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Bald Head Island Lighthouse “Old Baldy”

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Quick Facts

  • Bald Head Island Lighthouse was built in 1817.
  • It is the oldest standing lighthouse in North Carolina
  • It cost just under $16,000 to build.
  • The structure is 109′ 10-3/4″ tall, made of brick and coated with cement.
  • The tower is no longer in service, however serves as a tourist attraction.
  • Bald Head Island is fourteen miles north to south, and 3.6 miles east to west.


The history of “Old Baldy” and Bald Head Island

Bald Head Island, which is part of Smith Island, got its nickname from the dunes on the south beach. The dunes, along the island, eventually became worn down and resembled a bald head.

It was decided to place a lighthouse on Bald Head Island to guide ships through the channels and sand bars of the Cape Fear River. In addition, one was also needed to help vessels avoid the treacherous Frying Pan Shoals, which extends over 20 miles out into the Atlantic Ocean.

North Carolina’s first lighthouse structure was constructed in 1795. This light station was located on the southwest point of Bald Head Island. The light station was ordered to be destroyed due to severe erosion along the river. Funds were approved the same year for the construction of a new light station. It was not until 1816 that efforts were made to obtain bids for the construction of the new light.

The new octagonal tower, “Old Baldy,” as it is affectionately known, was first illuminated in 1817. This is the present lighthouse on Bald Head Island. At its base “Old Baldy” is thirty-six feet (36′) wide, and its walls are five feet (5′) thick. The top the lighthouse is fourteen feet and six inches (14′-6″) wide and two feet and six inches (2′-6″) thick. The foundation and the platform for the lantern room are constructed of stone. The tower is constructed of brick and painted with plaster on the exterior. The ground floor is made of brick, while the remaining floor joist and the stairs are made from North Carolina Yellow Pine.

The first lighthouse keepers cottage was located the on the west side of “Old Baldy.” Due to erosion the keepers cottage was destroyed. It was replaced in the 1850’s with a one and one-half story cottage, located on the east side of the lighthouse. This second structure was destroyed by fire.  As a result, in 1883,  a larger 2-story cottage was built  in the same location as the previous keepers cottage, reusing some of the original brick piers. This structure was also lost to a fire in 1931. A museum was built on that same spot, replicating the 2-story cottage.

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View of stairs inside Bald Head Lighthouse

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View of entrance to Bald Head Lighthouse


Trivia Note: The Island may look familiar to you, this was the Island that Weekend at Bernie’s (1989) was filmed on, as well as The Butcher’s Wife (1991), and Pirate Kids II: The Search for the Silver Skull (2006).


Visitor Information

Directions and Map to Ferry Landing:

Bald Head Island is accessible by passenger ferry from Deep Point Marina in Southport, North Carolina (GPS users: 1301 Ferry Rd. Southport, NC 28401).  Take NC 211 (Howe Street) into Southport, NC.  Turn left at the light at Moore St. (NC 211 continues).  Bear right at the traffic circle. Turn right into Deep Point Marina. Follow the signs for passenger departure and follow instructions for parking. Old Baldy Lighthouse is a short walk from the ferry landing on the island.


Jan. to Mid February:   Closed

Mid February to Mid March:   Friday – Saturday 10am – 4pm
Sunday – 11am – 4pm

Mid March to Memorial Day:  Tuesday – Saturday 10am – 4pm
Sunday – 11am – 4pm

Memorial Day to Labor Day:   Monday – Saturday 9am – 5pm
Sunday – 11am – 5pm

Labor Day to Thanksgiving Weekend:  Tuesday – Saturday 10am – 4pm
Sunday – 11am – 4pm

Thanksgiving Weekend to December 31:  Friday – Saturday 10am – 4pm
Sunday – 11am – 4pm

Please call for special holiday hours

Admission  and Ferry Costs:

General Admission: Adults: $5.00 (13 and up)
Youth: $3.00 (3 – 12)
Current Ferry Costs: $23.00/per adult round trip
$14.00/per youth round trip (ages 3-12)

Special Day Visitor Packages: From April 1 st until November 30 th Special Packages will be available for purchase at Taylor Cuisine Café located on the second
floor of the Deep Point Ferry terminal.
Adults: $24.00 (13 and up)
Youth: $17.00 (3 -12)
Package includes roundtrip ferry ticket and admission to Smith Island Museum & Old Baldy Lighthouse. You will also receive a coupon good for 10% off when you dine at Maritime Market Café or Eb and Flo’s restaurant the day of your visit.

Old Baldy Foundation & Smith Island Museum
Phone: 910.457.7481
Email: info@oldbaldy.org

Bald Head Island Ferry
Phone: 910.457.5003

We advise calling the ferry ahead of time to confirm the schedule and make a reservation. They do fill-up quickly during the busier times of year.

The lighthouse is very close to the ferry landing so you can easily walk there from the ferry.  It also has a museum, set up very  similar to what the keepers house would look like long ago. There is also a shop that sells books, shirts, and various lighthouse related items. There you can also purchase your tickets to climb the lighthouse.

There is also a chapel that was built in 1987 near the lighthouse that is open to the public. Across from the lighthouse is a small post office.

Historic Island Tours
Tuesday-Saturday at 10:30 a.m.
Meet at the Island Ferry landing
Cost: $45/Adults and $40/Children 12 and under, price includes Ferry, Tour and Lunch ($30 for island guests)
Call 910-457-5003 for reservations.


If you are staying on the island, you will have a couple of choices for dining which include the River Pilot Cafe, and Eb & Flo’s Marina Steam Bar.

The River Pilot Cafe is a nice place to dine. Lunch is fairly reasonable around $8-10 per person, Dinner is a little more, expect to pay around $30 per person.

Eb & Flo’s is reasonably priced and includes mostly seafood, but you can also get hamburgers & sandwiches.

Maritime Market & Delicatessen, the island also has a grocery, that sells almost everything you would expect from a grocery store.

Island Passage which is located near the ferry landing allows you to rent bikes & golf carts. Call ahead to reserve them 910-457-4944 – they prefer 24 hour reservation on golf carts.


Maps of Bald Head Island Lighthouse

Satellite View of Bald Head Island


Satellite view of Lighthouse

Although the island is not designed to accommodate mobility impaired visitors, it is negotiable with assistance. The ferry is handicap accessible as well as many of the resorts and bed and breakfast’s.


Lighthouse Resources and Points of Interest

Old Baldy Foundation

This is the group that oversees the maintenance and preservation of the the Bald Head Island Lighthouse
Bald Head Island Conservancy
P.O. Box 3007
Bald Head Island, NC 28461
(910) 457-7481 email@bhic.org
The group that fosters education of nature: maritime forests, sea turtles and other
Bald Head Island Official Site For vacation rentals and activities available during your stay on Bald Head Island
Southport – Oak Island Chamber of Commerce Great resource if you want to know more about the Southport – Oak Island area
Southport Maritime Museum Maritime Museum in Southport
Bald Head Island Ferry Bald Head Island Ferry located near the Ft. Fisher ferry. This is the ferry you need to take if you are going to Bald Head Island.