Bald Head Island Lighthouse

Lighthouses and the maritime heritage represent an important part of history, particularly along the Carolina coast where they have played a critical role in life and death.

Of the seven standing lighthouses in North Carolina today, Old Baldy is the oldest, built in 1817. It has maintained its original form and location for over 190 years. During the Civil War, Old Baldy stood within the walls of Fort Holmes built by the Confederates in late 1863 and abandoned when Ft. Fisher fell to the Union army in early 1865. Extensive remnants of Fort Holmes are still visible on Bald Head, especially in the immediate vicinity of Old Baldy.

In addition, Old Baldy is significant for its architectural design. It stands today as one of the best examples of the “old” slanted, octagonal design. This design was only used for approximately 15 years. Another distinctive feature of Old Baldy is the off set lantern room. The lantern room atop Old Baldy, and many of the bricks used in the construction of Old Baldy were salvaged from the first lighthouse built on Bald Head Island. This first Cape Fear lighthouse was commissioned by Thomas Jefferson and was built in 1794. It became necessary to dismantle the first lighthouse in 1813 due to erosion. Old Baldy was decommissioned in 1935 and abandoned by the U.S. Coast Guard shortly after World War II.

Old Baldy was listed on National Register of Historic Places in 1975. In 1985 a group of dedicated individuals founded the Old Baldy Foundation, a public not-for-profit 501(c)3 organization dedicated to the maintenance and preservation of Old Baldy Lighthouse.

Every year thousands of people are drawn across the Cape Fear River to Bald Head Island. Once on island, they are drawn as if by magnetism to the Old Baldy Lighthouse. Children chant her name, "Old Baldy, Old Baldy" on the ferry, parents climb the 108 steps with their families year after year, brides and grooms promise their love to each other at her base and senior citizens unable to climb the lighthouse stand and stare at the 110 feet of bricks, mortar and history.

Come visit historic Old Baldy lighthouse and the Smith Island Museum of History located on beautiful Bald Head Island. Take the Bald Head Island ferry from Indigo Plantation in Southport, N.C. Call 910-457-5003 for ferry information and reservations.

Museum and Lighthouse Admission: $3 per person (ages 4 and older)

Summer Hours
Tuesday through Saturday: 10am - 4pm
Sunday: 11am - 4pm

Winter Hours
Friday through Saturday: 10am - 4pm
Sunday: 11am - 4pm

Historic tour packages available! $45 per person includes: Ferry pass, Guided tour of Bald Head Island, Admission into museum and lighthouse, Lunch coupon for $10 to Eb & Flo’s Restaurant at Bald Head marina.

Call (910)457-5003 for details and reservations.


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The original lighthouse at Bald Head Island directed traffic to the Cape Fear River and the growing port of Wilmington, located several miles upstream. Unfortunately, as a result of the severe erosion along the river, the demolition of the lighthouse was ordered in 1813. Rebuilt in 1817, the replacement lighthouse, known as "Old Baldy" was built further inland and lit, for just under $16,000.

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