St. Augustine Lighthouse

April 24, 2017/Jonathan Rundle/1 Comment

We’ve left Castillo de San Marcos in the rear view and no we’re on to the St. Augustine Light. Let’s explore the site’s history and climb the 219 steps to the top.

The grounds contain a nice gift shop (where you’ll buy admission to the tower), the lighthouse itself and the nearby Keeper’s House which has been converted into a museum.

While the Keeper’s House is worth browsing, you’re probably here to get to the top, so let’s get to steppin’.

St. Augustine Lighthouse entrance
St. Augustine Lighthouse entrance
St. Augustine Lighthouse stairs

Indeed it is a long way to the top whether or not you want to rock n’ roll. These are the very same steps that light keepers trudged up, except they also had to carry heavy oil buckets to fuel the lamp.

At a few points along the way up, you’re treated to a couple of windows which look out toward the ocean and on the opposite side, the city of St. Augustine.

Once at the top, we were greeted by a museum employee measuring the gusty winds. If it gets too windy, they’ll ban children from going to the top. And if it gets really windy, no one goes to the top. I don’t want to know how or why they had to make that distinction.

Obviously the views are incredible (more on those later) but you’re also treated to an unexpectedly great view of the Fresnel lens.

Fresnel lenses are cut so that they will send light over longer distances than a conventional lens. The angles cut into the glass capture more light and point it in a more useful angle than a convex shape would.

As a result, the light can be seen from up to 24 miles away.

Top of St. Augustine Lighthouse
Top of St. Augustine Lighthouse
St. Augustine Lighthouse lens

The antique lens was functional until some asshole shot it with a rifle in 1986, breaking 19 of the prisms. The Coast Guard considered removing it and replacing it with a more modern airport beacon. The local Junior Service League fought that plan and instead restored the 9-foot tall lens. This was the first restoration of its kind in the nation.

At 165 feet tall, the lighthouse is the tallest structure for miles. As such, the best views around can be found here. Downtown St. Augustine is only about 1 1/2 miles away as the bird flies.

View of St. Augustine from St. Augustine Lighthouse
View from St. Augustine Lighthouse
St. Augustine Lighthouse view

There has been a watchtower in this area since the late 16th century. This structure was built in 1874 and has endured quite a bit. For instance, in 1886 an earthquake caused the tower to “sway violently,” as noted by the keeper at the time.

Plumbing made it all the way out here in 1907, electricity in 1925, and automation in 1955. Naturally, with automation comes the elimination of human workers. The three keepers were soon relieved of their duties.

An arsonist lit the Keeper’s House on fire in 1970. Man, you really can’t have nice things.

In 1980, that same local group mentioned earlier who protected the lens, took on the massive project of restoration. They petitioned successfully to add the lighthouse to the National Register of Historic Places.

In 1994, the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Museum opened to the public. What once employed 3 keepers now employs 50 and sees visits from 225,000 people each year.

St. Augustine Lighthouse Selfie mirror

Before you go, make sure to grab a quick photo in the convex “selfie” mirror!

What to know

The lighthouse can be seen on a number of creative tours that the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum puts on. Check their website for any news on special tours or even private tours.

General admission will cost you $13, seniors and kids under 12 get in for $11. Under 44 inches? Hey, you’re free!

Visit the light between 9am and 6pm, 7pm in the summer. Open every day except for Christmas and Thanksgiving.

Comments (1)

  • Jo A Walsh .April 24, 2017.Reply

    I love it when you guys travel !!!! That lighthouse is wonderful. So beautiful.Thanks for the tour.

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