Visit Roanoke Marshes Lighthouse on Your Vacation in the Outer Banks


Roanoke Marshes LighthouseProbably the most prominent fixtures of the Outer Banks are the lighthouses strategically placed up and down the barrier islands to make sure that water vessels safely travel the waters that can be somewhat treacherous. While there are well-known fixtures along the shores, the Roanoke Marshes Lighthouse is the one that receives the least amount of notoriety.

The Roanoke Marshes Lighthouse is different from the type we typically have in our minds as it is a screw-pile lighthouse built out in the Croatan Sound. A screw-pile lighthouse is a lighthouse built on piles screwed into sandy and muddy sea or river bottoms. Hundreds of years ago, North Carolina had several screw-pile lighthouses along the channels of the Outer Banks.

Location of the Roanoke Marshes Lighthouse

The location of the Roanoke Marshes Lighthouse is situated on the east end of the Manteo waterfront inside the Roanoke Island Festival Park and extends out 40 yards into Roanoke Sound. For visitors enjoying a vacation in Outer Banks locales, the Park offers tons of attractions like the Elizabeth II and the Settlement Site that provide fun "non-beach day” activities during vacation.

Deactivated as a lighthouse years ago, the current lighthouse is actually a replica of the original and houses displays and exhibits about North Carolina maritime history. The Roanoke Marshes Lighthouse is a frequent stop for visitors to Manteo and the Outer Banks.

The History of the Lighthouse

The history of the Roanoke Marshes Lighthouse goes all the way back to 1831 when the first structure was built. This one only stayed in commission for eight years when the light keeper abandoned it. Then again in 1857, another structure was built and stayed lighted for over 15 years when it finally gave way because of erosion, the sound’s floor becoming unstable and other issues that caused its demise.

Again in 1877, a newly built lighthouse was completed and put into use. This lighthouse was a white, square structure supported by seven screw piles. And, once again, there were severe issues with it including ships knocking into the screw-piles and years of realizing that a more secure base was necessary, 80 more screw-piles were installed keeping it in the works for over 60 years.

In 1955, the Roanoke Marshes Lighthouse was decommissioned because technology was advancing (technology…in 1955?) and the lighthouse was not needed. So it just sat there until it was sold to a private owner. But yet, again, tragedy struck when the lighthouse was accidentally demolished when the new owner wanted it moved inland.

Finally, in 1999, the Town of Manteo wanted a full-scale replica of the lighthouse. But, as happens more often than not, this new effort took about five years to complete due to funding delays, government snarls and, yes, even a hurricane (Isabel in 2003).

Visiting the Lighthouse

Managed by the North Carolina Maritime Museum, the Roanoke Marshes Lighthouse is home to many displays and exhibits of the North Carolina coast maritime history as well as the history of the lighthouse itself. Additionally, there are events and classes throughout the year.

On an entirely different note, the Roanoke Marshes Lighthouse at the end of the boardwalk makes a unique and perfect backdrop for weddings. The Outer Banks is popular for destination weddings and offers lots of accommodation options for your guests' vacation in the Outer Banks. As for the ceremony, who wouldn’t love to walk down the boardwalk in a magnificent wedding gown!?

Let us help you plan a day (or at least a half-day) in Manteo including some time at the Roanoke Marshes Lighthouse.