Saturday, August 6, 2016

Ponce de Leon Inlet & Lighthouse

Originally posted April 8, 2015

Ponce Inlet - it's like everyone is on a first name basis.
From the campground, you drive like you’re going to the beach, over the Halifax River bridge then just before driving out onto the beach, as you get to the traffic light at the A1A, turn right and keep going slowly (its a 25 mph limit) for a little bit. You’ll end up here. The Lighthouse is at the very end of the road, which makes a loop and takes you back north again. A quiet, very well-to-to neighborhood that just happens to contain Florida’s largest lighthouse and, coincidentally, the reason I came here, today.

Entrance view to National Landmark. Perfect day for photography.
Since the first great lighthouse, Pharos of Alexandria built-in 290-270 B.C.,(20 years in construction) man has established lighthouses to guide and warn sailors of possible dangers along the shores. Strategic areas along our nation’s beaches have long been natural building sites for lighthouses. This location is just as perfect. In fact, during WW-II, the site was used by the Civilian Air -Watch to look for enemy aircraft approaching.

This magnificently restored lighthouse stands 175 feet tall and contains 203 steps to reach the top. I can attest to that as I tested myself to make the climb. After all, how can you get the view from the top any other way? I did and it was great. In this case, you only enter through the gift shop. It’s sad because it cuts down on their gift shop sales. By the time you take the tour and climb the lighthouse, you’re ready for the car – not trinket shopping. I like to keep both hands free for camera operation when I tour – the gift shop always comes later.

Rear entrance to lighthouse keeper's residence. Wheelchair access was added much later.
While I’m on the subject of gift shops, I’ve been fortunate enough to have traveled some and always seem to buy something along the way to remember the trip. I have a storage box full of coffee mugs – never used. I have a pile of t-shirts that I gave to my daughter to cut the designs from and make a quilt for me, someday. I have a stack of baseball hats that don’t actually “go” with any other outfits, but I like them just the same – even though I don’t wear hats that often. I quit buying that stuff, but I haven’t quit buying little hat pins from the places that offer them. I have a really nice collection of those, catalogued and unsorted, just in an organizer box. I get that box out, now and again, and try to remember where I’ve been and the times I’ve had.

This is the parlor or living room view of Keeper's residence.
So, I stop at the cash register with my little Ponce Lighthouse hat pin purchase and also buy my ticket for the self-guiding tour of the lighthouse and the grounds. My senior citizen discount was welcomed, but it was only a few dollars anyway. I tucked the hat pin and receipt in my pocket, then wrapped the official day-glow green armband around my wrist and walked toward the first stop, which was the little theater where they provide a short introductory video via automatically timed loop. I was a little early, so I looked around at the lighthouse keepers’ artifacts. The film was short and sweet about the building of the lighthouse and so forth. When you go there, you really should see it for its educational value. I’m sure all the school kids do when they visit on field trips.

Lighthouse Keeper's Bed Chamber - including the Victrola record machine. Might have been romantic folk.
The next place to visit was the Lighthouse Keeper’s family residence. It was a pretty nice house for having bathrooms and indoor plumbing only added in 1921. Shortly, thereafter, electricity came to all the residences too. By that I mean the including the 2nd and 3rd Assistant Lighthouse keeper’s residences – also on the grounds, but closed as probably being too similar to the lighthouse keeper’s house.

For those reasons, I’ll only show you photos of the insides of the Lighthouse Keeper’s residence. Of course, the rooms were small. I think people were smaller in those days, too .. weren’t they? Anyway, there seemed to be plenty of room for the basic necessities of life – including music in the boudoir – by means of this Victrola record machine.

Indoor plumbing addition of 1921 used part of the back porch, which was then enclosed.
As you can see here, and was indicated by the descriptive signage, the 1921 bathroom additions were made using the space on the porches and then enclosing them. It seemed the best way at the time and under-porch water lines were in no danger of freezing in central Florida. Those guys didn’t know how lucky they were to have one of those big, claw-footed bathtubs which were so comfortable to sink down into and just soak for a while.

Well, this was all well and good. “Lifestyles of a lighthouse keeper’ wouldn’t make much of a reality TV show, these days. People were much more private with their lives back then.

This entrance portal is so dramatic and formal looking.

So, the best part. What’s inside a lighthouse that makes it so damned tall?

Well, … let’s go in and see. Here’s the door. What’s your hurry? There IS no hurry.

Once inside, you get your first look at the huge – 203 step, 175 feet climb – of stairwell.

Read & heed the sign, then your journey starts .. first step on the left.
There is no yellow-brick road, but there are lots and lots of battleship gray steps.

Take time to take a deep breath, one step at a time and keep looking up. You’ll get there eventually.

There are landings every so often where parties coming down can pass the parties going up. Heaven help you if you’re a large person.

I don’t mind saying that I got a little winded from time to time and stopped at the landings to catch my breath and wait for my ears to pop. Yep, even that slight altitude change needed and ear-pop adjustment. I spent very little time looking out the windows (1) because they were dirty and (2) there wasn’t much of a view through them. I decided that their only purpose was to let in enough light to be able to see while climbing the steps. I could be right. My theory is as good as yours. I imagine it would be tough to clean the windows on a regular basis on the outside of a lighthouse. Here’s my prized shot.

Straight up the center of the spiral staircase. Makes me dizzy.
This view is looking straight up the center of the spiral staircase leading to the floor of the light room. It’s a dizzying sight, but as one stares at it, its easy to get drawn-in.

Looking straight up through the center of the spiral staircase. What a design!

We’re almost to the end of the tour. I won’t take you into the lighthouse lens museum. When the light shines just right in there, it would be an awesome display of light diffraction, diffusion and colors.

I promised you a view from the top, so here it is. In this image, I’m looking South from the observation deck.

At the top, looking south from the observation balcony.
The world is truly a different place up there in the warm, Florida breeze. From this little marina/restaurant, you can charter fishing trips, launch your own boats or store them until you return. I don’t have a boat, so I’ll just store my memories here, online with you. It was a great day.

Of course, here is my own postcard view
Final shot – in case you got lost in this long dissertation and forgot what I was talking about. :-)

Ponce Inlet Lighthouse flags on a fairly windy day.

Thanks for your visit. I hope you enjoyed your time here.



  1. wow! the shot of the staircase is flippin' awesome! :)

    1. Definitely one to stare at for a while. I got a crick in my neck leaning backwards far enough to get that shot straight up the center. The lighting through the lighthouse windows at the moment was just perfect. Thanks.

  2. all the stairs reminds me of having to take the stairs up to the Empire State Bldg when in New York ... I didn't think I was gonna make it :) but the view was worth it! :)

    1. The view at the top is ALWAYS worth the climb - in tourism or in life.