Visit a Northwest Florida Lighthouse

Long before radar, sonar or GPS, the Florida lighthouse provided direction and safety for mariners sailing near the coast.

Today five historic Northwest Florida navigation lights remain as great Florida attractions. They have been the settings for gothic novels and the focal points for stories of heroism, but in a practical sense, lighthouses have for centuries helped steer sailors home from the sea.

In the early days, light keepers kept torches or oil lanterns burning at night in the tops of stone towers so that mariners would know to stay clear of a point of land. As time passed, navigation lights became more sophisticated, using prisms and angles to project the light further out, allowing sailors to follow a series of lights to a destination.

The Crooked River Lighthouse offers a children's play area and picnic tables.

Even today many of the old lighthouses are still in use and are identifiable to mariners by the type and brilliance of the light as well as the shape, style, color and design of the exterior. No two lighthouses are alike. Some are tall, some are short, some have stripes (in different widths and patterns), some are solid color, some are concrete and some are cast iron skeletons.

Northwest Florida Lighthouses

As one of the earliest areas of the state to be settled, the Northwest Florida Gulf Coast was also an active shipping area, with bustling ports in Pensacola, Port St. Joe and Apalachicola. Cotton, turpentine and other goods were shipped all over the world, and lighthouses were constructed all along the coast to guide mariners on their way.

St. Marks Lighthouse

The oldest navigation light in the region and the second oldest lighthouse in Florida is the St. Marks Lighthouse (850-925-6121) located in the St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge. The first tower was built with hollow walls in the 1820’s and was rebuilt with solid walls in 1830.

St. George Island Lighthouse

The Cape St. George Light (1-888-927-7744) was built in 1833 on the west side of St. George Island to mark the Apalachicola Bay. It was rebuilt in 1848 on the east side of the island, but destroyed in a hurricane in 1851. A third structure was completed in 1852, but after more than 150 years of storm battering, the structure collapsed in 2005. The current lighthouse is a reconstruction using much of the original brick.

Pensacola Lighthouse

The first Pensacola Lighthouse (850-944-0179 or 850-916-7864) was built in 1824, but by 1850 the light was considered too dim and the lighthouse was deemed inadequate. The current tower stands 150 feet tall and was first activated in 1859.

Cape San Blas Lighthouse

The Cape San Blas Lighthouse (850-229-1151)at the south end of St. Joseph's Peninsula is the fourth tower to serve the area since 1849. The current 98-foot tall white skeletal structure was built in 1885.

The Crooked River Lighthouse (850-697-2585) near Carrabelle is a 103-foot cast iron skeletal tower built in 1895. There are picnic tables and a children's play area with a super climbing gym built to look like a boat.

Visiting a Florida Lighthouse

St. Marks
Crooked River
St. George Island
Cape San Blas

Much of Florida history is tied to the gulf and shipping and lighthouses are great Florida attractions. All of the lighthouses can be seen and photographed at any time. Both the Pensacola Lighthouse and the St. Marks Lighthouse are active and operated by the U. S. Navy and the U. S. Coast Guard respectively.

Visitors can climb the towers in Pensacola, Cape San Blas and St. George Island. The Crooked River Lighthouse and the St. Marks Lighthouse are open for special events and offer picnicking facilities.

Admission to climb a Northwest Florida lighthouse varies, but is usually about $5 for adults. Both the lights at Cape San Blas and the St. George Island have gift shops that offer themed gifts and collectibles.

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