Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined.

Henry David Thoreau

St Augustine Lighthouse

Thursday November 16, 2017                                   Most Recent Posts:
Anastasia State Park
                                                 To the Point
St. Augustine, Florida                                                Anastasia State Park, St.  Augustine

It’s been cold gray and dreary here for the past 4 days when finally on Thursday, the day before we will be leaving, the skies brighten up and we go over to the lighthouse.   We’re not the only ones apparently waiting for a clear day to go up to the top.  


After we buy our tickets we go straight out to the lighthouse.  We’ll see the keeper’s house after that.  Access to the lighthouse is through the oil house attached to the lighthouse.  There are two side rooms of information before the beginning of our climb to the top.

Florida’s soft sand and drifting coastline posed big problems for lighthouse construction.  Brick lighthouses in the state often proved too heavy for the sand and collapsed into the sea only a year or two after they were built.  St. Augustine’s coquina and shell base provided a firm foundation and in 1874 the lighthouse was completed.  It is the city’s first and oldest surviving brick structure. 

Constructed of brick and iron, St. Augustine’s cone shaped tower rises 65 feet above sea level and is still topped by a red lantern and its original first order Fresnel lens.  The tower’s interior is lighted by nine windows and has eight flights of cast iron spiral stairs that provide access to the rotation room and observation deck.

Inside the oil house, before starting his ascent the lighthouse keeper picks up the 30 pound bucket of oil that must be carried to the top several times a day.


Luckily he doesn’t have to make a second trip to carry the wrench up today.  Notice the size of the wrench in comparison with the keeper’s coat on the left.  Imagine the wrench in his hand.



As we climb the steps into the lighthouse itself I see that it’s not even Thanksgiving yet but the lighthouse Christmas tree is already set up.  In fact they seem to be doing a lot of the holiday decorating today.  It’s a pretty tree as are all the decorations we see.


So nice of them to put information signs on every landing so you have an excuse to stop if you need to catch your breath.  Doubt the lighthouse keeper had time to stop on his way up the 219 metal steps multiple times a day and sometimes carrying 30 pounds of oil.



Through the windows on each set of stairs between landings, we can follow our progress up.


On one landing we learn that in 1980 (good things happen in that year), 16 women of the Junior League saved the light station by turning back the bulldozers sent to demolish the keeper’s house.  These volunteers were very determined to save this light station.  It took them 15 years and 1.2 million dollars to save the house tower and fresnel lens.  What a debt we all owe to the foresight of these women.  I can’t imagine St. Augustine without its lighthouse and lens.


We make it to the top and David gets this picture of the beautiful first order Fresnel Lens.  Its light has been shining 19 to 25 nautical miles out since 1874 with one notable exception.  In 1986 the lens was damaged by a vandal’s bullet.  It was shut down in 1991 by the Coast Guard and the Junior League once again went to work.  In May of 1992, with funding from a variety of community organizations and state grants, they began the first ever attempted restoration of a Fresnel Lens.  A community wide celebration was held the following year in May of 1993 when the beacon was re-lit.  How wonderful to hear of such a tragedy turned into a time of joy.


We step out onto the observation deck and are nearly blown away.  Literally! The wind is MUCH stronger at this height.  We can see out over the entire city including the famous Bridge of Lions which allows one to go from Anastasia Island to the city of St. Augustine across Matanzas Bay.



We’ve picked the perfect blue sky day for our visit.  It’s been cloudy rainy and gray for days before this.  But today we can see for miles.


We go on the “back side”, meaning out of the wind, where we can at least stand holding on to the rail and swap picture taking with someone.  You can tell by my hair that even here the wind is whipping.  But the lighthouse is steady as a rock.   Thankfully!


Before heading back down both David and I get a pictures of the fresnel in its red dome above us.   Even though we are standing next to each other, our height makes them rather different..  Can you guess which picture is which?



Going down the 219 cast iron steps is a lot easier than coming up.  We’re both smiling.  What a fabulous lighthouse and you can see it all thanks to the women of the Junior League.



Back outside, we cross over to the keeper’s house.   There were actually three keepers.  The head keeper and his family lived on the left side of the house.  The assistant keeper lived on the right side and there was a small room on the 2nd floor for the 2nd Assistant who was usually a local teenage boy of between 18 and 20.   The two wings of the house are now the gift shop and the restrooms.



The keepers area has been beautifully retored to the late 1800’s.  Golden Oak and Walnut, the woods of the period and my favorites.



I love the view out the front door.  Doesn’t it seem so wonderfully southern?


