Florida Guide > Miscellaneous
The Lighthouses of Florida
I have to confess that, until I started some preliminary research for a trip to Key West and read about it’s lighthouse, I had not really considered the need or existence for such structures along the (in my mind) sandy shores of Florida.
Clicking, as one does, on a few web links revealed to me that Florida does in fact have over 30 lighthouses, with about a dozen of them running from Miami, down the keys as far west as the Dry Tortugas.
The lighthouses vary in construction from simple steel skeletons to the more traditional brick, concrete and steel towers that we know so well around the British coast. Many of the lighthouses are on military property and so cannot be visited, but there are however a good number that the visitor can view from the lighthouse grounds and even some that can be accessed. Fortunately the lighthouses that are open to the public are well spaced around the Floridian coast, from Pensacola in the North West, via Key West and up to St Augustine in the North East. So if you are visiting the Florida coast there will more than likely be a lighthouse not too far from you.
The lighthouse most likely to be visited by the average holidaymaker is that at Key West. Constructed in 1847 this brick, steel and granite lighthouse is now operated by the Key West Art & Historical Society and although no longer a working lighthouse, boasts a museum and gift shop. Eighty-eight steps take you to the observation platform from where spectacular views of Key West are seen. The admission fee also gets you entry to the keeper’s house and a display of Fresnel lenses.
The lighthouses of St Augustine, with its unusual black and white spiral pattern, and Ponce de Leon Inlet are also well worth a visit if you are feeling fit! The St Augustine lighthouse was built in 1881 and restored in 1995 and again in 2000. This one has 219 steps and it is recommended that you plan to spend at least an hour if you wish to climb the tower and tour the site. Disabled access is available to the museum and gift shop however. Some 60 miles south of St Augustine is the Ponce de Leon Inlet lighthouse. The tallest in Florida and the second highest in the USA this is the only lighthouse in Florida that is designated as a National Historic Landmark. If you are hardy enough to climb the 175-foot tower you will be treated to amazing views of the Florida coastline from New Smyrna to Daytona. Again you should plan to spend at least an hour here if you wish to climb the tower and visit the museum.
Other lighthouses that have visitor access and museums include Jupiter Inlet (north of West Palm Beach), Cape Florida (within the Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park, Key Biscayne) and Boca Grande on the Gulf Coast. The most unusual however has to be the Mount Dora Lighthouse! Located on Lake Dora north of Orlando it is considered, wrongly, by many, to be a faux lighthouse. In fact the red and white-banded lighthouse built as recently as 1988, is registered as an inland aid to navigation, the only one in Florida.
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