. After enjoying the local wildlife that had wandered over towards our campsite, we were back on the road headed to the Currituck Lighthouse. The drive was about an hour north of our campground, but well worth it. As we made our way through the small town of Duck, we enjoyed the scenery and the beautiful homes and businesses.
Arriving at the Currituck Lighthouse was a very different experience as we are use to seeing lighthouses on the beach or close to the water. The Currituck Lighthouse is the northern-most lighthouse in the North Carolina Outer Banks. It was built in 1873 and stands 162 feet tall, which makes it one of the tallest beacons in the country.
It contains 220 steps to the top (which we were not able to climb due to the off-peak season). One million stunning red bricks place this lighthouse in a totally different category. We enjoyed walking around the quaint little village that surrounds the lighthouse along with enjoying a local boat museum right across the street.
As we wrapped up our stay over on the beautiful Outer Banks, we made a stop at the Wright Brothers Memorial and museum for another walk through history. It is amazing how much history lies in your own state and is just waiting to be explored.
Cape Lookout Lighthouse
To finish up our exploration of the lighthouses of North Carolina, we definitely had to add in our hometown lighthouse which is Cape Lookout Lighthouse. Built in 1859 and standing at 163 feet tall, it contains a 207-step spiral staircase to the top.
The very distinct white and black diamond pattern helped sailors distinguish where they were while at sea. We have made many camping trips over to Cape Lookout Lighthouse as it’s only a 30-minute ferry ride for us to land on its doorstep.
It is also a great place to enjoy the HIKE 100 FLX and all of its amazing off-grid features. During our adventures, we have learned that even if you don’t have a lot of time to venture out, it is still lovely to explore your own state and all the history it has to offer.
For more, watch our YouTube video about our lighthouse adventure.
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