Published by Christina Riley. Last Updated on September 28, 2023.
A visit to this wonderful place is easily one of the coolest things to do in North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands.
Our guide will share exactly how to see Oak Island Lighthouse NC (including how you can climb it), but we’re also sharing its history, some fun facts about it, and everything else you need to know before visiting.
Here’s how we’ve organized this guide, in case you’re searching for something specific:
- Oak Island Lighthouse Facts and History
- How to See Oak Island Lighthouse (Parking Info)
- Tour Info
- More Things to Do on Oak Island (Food and Our Favorite Beach Access)
Oak Island Lighthouse Facts and History
The 153-foot tall Oak Island Lighthouse was constructed in 1958 out of concrete rather than brick, which is what you’ll typically find on North Carolina’s other lighthouses.
The 128 feet of reinforced concrete was mixed on-site and continuously poured for seven days while jacks were raised one foot per hour.
The lighthouse colors were mixed within the octagonal concrete base, so it will never need to be repainted!
Another exciting feature of this lighthouse is its beacon. When the lights were in use, Oak Island Lighthouse had the brightest light in the US and the second brightest in the world!
Read More: Interesting Facts About North Carolina
How to See Oak Island Lighthouse (Parking Info)
The Oak Island Lighthouse is located in the Town of Caswell Beach, right next to the Oak Island Coast Guard Station, and is open to visitors between sunrise and sunset. If you’re driving to Oak Island Lighthouse, you’ll notice there is limited parking to the left of it.
With only five spaces available, please try to be considerate of others who want to visit, too.
After arriving, cross the road to the boardwalk, where you can learn more about the lighthouse from several informational boards. You can also get great views of the lighthouse from the boardwalk and the beach!
Climbing Oak Island Lighthouse (Tour Info)
Tours offering climbs up the lighthouse are available, but they are rather limited. All climbers are required to wear sneakers and safely stow any cameras or equipment away.
The lighthouse is open year round, but the second level is only open in the summer.
If you would like to climb to the very top of Oak Island Lighthouse, advanced reservations are required. During the peak months of July and August, a four-week notice is required, while the rest of the year, it’s two weeks’ notice.
Those who climb to the top must be at least 9 years of age and must wear sneakers for safety. From the top, you can see nearly all of Bald Head Island and the Cape Fear River!
Tours are free, but remember that the lighthouse is run entirely by volunteers. Consider donating to the Friends of Oak Island Lighthouse, the non-profit organization created by the town to fund repairs and maintenance.
Oak Island Lighthouse continues to set itself apart from other lighthouses in that it doesn’t have traditional spiral staircases. Instead, this lighthouse has ship ladders (they are actually stairs and not straight ladders). This makes it one of the most unique lighthouses near Wilmington NC.
You will climb up 131 steps to the top, a total of 128 feet! If climbing to the top seems too scary, don’t worry: Oak Island lighthouse tours are available to just the second level (12 steps up), which still offers some fantastic views!
To climb to the second level, you must visit during the summer (Memorial Day through Labor Day). These tours are only offered Wednesdays and Saturdays from 10:00 am to 2:00 pm, and all climbers must be at least 7 years old.
Read More: 100+ Unique Things to Do in North Carolina
Ready to Explore Oak Island Lighthouse?
Oak Island Lighthouse may not be the most famous one in North Carolina, but it sure is rich with history and intrigue. Even if you aren’t able to climb the ladders to the top, you can at least enjoy views of it from the boardwalk and Caswell Beach (Sometimes people mistakingly call it Caswell Beach Lighthouse).
If you’ve been lucky enough to visit, we’d love to know what you thought of Oak Island Lighthouse! In case you haven’t had the chance yet, please feel free to share your first experience with us after you go.
You can let us know here in the comments section, by email, or our North Carolina Travel Facebook Group! Before you do that, here are some more things to do near the Oak Island Lighthouse North Carolina.
More Things to Do in Oak Island
There is plenty of rest, relaxation, and fun that awaits on Oak Island! It sits between Holden Beach and Southport and is the perfect place to stay or visit for the day from elsewhere in Brunswick County.
- Beaches: There are 65 public beach accesses and 79 shared access pathways on Oak Island, with parking spots available at many of them. If we’re not staying on the water, the SE 46th Street Beach access is a great way to enjoy some sun! We suggest this access because of the convenience but also for Middleton Park, which sits across from the access. It’s complete with a free splash pad and brand new pirate-themed playground, before (or after) hitting the beach.
- Catch a Sunset or Sunrise: Oak Island Lighthouse and its surroundings are a great spot to watch a sunrise. For the sunset, head to the Point. It’s just across the water from Holden Beach and one of our favorite sunset watching spots in North Carolina.
- Fishing Piers: Whether you brought your reel or not, Oak Island’s piers offer excellent views of the water and back toward the shore. Oak Island Pier (705 Ocean Dr) is North Carolina’s highest pier, at 27 feet high and 880 feet long. While Ocean Crest Fishing Pier (1409 E Beach Dr) is just a bit shorter, it’s the longer of Oak Island’s two piers, at 893 feet.
- Great Food: If you are like us, nothing pairs better with a lighthouse than some delicious local food and beach time! Head to Shagger Jacks for some incredible and fresh island-inspired fare. Make sure to get the shrimp tacos with a cocktail and enjoy the vibes!