Maritime History, Fun, & Discovery
The Northwest Florida region features a variety of historic lighthouses that are both fun to climb… what a view to see… and serve as important cultural maritime markers along the gulf coast.
Cape San Blas Lighthouse
The Cape San Blas Lighthouse was built more than 130 years ago when Congress appropriated $8,000 to erect the original structure. It was designed to guide vessels around the shoals running out from the Cape using the sole beacon that could be seen for up to 10 miles offshore.
Rich with history, including an attack by Union Troops in 1862, the structure has survived a series of blows from storms, winds and high surf throughout the years. Mother Nature continued her own onslaught and Tropical Storm Isaac reclaimed the remaining shoreline forcing the lighthouse to close temporarily in 2012.
On July 15, 2014, hundreds of people watched as the Lighthouse, its two Keepers’ Quarters and Oil House made its journey into Port St. Joe. The convoy, which was over 900 feet long and two lanes wide, was moved from the Gulf shores of Cape San Blas to its new location. The choreographed moving process took an entire day and required multiple power lines and a traffic light to be moved to accommodate the convoy on their safe journey. Locals and visitors alike were applauding with relief and pride as it came to its final stop in George Core Park. Hundreds gathered once again on July 24 to observe the Lighthouse as it was erected onto its new platform.
On the weekend of September 12, 2014, surrounded by the sights and sounds of the 18th Annual Florida Scallop & Music Festival, 249 climbers came out to be the first to take in the new breathtaking viewpoint of St. Joseph Bay from the top of the historic Lighthouse.
The Lighthouse Gift Shop is currently located adjacent to the Welcome Center and the historic Maddox Park overlooking St. Joseph Bay. Housed with souvenirs that honor the Cape San Blas Lighthouse, visitors can also see antiquities from the Keepers’ Quarters and St. Joseph Telephone Company as well as register to climb the Lighthouse!
Cape St. George Lighthouse
The original structure was first built in 1833. and rebuilt in 1848 and 1852 on what is now Little St. George Island, the Light finally succumbed to beach erosion and pounding waves. On Friday, October 21, 2005, the Cape St. George Light collapsed into the Gulf of Mexico. On Monday, December 1, 2008, the reconstructed lighthouse was opened to the public.
Working with state and federal government support, the St. George Lighthouse Association spearheaded the effort to salvage the pieces of the Light. Volunteers cleaned the mortar off thousands of the old bricks. The original plans were obtained from the National Archives in Washington, D.C. and the lighthouse was reconstructed on St. George Island, using as much of the original materials as possible.
Construction of a replica of the original keeper’s house was begun next to the lighthouse in the fall of 2009. The two story brick building was opened in the summer of 2011 and houses a museum which tells the story of the lighthouse and its keepers and a gift shop that offers visitors the opportunity to take home a memento of their visit to the historic lighthouse.
The Cape St. George Light is located at 2B East Gulf Beach Drive, St. George Island, FL 32328. Find more information by visiting the Cape St. George Museum and Gift Shop website.
Crooked River Lighthouse Park
For nearly 100 years the Crooked River Lighthouse stood as a guiding light for ships, and fishermen navigating the treacherous pass between Dog and St. George Islands. Today the lighthouse and keepers’ house museum stand on the mainland where the light was originally built in 1895, replacing the three short-lived beacons destroyed by hurricanes on Dog Island.
The 103 foot iron and steel structure was decommissioned by the Coast Guard in 1995 and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The Carrabelle Lighthouse Association and the City of Carrabelle obtained ownership of the landmark just weeks before being auctioned and created a public park surrounding it. Public and private financial support enabled the restoration of the structure to be completed in 2007.
Nestled in a north Florida forest habitat, the lighthouse beams nightly, with its acrylic replica of its original 4th order Fresnel lens. The park picnic area features picnic pavilion and tables, a children’s playground and a native plant garden. Grant funding also helped the CLA to construct a replica of the Crooked River Lighthouse Keeper’s House which was patterned after the original 1895 plans.
Completed in 2009, the Keeper’s House serves as a museum, gift shop and headquarters for the CLA. Exhibits include a historical setting of the early 1900s, examples of beacons and the methods of constructing a skeletal tower lighthouse. The Keeper’s Room include original clocks, a barometer, a glass fire grenade, pages from the keeper’s watch book, currency and much more. Visitors can look through replica Sears’ catalogues for a perspective on cost of living during the past century. Group educational tours are welcomed and new science-based programs are being developed. Find more details by visiting the Crooked River Lighthouse website.