Cape Hatteras Light Station

Also known as: Museum of the Sea, Cape Hatteras Lighthouse
SE of Buxton off NC 12 in Cape Hatteras National Seashore, Buxton, North Carolina

Tallest Lighthouse in the United States


Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, Point of Cape Hatteras

Photo from the Historic American Buildings Survey

View photos at Library of Congress


Street View 


Cape Hatteras Lighthouse is significant as an important aid to the navigation of the Atlantic Coast. The Diamond Shoals which extend up to ten miles out from Cape Hatteras, coupled with the Gulf Stream currents, earned this area its reputation as the "graveyard of the Atlantic." A lighthouse was first established here in 1803, heightened in 1853. It was replaced with the current lighthouse in 1869-70. The current light tower, painted with black and white spirals for recognition during the day, is the tallest brick light tower in the United States. When built, the lighthouse stood 1,500 feet from the ocean. However, constant erosion had pushed the mean water mark to within 120 feet of the lighthouse base by 1970. Strong storms would push water around the light's base. In 1999 the light tower was successfully moved 2,900 feet from its original location placing it once again about 1,60 feet from the mean water line. Scientist say this should keep this beautiful landmark standing for at least the next 100 years. -- Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS NC-357)

National Register information 

Posted to the National Register of Historic Places on March 29, 1978
Reference number
Areas of significance
Engineering; Commerce; Social History; Transportation
Levels of significance
National; State
Evaluation criteria
C - Design/Construction; A - Event
Property type
Historic function
Current functions
Park; Museum; Coast guard facility; Water-related
Periods of significance
1825-1849; 1800-1824; 1850-1874; 1875-1899
Significant years
1803; 1854; 1870
Number of properties
Contributing buildings: 4
Contributing sites: 1

Update Log 

  • June 23, 2017: New photos from Michael Miller
  • August 1, 2010: Updated by Bill Eichelberger: Corrected GPS coordinates.
  • August 1, 2010: New Street View added by Bill Eichelberger
  • July 12, 2010: Updated by Curtis Lee: Corrected year built; updated description