Are you visiting Florida for the weekend?
Your trip isn’t complete without visiting its famous lighthouses. Lighthouses are one of the well-known structures near great seas. They are not only impressive buildings that weather strong hurricanes, but they are also beacons of safety and hope to sailors.
Planning out your Florida Keys itinerary? Make some time to visit one of its many famous lighthouses. Read more about the most magnificent lighthouses in the Florida Keys now.
Florida and Lighthouses
The state of Florida is a long peninsula that separates the Atlantic Ocean from the Gulf of Mexico. Because of the state’s western ‘panhandle,’ most of the shores of Florida are low and sandy. They are often broken by narrow inlets that lead to shallow lagoons.
This unusual topography resulted in the building of tall lighthouses for coast visibility.
Florida has over three dozen traditional lighthouses on its coasts. Some of these are famous all over the United States. At present, Florida’s lighthouses are being preserved by the Florida Lighthouse Association.
In recent years, many local lighthouse societies began to support these preservations. These efforts led to many restoration projects for onshore lighthouses.
It also led to the birth of the organization of the Reef Lights Association. RLA aims to preserve more offshore lighthouses in the Key West area.
1. Sombrero Key Lighthouse
Erected in 1857, the Sombrero Key Lighthouse is an octagonal pyramid-like structure built with steel. At 156-feet, this light is the tallest lighthouse in the Florida Keys.
This tall lighthouse is on a submerged reef in Marathon, Florida. Sombrero lighthouse got its name from the Spaniards. In the early 1800s, they called the area Cayo Sombrero.
Once an island, it is now washed away after many centuries. Although, during low tide, you can sometimes see the reefs below the lighthouse.
Until its deactivation in 2015, Sombrero Key Lighthouse was an operational station. Its light is often seen from the Sombrero Beach on Marathon.
Because of the nearby reefs, the lighthouse is a popular destination for snorkeling and diving. Many tourists access the area with private boat slip rentals on Marathon. Taking the boat to the Sombrero Reef is one of the best ways to get a good look at the lighthouse.
2. Carysfort Reef Lighthouse
Carysfort Reef Lighthouse is a Congress-commissioned project. It began its construction in the 1840s. Upon its erection, it was the third screw-pile lighthouse in the whole of USA.
The lighthouse’s initial arrangement includes a well-enclosed balcony. It once also had a keeper’s quarter. Carysfort Reef Lighthouse is now labeled as a historic landmark of civil engineering.
Over 120-feet tall, it is one of the oldest offshore lighthouses in the Florida Keys area. Carysfort Lighthouse is also the oldest surviving screw-pile lighthouse in the entire US.
It underwent renovations by the Coast Guard in 1996 and is set in poor condition. By 2014, they abandoned the tower. Government officials deactivated Carysfort after deeming it unstable and unsafe.
They then placed Carysfort’s light into a new tower a short distance northeast of it. Because it’s in the middle of the water, the lighthouse is not open for any tours or observation.
However, you can still get close enough to see it. If you want to take a peek a Carysfort, schedule a snorkeling expedition in the nearby reefs. Many businesses rent out boats and equipment for the activity, so it is accessible.
3. Key Largo Lighthouse
This onshore lighthouse’s history is long and loaded with construction delays due to money issues. Key Largo Lighthouse’s lantern was first used in the construction of the Rebecca Shoal Lighthouse. There was whole trouble of accumulating enough funds to finish its construction.
Despite that, the lighthouse was prone to vandalism. Not long after, they knock down the lighthouse, selling its pieces to junkyards.
The new owners had the building painted with a distinct checkerboard red and white. However, they left the original lantern there.
In 2014, Key Largo Lighthouse’s light turned off and is now vacant. It is still accessible to get into the lighthouse by driving. The beach nearby is also a popular wedding venue.
4. Alligator Reef Lighthouse
Located about four nautical miles east of Indian Key, this lighthouse finished construction in 1873. Over 136-feet tall, the Alligator Reef Lighthouse is well seen from Islamorada.
The wood and wrought iron skeletal tower get its name from USS Alligator, an anti-piracy ship in the Key West. The skeleton-framed lighthouse has a black lantern. Its light shines both red and white, alternating it for sailors to know which sector they were in.
Before its automation in 1963, Alligator Reef had a good number of keepers from its construction. The area is always prone to huge and strong hurricanes that are harmful to the keepers. Automation allowed the lighthouse to provide its keepers better safety.
You can find the lighthouse within the water of Alligator Reef. Visitors can access it by boat and even snorkel around the area.
5. Key West Lighthouse
Key West Lighthouse is one of the oldest Florida lighthouses in the nation. This lighthouse finished its construction in 1825. The 65-foot tower is by no means the original, as the Great Havana Hurricane destroyed it in 1846.
Rebuilt in 1848, the original lighthouse had a brick tower painted in white with a blue lantern top. Although small, the building is on top of one of the highest points on the island.
Nowadays, the lighthouse is performing as a museum. It’s currently a section of the Key West Lighthouse and Keeper’s Quarter’s Museum.
This lighthouse is the most accessible in this list by driving or walking right up to the hill. You can also opt for helicopter tours to get an amazing aerial view of the lighthouse.
The Most Spectacular Lighthouses in the Florida Keys
Because of the topography of Florida state, lighthouses are a popular infrastructure. Whether erected on or offshore, no one can deny that these lighthouses tell stories of old. Here are some of the most popular lighthouses in the Florida Keys.
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