Must Visit Florida Lighthouses - St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum

Light Up Love at These Must-Visit Florida Lighthouses

Florida has 29 lighthouses remaining today with even fewer still operational. You could make a vacation solely out of traveling to the lighthouses around the state! Lighthouses have been and continue to be a beacon of light warning sailors of the rocky shores. Because of these lighthouses, mariners have been able to safely sail around Florida’s coast for hundreds of years. Lighthouses aren’t just practical though. They are a beautiful addition to the scenery and provide romantic ambiance. Lighthouses are also an inexpensive way to have a dreamy date outing and get incredible experiences. Elevated to a bird’s eye view with the wind and sun kissing your face, take in the sights of land and sea below while standing shoulder-to-shoulder with your main squeeze.

We’ve gathered a few worth a trip for you here:

Day Trips

Cape Canaveral Lighthouse
Port Canaveral

Distance from Orlando: 1 hour

Prior to becoming part of the Kennedy Space Center, Cape Canaveral Lighthouse stood tall guiding those out at sea. Tours are given upon a 48 hour-reservation only due to security clearance on the Air Force Base. Tours are 3 hours and include the Air Force Sands Space History Center, two historic launch complexes, and Exploration Tower at Cape Canaveral. Close-toed shoes must be worn for the lighthouse tour. Note that the stairways become narrow, steep, and have little or no handrails. Plan for the Cape Canaveral Lighthouse tour to take half of your day.

Tickets are $27 per person.

Make it a day trip:

  • Journey to the stars at the Kennedy Space Center learning all about the history and endeavors of NASA’s space program.
  • Spend some time with your toes in the sand on one of the local beaches.
  • Kick back on the outdoor waterfront tiki deck as you drink a cold one and eat oysters on the half shell at Rusty’s Seafood and Oyster Bar.

Must-Visit Florida Lighthouses - Cape Canaveral Lighthouse
Image credit: Cape Canaveral Lighthouse

Ponce de Leon Inlet Lighthouse and Museum
Ponce Inlet

Distance from Orlando: 1 hour 15 minutes

Surrounded by all of the original buildings and a quaint white picket fence, Ponce de Leon Inlet Lighthouse proudly stands as Florida’s tallest lighthouse. It’s a whopping 203 steps to the top for breathtaking views of the inlet. You’ll even be able to catch a glimpse of Daytona Beach! The surrounding buildings are part of the museum, each featuring exhibits pertaining to the history of the lighthouse and surrounding area.

The Lighthouse is open daily for discovery for $6.95 per adult.

For boaters, bring your vessel along and check out Disappearing Island. This tropical paradise emerges each day at low tide where Ponce Inlet and New Smyrna almost meet. Bring chairs, grills, coolers and games to enjoy the time before the island disappears again. Coordinates are 29.074742, -80.931316.

Make it a day trip:

  • Walk through a mangrove estuary, sit in awe of a living reef aquarium, peek at the turtle rehabilitation area, gaze at a dune habitat, and touch stingrays at the Marine Science Center. There is also a birdwalk located in the seabird rehabilitation sanctuary. This affordable adventure is only $5 per adult.
  • Adjacent to the Lighthouse is Hidden Treasure Rum Bar & Grill. The pet-friendly outdoor deck features a twisted oak tree perfect for snagging a selfie. The restaurant claims they have the largest collection of unique vintage rum in Florida. Bottom’s up!

Ponce Inlet Lighthouse
Image credit: Ponce Inlet Lighthouse

St. Augustine Lighthouse and Maritime Museum
St. Augustine

Distance from Orlando: 2 hours

Possibly the state’s most famous lighthouse is the St. Augustine Lighthouse and Maritime Museum. The view from the top is one of the most beautiful with city scenery on one side and the bay on the other. There are several guided tours and interactive activities included with general admission. Experience a British loyalist shipwreck from the American Revolutionary War in the newly opened “Wrecked” exhibit. Or, try your hand at the Maritime Hammock Scavenger Hunt searching for animals, plants, and other items as you stroll along a natural area. Cards can be picked up at the entrance to the Maritime Hammock trail.

General admission tickets are $12.95/adult.

Seeking adventure and romance? Book one of the special guided tours. The Dark of the Moon Ghost Tour will take you into the lighthouse tower in the dark searching for paranormal activity ($24.95 per person). Alternatively, the monthly Sunset/Moonrise Tour invites you to watch the sunset from the tower as the full moon rises while sipping champagne and noshing on hors d’oeuvres ($30 per person).

