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9 incredible U.S. lighthouses to visit

By: Josh Lew on May 23, 2013, 5 p.m.
Cape Hatteras lighthouse cloudy sky

Photo: jstrak/flickr

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Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, North Carolina

This North Carolina lighthouse overlooks one of maritime history's most ominous places. Over the past five centuries, more than 2,000 ships have been wrecked on offshore sandbars called the Diamond Shoals, earning this area the nickname “Graveyard of the Atlantic.” The original lighthouse on Cape Hatteras was built in the late 1700s on land that was bought from a local family for $50. The current lighthouse, constructed in 1870, is more than 200 feet tall, and the beacon can be seen nearly 20 miles out to sea (the deadly Diamond Shoals sit 12 to 14 miles from the shore). 

Visitors can appreciate this tower from the outside before climbing the 268 stairs to stand next to the beacon. The Atlantic seashore that you can view from the lighthouse's summit is protected as part of the Cape Hatteras National Seashore. The beautiful panoramic views will make the strenuous stair climb seem worthwhile.