IMG_6266_thumb[3]The interior of the second keeper’s house is a sharp contrast in decor.  It now houses an interactive exhibit focusing on a  shipwreck that occurred on New Year’s Eve in 1782, when a British Loyalist’s ship, carrying civilians and soldiers fleeing from Charleston, SC near the end of the American Revolutionary War, wrecked while approaching St. Augustine harbor.  The site has been added to the National Park Service’s Register of Historic Places. 

IMG_6272_thumb[6]Underwater archaeologists uncovered this shipwreck more than 200 years later in the waters off St. Augustine. The “Wrecked!” exhibit tells the story of Charleston colonists seeking refuge in one of the last colonies loyal to the British Crown, which at the time was St. Augustine. The ship itself has not been identified but archaeologists were able to determine that the ship was one of sixteen in total making this desperate journey to a safe harbor when it ran aground on St. Augustine’s dangerous sandbars.

The teams brought up cannons, cauldrons, buttons and many other artifacts from the wreck.  Many are on display here in the basement. The exhibit upstairs and in the basement down this cast iron staircase from the keeper’s room above tells the story of the doomed voyage and also invites guests to learn all about the science of underwater archaeology.    Also in the basement there is a video of some of the recovery of the canons which are on display.  Archeologists have determined by the location of the canons that they along with other heavy items were thrown off the ship in an effort to lighten the ship and dislodge it from the sandbar in their struggle for survival.



If you are a ship wreck enthusiast, there is interesting information about this one available on the Lighthouse webpage at this URL.

When we come back up  I look more closely at the lovely tree a pair of ladies has just finished decorating.   Under it  I find a blue Eeoyre.  Blue seems a good color for him.  The look on his face always reminds me of our Fred.


Back outside, we climb up the outside staircase.  Holiday garlands have been strung just today.  We really didn’t look much at the ground beneath us when we were on the observation platform of the lighthouse.  We were too busy looking off into the distance.  But from here, we can survey the grounds around the lighthouse.



I think these pictures give a good sense of the size of the lighthouse.  It’s BIG!


The St. Augustine Lighthouse is a great way to spend an afternoon. and well worth the price of admission.  Tickets are $12.95 for adults, $10.95 for those 60 and older or 12 and under.  There are many 10% discount tickets around in the tourist brochures as well.  I consider it a donation to the Junior League and to the upkeep of this wonderful  light house.


As we leave, David finds the perfect spot for taking a farewell selfie.  I wonder if that’s the reason they put this mirror here just inside the gate.


Tomorrow we’re off for another short drive down the Florida Coast to Gamble Rogers State Park where we’ll have an ocean front view.   Can’t wait!!


  1. That double stairway entrance to the lighthouse is very fancy!! I always appreciate information plaques on any climb - especially those that take some time to read :-)) Beautiful Christmas tree, I wonder what is usually in that little fence?? Great pic of the round stairway from the top. The Junior League must be so proud of their gorgeous light - many thanks to them for sure! I suspect the second pic of the lens is David's. The keeper's house is so pretty. I think the grounds might be the nicest of any lighthouse I've seen.

  2. Thanks for taking us up to the top...beautiful...you picked the perfect day!! The lens is amazing!! Don't know that I could get Bill up there;o))

  3. What a wonderful day you had for visiting the lighthouse. We didn't go while we were there a couple of years ago (the weather didn't cooperate) but I'm hoping we'll see it this winter, especially after seeing your photos. I'm guessing David took the first photo of the top of the lighthouse. (Is there a prize if I win?) :-))

  4. I remember seeing the light house but didn't go in. I absolutely LOVE that shot looking down/up the spiral stairs. And David's selfie. Thank goodness for the Junior League.

  5. I always stop and read the signs on the way up, gives me an excuse to catch my breath! Love lighthouses, used to have a souvenir collection of them in my S&B. Nice job documenting this one!

  6. Thanks for the wonderful tour Sherry. You could not have picked a prettier day.

  7. Lighthouse keepers were tough folks along with thier familes that provided a vital service to mariners. They were silent heroes of thier time:)

  8. Something else to see next time we are in St. Augustine. Great pictures and I love how you wrote the story and information on the light house.

  9. Loved the picture of the lighthouse keeper preparing to carry the oil up. That was quite a job. Hope they kept the wrench upstairs. This looks like a great place to visit. Thanks for sharing.

  10. Fantastic blog...I felt I was living this with you. What a neat lighthouse with all its stories and long history. Wasn't it 20, not 30, pounds of oil? The sign makes me think so and that's a big difference with all those stairs!! Great pictures of you and Dad enjoying the day :) Lovely views!

  11. Just glad I was able to climb all those steps without getting angina. I am sure the rest stops helped. Great place to visit.


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