The St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum serves as a scenic and educational maritime museum. It stands 165 feet above sea level, overlooking the Matanzas Bay and the Atlantic Ocean from Anastasia Island. Visitors can climb the 219 steps to the top of the St. Augustine Lighthouse for a spectacular view of the city and ocean.
Those who visit will discover St. Augustine's maritime past as they learn about the history of the lighthouse.
Visitors experience life at a light station through the many exhibits in the keeper's house, learn how the lighthouse served to protect our coast in World War II, and learn about area shipwrecks and the important work of marine archeologists at the lighthouse. In addition, the grounds feature a natural hammock, children's play area, boat building demonstrations, and more. The gift shop offers a unique array of nautical and local souvenirs and does not need a ticket for access.
Still an active aid to navigation, the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum, Inc. is a private, nonprofit museum dedicated to its mission "to discover, preserve, present and keep alive the stories of the Nation's Oldest Port® as symbolized by our working St. Augustine Lighthouse." The museum is an American Alliance of Museums accredited institution and a Smithsonian Affiliate.
Tripadvisor has awarded the attraction a 2023 Travelers' Choice because of its consistently positive reviews on the site.
The museum also hosts weddings on the front lawn of the lighthouse keeper's house. Wedding packages include admission to the lighthouse and museum where guests can climb the steps.
Free parking is available at the museum.
The museum is closed on Thanksgiving and Christmas Day. The museum is located on Anastasia Island on the road around the corner from the fire station, across from the Alligator Farm.
This exclusive guided paranormal tour is the only after-dark tour of the lighthouse. Guests can learn the ghostly history behind the light station and the keeper's house, conduct their own paranormal investigation, and ascend the 219 steps for a nighttime view of the nation's oldest city. From Memorial Day to Labor Day, Dark of the Moon tours are conducted Wednesday through Sunday; during the rest of the year, tours are normally available Friday through Sunday. Dark of the Moon tours are not recommended for kids under 13, and do require a certain amount of physical activity (climbing the tower and walking the nature trails after dark). For specific times and dates, or to purchase tickets, please visit here.
Warning, in addition to spooky, these tours are popular, and visitors are strongly encouraged to book the tour as they plan their trip, prior to arriving in St. Augustine.
This family-friendly guided tour of the light keeper's house, the museum grounds, and the base of the lighthouse offers guests the opportunity to seek the many spirits that are said to roam the museum property. This one-hour tour does not include a climb to the top of the lighthouse and is suitable for all ages.
St. Augustine became an important port following Ponce de Leon's discovery of the Gulf Stream. The original St. Augustine lighthouse was a wooden watchtower built by Spaniards in the late 1500s in order to protect their settlement from seafaring invaders and to direct other Spanish ships and traders to their bustling port. A flame sat atop the watchtower, but was far too weak to effectively signal ships, and served more to accompany the soldier on watch. Unfortunately, the watchtower was burned to the ground by Sir Francis Drake during an attack in 1586. Following this, a coquina tower was built on the site from the ruins of a stone chapel in 1683. This lighthouse lasted 200 years, but fell to shoreline erosion in 1880.
The Current Lighthouse
As a result of the erosion threat, the current tower was built further inland in 1874, six years before the first lighthouse fell to the sea. The lighthouse is St. Augustine's oldest surviving brick structure. The first-order Fresnel lens, first installed in 1874 is 12 feet tall, 6 feet across, and is composed of 370 hand-cut prisms arranged in a beehive formation. The keeper's house that sits next to the lighthouse was built in 1876 to provide living quarters for the families of those who kept watch -- now it serves as the St. Augustine Lighthouse Museum.
The Lighthouse fell into disrepair following World War II, and a fire in 1970 all but destroyed the keeper's house. In 1980, after years of neglect and vandalism, the Junior Service League of St. Augustine had the lighthouse listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1981. After raising hundreds of thousands of dollars, a restoration effort brought the lighthouse and the keeper's house to their former glory. It opened for the first time to the public in 1988, and the original Fresnel lens was successfully repaired and maintained. During its years it was closed, the light still continued to shine through the night, and after 14 years and $1.2 million towards restoration, the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum is a glistening beacon of Florida's maritime history. The site was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1981.
Rediscovering the Past
The St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum is also home to the Lighthouse Archeological Maritime Program (LAMP). This program seeks to discover and preserve ocean archeology in order to better understand Florida's role in early navigation and exploration. LAMP encourages participation in history through education and seeks to maintain St. Augustine's heritage as the nation's oldest port.
For a comprehensive list of tours and events at the Lighthouse, please go here.