Though many people are drawn to Florida for its sugar-white sand beaches and nearly 2,000 miles of coastline, the state offers plenty of other unique activities for you and your family to enjoy. Florida has a lot of history to offer and even hosts America’s oldest city, St. Augustine. A great scenic and historic activity you can check out in Florida is a lighthouse visit. We’ve put together a list of some of the best historic lighthouses in Florida, all of which you can climb for some amazing views!
How Many Lighthouses Are In Florida?
Florida houses some of the country’s oldest and tallest lighthouses. In total, you can find thirty lighthouses in the Sunshine State. With the second-longest coastline in the United States (just trailing behind Alaska), it’s no surprise that the state has such a high count of lighthouses.
With Florida’s almost 700 miles of beaches, sailors needed some way to help them navigate the ever-evolving sandbars, inlets, and shoals, which constantly presented dangerous obstacles for them. That’s where these lighthouses come in. Before there was GPS, lighthouses allowed sailors to safely sail around Florida’s shallow waters and reefs.
The oldest lighthouse in Florida was the original St. Augustine lighthouse, which was built in 1824. However, the original structure was dismantled, and the St. Augustine lighthouse that you can see today (and that you will find at the top of our list) was constructed 50 years later.
9 Historic Lighthouses in Florida You Ought to Visit
The majority of the other lighthouses on our list were also constructed in the 19th century, giving them over 100 years of rich history. Whether you’re drawn to the story of the lighthouse or the views, these 9 destinations each offer a unique and enriching visit.
1. St. Augustine
As we mentioned, the original St. Augustine Lighthouse was the first lighthouse to be constructed in Florida (in 1824), before Florida was even a state! However, the original lighthouse was doomed to sink into the Atlantic Ocean due to erosion, so a new one was constructed to replace it. The lighthouse that you can visit today opened in 1874 and is coming up on its 150th anniversary.
At the St. Augustine Lighthouse, you can also find the Maritime Museum. The lighthouse and museum aim to preserve maritime history and tell the story of the nation’s oldest port. The lighthouse and museum are open from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m., seven days a week, with adult tickets priced at $14.95 and senior’s (60+) and children’s (under 12) at $12.95. Aside from climbing the lighthouse tower, visitors can find fun activities for the whole family, such as a shipyard play area for the little ones and even lighthouse ghost tours for the thrill-seekers of the bunch.
If you’re in St. Augustine visiting the lighthouse, you can’t miss the city’s other historic landmarks. We recommend checking out the Castillo de San Marcos Monument, the oldest masonry fort in the continental United States. St. Augustine also boasts beautiful beaches, like St. Augustine Beach and Crescent Beach on Anastasia Island.
2. Ponce Inlet
Aside from St. Augustine, Ponce Inlet Lighthouse and Museum is one of the most famous lighthouses in Florida. You will find this gem at Ponce de León Inlet in Central Florida. At 175 feet high, this lighthouse is the tallest lighthouse in Florida and one of the tallest in the United States! You can climb its 203 steps to the top to get spectacular views of the Atlantic Ocean, and the museum offers a look into the history of lighthouses and their keepers. The lighthouse and museum are open seven days a week, all year round, with the exception of Thanksgiving and Christmas Day. Adult (12+) tickets are priced at $6.95 and children’s (3-11) are $1.95.
Aside from the incredible views you’ll get from the top of this impressive structure, Ponce de León Inlet offers plenty of other interesting activities. Surrounding the lighthouse you’ll find Ponce Inlet Park, with wide open beaches, jogging and biking paths, and a conveniently-located parking area. Or head to the Marine Science Center to see turtles, sting rays, and a variety of the surrounding area’s rich marine life.
3. Gasparilla Island Lighthouse
Gasparilla Island Lighthouse is located in Gasparilla Island State Park, which forms part of a chain of Gulf Coast barrier islands. This island houses the 105-foot-tall lighthouse, which was originally constructed in 1881 and began its service in Delaware. In 1927, the lighthouse was dismantled and reconstructed on Gasparilla Island. The lighthouse is open for regular day climbs, and tickets are $15 for adults and $5 for children (6-11). By climbing to the top, you’ll get an incredible view of the Gulf of Mexico and the Gasparilla Sound.
Also located on Gasparilla Island is the Port Boca Grande Lighthouse and Museum. This lighthouse has been serving as a guiding light to sailors since 1890, and during WWII, the lighthouse was even used to watch for German U-boats. The museum highlights the rich history of Gasparilla Island, dating all the way back to 12,000 B.C. Entrance to the Port Boca Grande Lighthouse and Museum is free with admission to the park.
4. Jupiter Inlet Lighthouse
Located on the north side of the Jupiter Inlet, the Jupiter Inlet Lighthouse and Museum is a must-see if you find yourself in the Jupiter area. This 108-foot structure was first lit in 1860, and to this day the lighthouse remains an active public Aid to Navigation. You can visit the lighthouse and museum from Wednesday to Sunday, though the facilities are closed on most major holidays. Admission is $12 for adults, $10 for seniors (60+), and $6 for children (6-18).