Make it a day trip:

  • Ride in a horse-drawn carriage around the historic downtown area. 
  • Look for all seven love trees. According to legend, if you kiss under one of these unique trees, your love for each other is sealed for all eternity.
  • Marvel at Castillo de San Marcos. This ethnically diverse monument is a reminder of the struggle and success of this historic city.
  • For detailed tips about places to drink and dine, review our itinerary for spending a day in this unforgettable town.

St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum
Image credit: St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum

Jupiter Inlet Lighthouse and Museum

Distance from Orlando: 2 hours 30 minutes

Playing a critical role in World War II, Jupiter Inlet Lighthouse or “Station J,” was home to seamen who intercepted radio messages from lurking German submarines. These submarines were attacking merchant ships that carried war supplies and causing quite the dilemma. Through “top-secret high-frequency direction-finding” signals, Station J was able to pinpoint these submarines at night when they would surface to relay messages. This allowed US aircraft to seize these vessels and thus ending German dominance in the water. Hours of operation are 10am – 5pm seven days a week January – April and Tuesday – Sunday from May – December.

Tickets are $12 per person but free for active military.

Make it a day trip:

  • Refuel at Square Grouper Tiki Bar. Having been featured in “It’s Five O’Clock Somewhere” by Alan Jackson, you can rest assured the tropical atmosphere continues 363 days of the year – they are closed Thanksgiving and Christmas. Live bands take the stage seven days a week.
  • Soak up the sun at nearby Hobe Sound Beach or wander along the shore at Blowing Rocks Preserve.

Jupiter Inlet Lighthouse
Image credit: Jupiter Inlet Lighthouse

Port Boca Grande Lighthouse and Museum
Boca Grande

Distance from Orlando: 3 hours

Boca Grande is a beautiful, quiet island with a quaint downtown perfect for an adults-only getaway to unwind from daily life. Standing as the oldest structure on Boca Grande, Port Boca Grande Lighthouse looks more like a seaside cottage than a towering lighthouse. It’s been guiding sailors since 1890 and now includes a museum. There are five rooms to chart a course through history with a popular “please touch” room; perfect for children and adults alike. Sit and stay awhile to enjoy the Gulf views while rocking in the front porch gliders.

While you're in town, make sure to double up on lighthouse fun with a visit to the Gasparilla Island Lighthouse. The cost is $15/person — check the calendar for upcoming climb tours.

Make it a day trip:

  • Boat to Cayo Costa State Park. This barrier island is only accessible by boat and boasts miles of untouched beach. Because it’s remote, you’ll feel like the only couple on the island.
  • Bring your bikes for a relaxing ride around Boca Grande on paved pathways. They run almost the length of the entire island!
  • Dine at The Loose Caboose located in the old train depot. They are family owned and serve up fresh seafood and local produce.
  • Cool down at Dolphin Cove Cafe. They offer many flavors of ice cream and cafe-style food.
  • Extend your stay with our guide to Three Perfect Days in Boca Grande.

Port Boca Grande Lighthouse
Image credit: Port Boca Grande Lighthouse (via TripAdvisor)

Hillsboro Inlet Lighthouse
Pompano Beach

Distance from Orlando: 3 hours 15 minutes

Standing tall where the sand meets the ocean in upscale Pompano Beach is Hillsboro Inlet Lighthouse. This lighthouse sailed 4,000 nautical miles from Detroit where it was assembled for the purpose of completing the chain of lights along Florida’s east coast extending from Jupiter to Tortugas. This allowed mariners to see one light before losing sight of another. Consider this a magical unicorn of lighthouses, simply because it’s only open select dates and you have to catch a boat tour to get there. Catching a tour of this beauty would be the perfect time for something special…like a proposal! Tours and sail times are announced on the website. The boat ride is 30 minutes one way. Be sure to wear closed-toe shoes and be able to climb 130 vertical feet in a hot, narrow staircase.

FYI, a transportation fee of $35/person applies.

Make it a day trip:

  • Arrive early for one of the first boat shuttles then spend the day climbing the rocks at the mouth of the inlet, wading in the blue waters and catching views of the reef running along the Atlantic beach.
  • Pack a picnic! There is no food service. Water is sold onsite by the non-profit society.
  • Bring along beach chairs and towels to stay for the day.

