Cape Lookout National Seashore is a 56 mile long stretch off of the Southern Outer Banks consisting of 3 undeveloped barrier islands- North Core Banks, South Core Banks, and Shackleford Banks. Cape Lookout has borne witness to the driven changes of many tides of history. In the early 1500s, Florentine explorer, Giovanni da Verrazzano, allegedly reported native people living on the banks, and between 1540 and 1570 it is said that Spain sent several explorers to investigate the area.
The Banks were populated originally by Coree Indians until the tragic Tuscarora War which left the Corees very close to extinction. By the 1750’s, Cape Lookout was being used as a center of operations for fishers and whalers from “up north”. It was a location in which colonial sailors could seek refuge during treacherous storms and hurricanes and it was also a hotspot for pirates such as Blackbeard to launch raids on merchant ships. Portsmouth, located on North Core Banks, was established in 1753. By 1860, the village was inhabited by 505 people. Portsmouth is no longer an inhabited community, but many people enjoy looking at the historic buildings that remain standing.
Another long-abandoned city was Diamond City, located on the eastern end of Shackleford Banks. In 1899, Diamond City was a successful and booming fishing village with a population of 500 people. Due to the threat and devastation of hurricanes residents had to pack up their belongings and flee. By 1903, there was virtually no trace left of human life and the area was left a ghost town. The first lighthouse at Cape Lookout was completed for a total of just over $20,000 in 1812 after Congress authorized the plan in 1804. It was ninety-four feet high and was made from brick and displayed red and white horizontal stripes. Unfortunately, the original lighthouse was too short to properly light the way for sailors, so congress approved a plan for a new and taller lighthouse in 1857. By 1859, the new lighthouse was completed for $45,000. To this day, the lighthouse stands proudly guarding Cape Lookout, boasting its black and white diagonal checkerboard pattern, its light has flashing every fifteen seconds, providing a source of comfort and guidance to locals.