Florida is surrounded by water on 3 sides, with the 2nd most coastline in all of the US, just behind Alaska. So it should come as no surprise that the state is home to some very iconic lighthouses. Florida’s historic lighthouses are the perfect day trip from anywhere in the state.
The lighthouses in Florida are different than the ones you might find in New England. Because our shoreline is basically at sea level, Florida’s Lighthouses are typically taller, so they can be seen from the water. That means they are a little bit harder to climb, but the views from the top are breathtaking.
So whether you are a lighthouse lover or a first-time lighthouse visitor, be sure to add these lighthouses in Florida to your list of must-see destinations around the state.
The 8 Best Lighthouses in Florida Worth Making the Trip
St. Augustine Lighthouse
The St. Augustine Lighthouse was the very first lighthouse we ever visited. I still think that it holds my top spot as my favorite lighthouse in Florida. As one of Florida’s most historic lighthouses, its rich history, and iconic style make it Florida’s most visited lighthouse.
Let’s start with the basics. Yes, you can climb the tower! 219 steps to get to the top, which is about 16 flights of stairs. It might seem a little bit daunting to make it to the top, but there are multiple landings along the way to stop and catch your breath before you continue on. Once you’ve made it to the top, you step out onto the landing and take in the 360-degree view of St. Augustine and the ocean waters.
As one of Florida’s historic lighthouses, it should come as no surprise that the St. Augustine Lighthouse comes with plenty of ghost stories. The most well-known of the ghosts are the Pittee Girls, who along with another young girl at the lighthouse, were killed in an accident involving a construction cart in the 1870’s.
As you visit Florida’s historic lighthouses, the St. Augustine Lighthouse offers some of the most in-depth tours of all the lighthouses in Florida. You can join a ghost tour at night, or a keeper’s tour during the day to learn more about the history of the lighthouse and the surrounding shipwrecks.
Key West Lighthouse
Just a short walk from the Southern Most Point of the US, you’ll find the Key West Lighthouse. The Key West Lighthouse is on the shorter side of our list of lighthouses in Florida, so it’s a good quick trip up to the top.
This is the second Key West Lighthouse, built in the 1840s. The original Lighthouse was only built about 20 years earlier but was brought down in the Great Havana Hurricane of 1846. The second Lighthouse has fortunately withstood the test of time, with the help of the museum’s restoration and continued improvements, and still remains today. It is also about half a mile inland, to help the lighthouse weather any storms that come through, which Key West does see quite frequently.
Climb the 88 steps up to the top of this Florida Lighthouse and take in the view of the historic homes and buildings surrounding the tower, including The Hemingway Home and Museum. The Key West Lighthouse is also a stop along the Hop-On, Hop-Off trolly tours that are a great way to see the area and learn more about each stop. We definitely think you have to add this one to your list.
If the Key West lighthouse was a little far from the shore, the Sanibel lighthouse is the exact opposite. From the base of the lighthouse, you could take maybe 10 steps and be in the water. The skeleton lighthouse is different from the others on our list. Meaning that the stairs to the top do not have an enclosed tower, but exterior supports frames.
You can no longer climb the Sanibel Lighthouse, so there really is no restriction on what time of day you can go visit this Florida lighthouse. We visited as the sun was setting to enjoy some beautiful sunset colors, and we certainly did get some beautiful colors.
The area of Sanibel is excellent for a weekend getaway, so you can really turn this a trip to one of Florida’s historic lighthouses into a mini vacation. The area is known for its population of sea turtles that come to nest between March- October. Because of this, there are strict rules about lights at night along the beach, which helps make it easier to stargaze in the area.
Jupiter Inlet Lighthouse & Museum
It is easy to get the Jupiter Inlet Lighthouse confused with the Ponce de Leon Inlet Lighthouse. Although they look almost identical, they are two very different lighthouses, and about 3 hours apart. But both of these Florida Lighthouses are worth the trip. Head south, towards West Palm Beach to make your trip to the Jupiter Inlet Lighthouse & Museum, and you will see the light appear over the Jupiter Inlet.
The Lighthouse is open to climb, for a small admission fee. The views from the top are worth every step, even if you have to take a few breaks along the way up. You’ll also be able to take in the views of the National Conservation Lands that surround the lighthouse. Plan to spend a little time exploring before you leave.