Hillsboro Lighthouse
Image credit: Hillsboro Lighthouse Preservation Society

Weekend Getaways

Crooked River Lighthouse

Distance from Orlando: 4 hours 45 minutes

Climb 138 steps to the top of this iron skeleton tower. The Crooked River Lighthouse is a National Historic site dating back to 1895, although it’s recently been restored. The lighthouse was constructed to assist timber ships, fisherman and oystermen through the dangerous pass between Dog Island and St. George Island in the panhandle. Weather permitting, tours are given Wednesday – Sunday from 1pm – 4pm. The museum and gift shop is also open these days from noon to 5pm.

Admittance into the museum and gift shop is free and it'll only cost you $5 per person to climb the lighthouse. A small pittance for a remarkable view above the treetops.

Complete your itinerary:

  • Visit The World’s Smallest Police Station. Once a working phone booth for police officers to take calls sheltered from the weather, it is now open to the public.
  • For breakfast or lunch, stop in at Lulu’s Cafe for offerings made from scratch daily. Check their Facebook page for daily specials.
  • Stroll along Carrabelle Beach. It’s a small public beach that feels more like a private one.
  • Nearby Apalachicola is a great place to spend a quiet weekend in a slice of Old Florida.

Crooked River Lighthouse
Image credit: Crooked River Lighthouse

Pensacola Lighthouse and Museum

Distance from Orlando: 6 hours 15 minutes

Take a ghostly tour of the historical Pensacola Lighthouse. Previously visited by the Travel Channel and SciFi’s Ghost Hunters, this lighthouse has been named one of the most haunted lighthouses in the USA. Ghost hunts in the Keeper’s Quarters are given twice a month on Saturdays. Tickets are $25 per person. Ghosts not your thing? Purchase your tickets to watch the patriotic Blue Angels practice from the Lighthouse catwalk. It’s an aerial view few have the opportunity to experience! Tickets are $20 per person and space is very limited. Expect to go through security checkpoints since the lighthouse is located is on an active Naval Air Station.

Daily admission for the Lighthouse and museum is $7 per adult.

Complete your itinerary:

  • Strut around Fort Barrancas for a self-guided tour of the Fort and Spanish Water Battery. There are also hiking trails along routes once used by soldiers. 
  • Visit the world’s largest aviation museum, the National Naval Aviation Museum, to learn the history of aviation in the U.S. Coast Guard, Navy, and Marines. The Blue Angels can also be seen practicing from this location. Capacity is reached quickly, so arrive before 9:30am. Admission into the museum is FREE!
  • Pedal through a historical tour of Pensacola on the Pedal Trolley. The tour is 90 minutes and includes stops at museums and watering holes to quench your thirst. A Pub Crawl and Sunday Brunch tour are also offered.
  • Try Red Fish Blue Fish. It looks out to the Santa Rosa Sound and offers beautiful sunset views. Dining is available inside or on the patio. The menu is packed with choice variety to satisfy any diet.

Pensacola Lighthouse
Image credit: Pensacola Lighthouse

Key West Lighthouse
Key West

Distance from Orlando: 7 hours

Once a guiding light for military and commercial ships to navigate the shallow reefs, the Key West Lighthouse was decommissioned in 1969. It now sits downtown giving an additional nautical allure to the city. When the lighthouse first opened in 1848, the Keeper was a woman which was almost unheard of during this time. Visitors can now get a glimpse of the keepers lives through pictures and displays of their personal belongings. The lighthouse is open everyday except Christmas from 9:30am – 4:30pm.

Tickets are $10 per adult.

Complete your itinerary:

  • Stop for a selfie at Southernmost Point of the Continental US. This infamous buoy is located at the corner of South Street and Whitehead Street. 
  • Float around like a butterfly at the Key West Butterfly and Nature Conservatory. This enclosed habitat is home to more than 50 species of butterflies and over 20 species of birds. Admission is $12 per adult.
  • Stroll through Mallory Square for shopping, restaurants, and entertainment. The world-famous Conch Fritters is located here, as well as a Cuban cigar emporium to watch a craftsman hand roll Cuban cigars. At sunset, you’ll want to be sure you are in the square for the nightly sunset celebration.
  • End your evening on a sweet note at the original Better Than Sex dessert restaurant. 
  • Want to go for the day? Catch a day trip flight and follow our Key West Day Trip itinerary.

Key West Lighthouse
Image credit: Key West Art & Historical Society

What Florida lighthouses would you like to add to our list?

Feature image credit: St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum