Florida's Lighthouses Are Among the Oldest and Tallest
by Sandi Fahy
Photo by SANDI FAHY
Today there are some 30 lighthouses still standing in Florida. They include some of the nation's oldest and tallest. The oldest light was built in St. Augustine in 1824. It is the state's only spiral-banded lighthouse, standing 161 feet tall. Six flights of stairs will take you to the top of the black and white structure. The 122-year-old Ponce de Leon Inlet Lighthouse, which can be found south of Daytona Beach, boasts a 175-foot tower, the second tallest in the United States. Visitors can climb the 203 stairs to get a panoramic view of the Atlantic Ocean. The Jupiter Inlet Lighthouse on Florida's east coast has a distinctive red tower which is 108 feet tall. Its original first-order Fresnel lens was installed in 1860.
On the west coast, you can visit the house-style Boca Grande Lighthouse on the southern tip of Gasparilla Island. Constructed in 1890 by the U.S. Lighthouse Service, the light station in the Gasparilla Island State Recreation Area is the oldest building on the island. It houses a museum which features displays on the Native Americans who first visited these shores, the Spanish who arrived in the 1500s, the development of the railroad and more.
Anclote Key Preserve State Park is home to the 96-foot-tall Anclote Key Lighthouse, a skeletal tower you can view from the sightseeing boats which operate out of Tarpon Springs. Further north is the inactive Cedar Keys Lighthouse on Seahorse Key within the Cedar Keys National Wildlife Refuge. The 33-foot house-style structure is now a center for marine research for the University of Florida.
The 95-foot Cape Florida Lighthouse, which is located in the Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park on Key Biscayne in Miami, is Miami-Dade County's oldest structure. The first Cape Florida Lighthouse, which was built in 1825 along with several other light stations along the Florida Keys, was destroyed during a Seminole Indian attack. The present tower, which dates back to 1847, was reinforced in 1855.
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