Welcome to the Sunshine State, where the sandy shores and sparkling waters of Florida’s coastline are adorned with some of the most beautiful lighthouses in the country. From the towering structures that have guided mariners for centuries to the quaint beacons that dot the shoreline, each lighthouse has a story to tell and a captivating beauty to behold. So join us on a journey as we explore the history, architecture, and stunning views that make these coastal landmarks so beloved. Hop on board as we set sail for the seven most beautiful Florida lighthouses.
The Seven Most Beautiful Florida Lighthouses: History
Lighthouses have played an important role in the history of Florida since the 1820s, when the first lighthouse in the state, the St. Augustine Lighthouse, was built. This lighthouse, however, is no longer standing. It was used to guide ships safely into the port of St. Augustine, the oldest city in the United States. Over time additional lighthouses were built along Florida’s coasts. These lights helped to guide ships through the treacherous waters and also shallow reefs that are common in the area. Some of these lighthouses, such as the Cape Florida Lighthouse in Key Biscayne, have been destroyed and rebuilt multiple times due to hurricanes and other natural disasters.
During the Civil War (1861-1865), many of Florida’s lighthouses were destroyed or damaged, and the state’s lighthouse system fell into disrepair. However, in the years following the war, efforts were made to rebuild and modernize Florida’s lighthouse network. One notable example is the Ponce de Leon Inlet Lighthouse, which was built in the 1870s and is still in operation today.
During the 20th century, advancements in technology made lighthouses less necessary for navigation, and many of Florida’s lighthouses were decommissioned or turned over to local governments or nonprofit organizations. Today, many of these historic structures have been restored and are also open to the public as museums or tourist attractions. Discover the seven most beautiful Florida lighthouses below.
1. Amelia Island Light
Amelia Island Light is a historic lighthouse located on the Northern end of Amelia Island, Florida. Built in 1838, it is the oldest surviving lighthouse in Florida. The lighthouse stands at a height of 64 feet (20 m) and is made of brick and iron. Amelia Island Light was constructed to guide ships through the Amelia River and safely into the port of Fernandina Beach, a major port at the time. It was also strategically important during the Civil War when it served as a lookout for Confederate troops. However, during the war, the Union Army destroyed the light and lens to prevent it from aiding Confederate ships.
After the war, the Amelia Island Lighthouse was repaired and returned to operation in 1867. It was eventually automated in 1915 and remains an active aid to navigation for mariners today.
The lighthouse has undergone several renovations over the years and was also added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1973. The lighthouse also features a museum that showcases the history of the lighthouse and the maritime history of the region. Climbing to the top of the lighthouse is not permitted.
2. Cape Florida Light
The Cape Florida Light is a historic lighthouse located in Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park on the Southern tip of Key Biscayne. It was first built in 1825 and was destroyed during the Second Seminole War in 1836. The current lighthouse was rebuilt in 1846 and stands at a height of 95 feet (29 m). The lighthouse was built to guide ships through the dangerous waters of the Florida Straits, which are known for their treacherous reefs and currents. It features a first-order Fresnel lens, which was installed in 1898 and is still in operation today.
The Cape Florida Light played a significant role in the Civil War when Confederate forces destroyed the lighthouse to prevent Union ships from using it as a navigational aid. The lighthouse was later rebuilt and was used as a Coast Guard station during World War II. Today, the Cape Florida Light is open to the public Thursday-Monday. Visitors can climb the 109 steps to the top for panoramic views of Key Biscayne and the surrounding area. The lighthouse also features a museum that showcases the history of the lighthouse and the maritime history of the region. Additionally, Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park offers a variety of outdoor activities, including swimming, fishing, and hiking.
3. Key West
The Key West Lighthouse is a historic lighthouse located on the western end of the island of Key West, Florida. It was first established in 1825 and was rebuilt several times due to various damages from storms and natural disasters. The current structure was built in 1848 and stands at a height of 86 feet (26 m). In addition, one of the first Key West Lighthouse Keepers was a woman, which was most unusual for the period. The lighthouse was built to guide ships through the dangerous waters surrounding Key West, which was a major port and naval base during the 19th century.
The Key West Lighthouse played a significant role in the Civil War. Union forces took control of the lighthouse and used it as a lookout point for Confederate ships. Prior to the Civil War, the lighthouse was used as a signal station during the Spanish-American War. The Key West Lighthouse was decommissioned in 1969. These days it serves as a tourist attraction. Visitors can climb the 88 steps to the top of the lighthouse for panoramic views of Key West and the surrounding area. The museum features exhibits on the history of the lighthouse and its keepers. It also features a maritime history of Key West. The lighthouse is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
4. St. Augustine Light
The St. Augustine Lighthouse that stands today is an iconic landmark located on Anastasia Island in St. Augustine, Florida. It was built between 1871 and 1874 to replace the original lighthouse. The original light was constructed in 1824 and demolished in the 1870s due to its deteriorating condition. The current St. Augustine Lighthouse is made of brick and iron. It stands at a height of 16 feet (50 m) with 219 steps leading to the top. It features a first-order Fresnel lens, which was installed in 1874. The lens had been damaged and some of its prisms were missing or broken.