Can climb the 105 steps to the top of the red brick lighthouse for the best view in Palm Beach County. Or consider attending a special event, like a sunset or moonrise tour, or even twilight yoga on the lighthouse deck. Plus, kids will enjoy the lighthouse storytime events, which are held monthly.
Once you get done with your visit to one of the most popular lighthouses in Florida, there are plenty of other things to do in Jupiter. Catch a sunrise at picturesque Juno Beach, check out the turtle’s nests at Hobe Sound Natural Wildlife Refuge, or explore the 73 acres of natural Florida landscapes at Blowing Rocks Preserve.
5. Pensacola Lighthouse
Pensacola houses another Florida lighthouse that offers a spectacular sight from the top. You can climb the 177 steps up the historic Pensacola Lighthouse for impressive Gulf Coast views. This lighthouse was built in 1859 and is located at the Naval Air Station in Pensacola.
At the lighthouse, you will also find the Maritime Museum, with exhibits like the “History of Illumination”, “Industries of Pensacola”, “Women Who Lit the Way”, and more. The lighthouse and museum are open seven days a week (closed on major holidays), and tickets are $8 for adults and $4 for children (12 and under), seniors (60+), and military members.
While you’re in the area, you can check out the National Naval Aviation Museum right next door. Nature-lovers should consider heading over to the Tarkiln Bayou Preserve State Park, where you can find almost 100 types of rare plants and animals.
6. Key West Lighthouse
The original Key West Lighthouse was built in 1825, but the one you will find today opened in 1848. In fact, its first keeper was a woman! You will find the historic lighthouse and museum in Bahama Village on Key West. This landmark is a must-see if you are in the area, and be sure to climb the 88 steps up to the top of the lighthouse for the best views in Key West.
The museum highlights the lives of the various keepers that have served the lighthouse, and includes a visit to the keeper’s quarters. You can visit from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., seven days a week, and tickets are $17 for adults, $12 for senior/local/college ID/retired military, $8 for youth (8-17) and free for children 7 and under.
Aside from the Key West Lighthouse and Museum, other suggested Key West activities include the Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum and the Key West Butterfly and Nature Conservatory.
7. Cape Florida Lighthouse
At almost 200 years old, the Cape Florida Lighthouse is the oldest structure in all of Miami-Dade county. You will find the lighthouse on Cape Florida, at the southeast corner of Key Biscayne. The structure was built in 1825, and the historical lighthouse has even been added to the National Register of Historic Places.
Visiting lighthouses in Florida is usually free and Cape Florida is no exception! Entry to the park is at no cost and you can climb the 109 steps to the top of the structure to get the best views of Key Biscayne. The lighthouse is open five days a week (closed Tuesday and Wednesday) and can be climbed from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. And while you’re in Key Biscayne, head to Crandon Park, where you can rent sea kayaks, go snorkeling, or sign up for a sunset boat cruise.
8. Cape St. George Lighthouse
In the center of Little St. George Island you will find the St. George Lighthouse. Though it is not the island’s original lighthouse, the structure that you can visit today was built in 1852. The lighthouse stood tall for over 150 years, weathering storms and erosion, but in 2005, it collapsed into the Gulf. The structure was rescued, rebuilt, and reopened to the public in 2008. In 2011, a replica of the original keeper’s quarters was opened, which serves as the lighthouse museum and gift shop.
Believe it or not, the 72-foot-high lighthouse is the tallest structure on the island. You can climb the 92 wooden steps to the top of the lighthouse for views of Apalachicola Bay, the St. George Sound, and the 4-mile-long St. George Island Bridge. Tickets are $5 for adults, $3 for children (6-12) and U.S. military/veterans, and free for children under 6. The lighthouse is open six days a week (closed Thursdays).
Once you’ve visited the lighthouse, there are plenty of other great activities on St. George Island. You can’t miss the breathtaking untouched beaches at St. George State Park, or if the weather’s nice, head out on the water: you can charter a fishing boat, rent kayaks, or go on a dolphin tour.
9. Crooked River Lighthouse
Located in the town of Carrabelle in the Florida Panhandle, the Crooked River Lighthouse was built where it currently stands at the end of the 19th century, though the structure that you can visit today was refurbished in 2007. You can climb 128 steps up the 103-foot tower for sweeping views of the St. George Sound.Weather permitting, the tower is open for climbs Wednesday through Sunday, and the cost is $5 for adults (13+), $3 for youth (7-12), and free for children 6 and under.
You can also visit the Keeper’s House Museum and the lighthouse’s public park (equipped with a picnic and recreation area) free of charge. The museum includes exhibits highlighting historic lighthouse artifacts. While you’re in Carrabelle, soak up the sun on the area’s miles of pristine white sugar sand beaches.
As you can see, the Sunshine State isn’t just about beaches, theme parks, and water sports. These 9 historic lighthouses in Florida offer a different activity that both adults and kids can enjoy. So put on your comfy climbing shoes and make your way to the top of these remarkable structures for some breathtaking Florida views!