This Florida lighthouse gets its distinctive red color for its paint job that begin back in the 1910s. The tower is constructed of bricks, and over the decades after it was built in the 1850s the brick was discolored from the humidity and sea air. The red paint has now become the iconic symbol of this historic lighthouse in Florida.
Crooked River Lighthouse
Let’s plan to head up to our only lighthouse in the Panhandle on the list. The Crooked River Lighthouse is about an hour outside of Tallahassee. As with many of the lighthouses still standing in Florida, this one was built in the late 1800s as a replacement for others in the area that were damaged to due hurricane impacts.
The tower is open to climb Wednesday- Sunday, so plan to conquer the 138 steps to the top to enjoy the view. Each month they have a full moon climb. A great opportunity to see the lighthouse in action and experience the surrounding St. George Sound and Carrabelle Beach under the glow of the rising Full Moon.
Originally painted all red, like our friends in Jupiter and Ponce de Leon Inlet, but eventually, they painted the bottom portion white to offset the tower from the surrounding pine forest, giving it the distinctive appearance you see today. We have not been to visit this lighthouse yet, but it is on our list for this upcoming year.
Gasparilla Island and Boca Grande Lighthouses
A lighthouse lover’s dream, two lighthouses for the price of one. Take the trip to Boca Grande to visit these two of Florida’s Lighthouses within a 5-minute drive of each other. The two lighthouses are totally different styles, making this a unique opportunity to see two completely different lighthouses in Florida in one day.
The Boca Grand Lighthouse is located inside the Gasparilla Island State Park. This is the shorter of the two lighthouses sitting at the end of the key. The lighthouse is included with the state park admission and has a small museum inside open to visitors during park hours. Although the lighthouse seems short, the light can still be seen from up to 12 miles away.
Less than 2 miles up the beach is the Gasparilla Island Lighthouse, we know that’s confusing because the other lighthouse is at the Gasparilla Island State Park. Visit the Barrier Island Parks Society website to read the funny story behind that. Standing 105’ tall, this lighthouse is similar to the Sanibel Lighthouse with its skeleton frame, but unlike the Sanibel Lighthouse, you can actually climb this one. But, it’s not every day. Keep an eye on the calendar for scheduled events with the BIPS to make your trip down there! The views from the top are definitely worth the climb!
Mount Dora Lighthouse
She may be small, but she is mighty. The Mount Dora Lighthouse is towering over Gilbert Park at 35 feet tall. If you know much about the geography of Florida, you’ll be wondering, Mount Dora isn’t on the shore. This lighthouse is located on Lake Dora and is the only lighthouse on a lake in Florida. And it is also the shortest lighthouse in Florida. Only in operation since the 1980s, and although so doubt the need for a lighthouse on the lake, it is registered as an inland navigational aid.
Mount Dora is one of Florida’s most cherished small towns, with an adorable downtown shopping district, tons of options for a good meal, and charming places to stay all over town. If you are a lighthouse lover, this is a great town to plan as a weekend getaway destination and enjoy an afternoon walk out to the lighthouse.
Egmont Key Lighthouse
We save Egmont Key last for our list, fittingly because it was one of the last lighthouses in the US to become automated. It’s not the prettiest lighthouse. In fact, it doesn’t actually have a lens on it anymore. And it’s actually kind of hard to get to too. Since the 1800s this lighthouse has been there to warn ships about the sandbars around Egmont Key. The lens was removed in the 1940s, and converted to an Aerobeacon, the only one of its kind on our list.
The trip to Egmont Key requires a ferry boat ride from Fort De Soto. The cost is $30 for adults and $15 for kids. This includes a boat ride out to the island with some guided narration. And oftentimes on the way back to Fort De Soto, they will do their best to find some dolphins. The area on the island also has a historic fort, and it is a popular area to go shelling.
Each and every lighthouse in Florida tells a different story. Whether you plan one road trip to mark them all off your list in a few days, or you take your time and visit them one by one, Florida’s historic lighthouses are worth the trip. Explore the areas, enjoy the fresh saltwater area, and as always, don’t forget your sunscreen.