Located 4 miles north of Oregon Inlet on what used to be an island owned by the Body family, the Bodie Island lighthouse has stood the test of time, at least this version of it.
“We are the third incarnation here. We had a little bit of trouble for different reasons” said Brian Winnett, an interpretive ranger with the National Park Service.
The first light station here opened in 1848, that one was lost just ten years later due to a poor foundation. In 1858, a second lighthouse was built, and that one met an interesting demise.
Winnett explains: “It was blown up in 1861 by Confederate troops retreating from Bodie Island. They didn’t want that to be left and used as a lookout point by Union soldiers.”
The third time was the charm though. The current lighthouse has stood in this location since 1872. And like the other light stations along the Outer Banks, the last light keeper at Bodie Island was dismissed from his duties in 1939, when electricity was brought in and the torch was automated. 219 steps will take you 164 feet up to the top, and until recently, the light keepers were the only ones who made the climb.
Up until a few years ago…really 20-13 to be exact…you couldn’t get a beautiful view from the top of the Bodie Island lighthouse because you couldn’t climb it.
“The original design of the lighthouse was meant for a couple people to be climbing a couple times a day. So…to have this amount of foot traffic inside, we needed to make those improvements to make it safe for everybody” said Winnett.
In 2009, a massive project to restore the ailing tower began. But it didn’t go smoothly. Restoration stopped in the spring of 2011 after significant structural issues were found. Then in August 2011, Hurricane Irene delivered another blow.
“We had a significant amount of flooding on the site here, and we actually had water inside the keeper’s quarters so a lot of the flooring had to be replaced and much of it was original up to that point” described Winnett.
Work started again in 2012 when additional funding arrived. Four years and $5 million later, the lighthouse was finally opened to the public for climbing for the first time in the spring of 2013.
For decades, the lighthouse has been the perfect backdrop for a little romance. The Arndt’s came here from Wisconsin to tie the knot on their fifth anniversary.
“We just got married about an hour ago on the beach in Kitty Hawk” said Josh Arndt, along with his new wife, Jenny.
And the couple just couldn’t pass up a chance to take pictures on these gorgeous grounds.
Arndt explains: “The lighthouse just shows what the Outer Banks is. It’s scenic, it’s beautiful. It’s got amazing opportunity for photos and sightseeing.”
And in case you’re wondering…
“Do you plan to climb to the top of the lighthouse?”
“We did yesterday actually.”
“And how was that experience for you?”
But it’s a climb that ends with spectacular scenery…and at least one beautiful marriage.