Joe Cocking and Nick Johnston, experts in lighthouse restoration, carefully disassembled the lens. They transported it to their workshop, where they spent months painstakingly cleaning and repairing each individual prism. They also designed and installed a new lighting system that would allow the lens to be illuminated once again. The restoration project was completed in 2012. The restored Fresnel lens was returned to the St. Augustine Light. It now serves as a beautiful and functional piece of maritime history.
The lighthouse played a significant role in maritime history, guiding ships safely through the treacherous waters of the Florida coast. During World War II, it was used as a lookout station by the Coast Guard. It was also the site of a tragic accident in 1873 when three young girls drowned near the construction of the lighthouse.
Today, the St. Augustine Lighthouse is open to the public and is a popular tourist attraction. It offers visitors the opportunity to climb to the top for breathtaking views of the surrounding area. The lighthouse also features a museum and educational programs. Visitors can learn about the history and significance of this iconic Florida landmark.
5. Ponce de Leon
The Ponce de Leon Inlet Lighthouse is a historic lighthouse located in Ponce Inlet, Florida. It was built in 1887 and stands at a height of 175 feet (53 m). This makes it the tallest lighthouse in Florida. The lighthouse is named after the Spanish explorer Juan Ponce de Leon. He is said to have sailed through the inlet when arriving in Florida. The Ponce de Leon Inlet Lighthouse was built to guide ships through the dangerous waters of the Ponce de Leon Inlet. These waters contain treacherous shoals and reefs. The lighthouse features a third-order, rotating Fresnel lens.
The lighthouse played a significant role in World War II. It served as a lookout station for the Coast Guard. Today, the Ponce de Leon Inlet Lighthouse is open to the public and is a popular tourist attraction. The lighthouse features a museum that showcases the history of the lighthouse and the maritime history of the region. Though visitors are not typically allowed to climb to the top of Ponce de Leon Inlet Light, there are opportunities to do so at special events throughout the year.
6. Port Boca Grande Lighthouse
The Port Boca Grande Lighthouse is an iron screw pile design with a wooden frame two-story dwelling. The lighthouse is supported by 11 iron pilings. Port Boca Grande was first constructed in 1890 and played an important role in guiding ships through the Boca Grande Pass, which is a narrow and shallow channel that connects Charlotte Harbor to the Gulf of Mexico. The lighthouse was decommissioned in 1966.
Today, the Port Boca Grande Lighthouse is part of the Gasparilla Island State Park and is open to the public. Visitors can learn about the history of the lighthouse and the maritime history of the region through exhibits and displays in the museum, which is housed in the lighthouse keeper’s quarters. The lighthouse itself is not open for climbing, but visitors can still view the unique structure from the grounds. The park also offers a variety of outdoor activities, including swimming, snorkeling fishing, boating, and hiking.
7. Cape St. George
The Cape St. George Light is a historic lighthouse located on St. George Island, a barrier island off the coast of Florida in the Gulf of Mexico. The original lighthouse was built in 1833 to guide ships through the dangerous waters of the Gulf, but it was destroyed by a hurricane in 1850. The lighthouse was rebuilt, 250 yards (230 m) inland. In 1861 Confederate forces removed the Fresnel lens (light) to prevent it from being used by Union troops. After being damaged by a number of hurricanes in the ensuing 100+ years, Cape St. George Light toppled into the surf in October of 2005. The current Cape St. George Light was built in 2008 and is a replica of the original lighthouse.
The replica was built using materials that closely match those used in the original lighthouse, including salvaged bricks from the original structure. The Cape St. George Light stands at a height of 72 feet (22 m). The lighthouse was decommissioned in 1994. It is presently maintained by the St. George Lighthouse Association. The lighthouse is open to the public, and visitors who are at least 40 inches (1.27 m) tall can climb the 92 steps to the top for panoramic views of the Gulf of Mexico and the surrounding area. The lighthouse also features a museum that showcases the history of the lighthouse and the maritime history of the region. The St. George Lighthouse Association offers programs and events throughout the year to promote the preservation and appreciation of this historic landmark.
Summary of the Seven Most Beautiful Florida Lighthouses
|Amelia Island Light
|northern end of Amelia Island
|Cape Florida Light
|Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park
|Key West Lighthouse
|western end of Key West
|St. Augustine Lighthouse
|Ponce de Leon Inlet Lighthouse
|Port Boca Grande Lighthouse
|Gasparilla Island State Park
|Cape St. George Light
|St. George Island
The photo featured at the top of this post is © Henryk Sadura/Shutterstock.com
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