St Augustine Lighthouse: the Tallest and Most Beautiful View in Town
St Augustine is full of historic sites and unique museums downtown, but you’ve got to pop over to Anastasia Island for one of the most iconic sights in town: the St Augustine Lighthouse. Being the second tallest lighthouse in Florida, you can’t miss it. In fact you can see it from downtown, from Vilano Beach and from all around the island.
We’ve got all the details on visiting the St Augustine Lighthouse, from climbing the tower to exploring the grounds and museum buildings. And did you know that there are even maritime archaeologists on site at the lighthouse? It’s true! If you’re not inspired to visit the St Augustine Lighthouse after you read this, then I’ve failed.
We’re always happy to share more about the activities we enjoy here in St Augustine. If you have any questions or want to share your own tips, please leave a comment or send us a note. We’re happy to help with travel planning!
Where is the St Augustine Lighthouse?
Just a ten minute drive across the Bridge of Lions out of downtown lies the lighthouse, one of the best things to do in St Augustine. It’s visible from almost everywhere, including the Castillo de San Marcos, and it’s really beautiful. As far as other activities close by, you’ll probably be visiting the St Augustine Alligator Farm or Fort Matanzas, so you’ll already be close to the lighthouse. The Alligator Farm is just across the boulevard so is super close.
If you’re planning your visit in the latter part of the day, check when the St Augustine Lighthouse closes and plan for traffic…because even charming old towns have rush hour. And being all about family travel like we are, plan to visit the lighthouse and surrounding sites before nap time, as they’re all great, busy activities that will wear those kids out.
Note: if you’re using the Old Town Trolley to get around and see the sights of St Augustine, it DOESN’T go to the lighthouse. Just an FYI.
Planning Your Visit to the Lighthouse
The whole site requires at least an hour and if you’ve got history-hungry folks, around two hours is plenty of time, especially if you’re going to talk up the maritime archaeologists or boat builders.
Cost: $15 for adults and $13 for kids 12 and under AND DON’T FORGET: you must be 44 inches or taller to go to the top.
If you want to do a special tour, there are actually some really interesting options. From ghost tours to dark-of-the-moon, you’ll have quite a few choices. The after hours tours are one of the most special things to do in St Augustine, and it’s a great way to get a totally different perspective and experience here in town.
Parking at the Lighthouse
There is plenty of parking at the St Augustine lighthouse, both directly next to the entrance to the grounds and across the street in the overflow parking. Also, there is the nearby park and boat ramp which is sometimes a good spot to park as well if you’re planning on paddling or hanging out at the pier.
Note: there is an elementary school on the same street as the lighthouse and museum, so be mindful of posted school zone speed limits and ALWAYS watch for kids.
Things to Do at the St Augustine Lighthouse
From the lot, head to the museum entrance so you can pay your fee and have fun. There’s also a gift shop in the event that you need some lighthouse gear or can’t get enough St Augustine garb. Once you’re through that building, there are paths through the woods and gardens so you can learn about the lighthouse and the area.
Climbing the St Augustine Lighthouse
Do you ever start a hike feeling like you’re in great shape and then on your first ascent you’re like “wow, I need to run more!” Yeah, that’s what the 219 steps to the top made me think the first time I did it. But as long as you’re pacing yourself, it’s totally doable, even if you’re not in great shape. There are resting spots along the climb so you can catch your breath.
There are also windows to give you some amazing views on the way up, as well as a few interesting displays about the history of the St Augustine Lighthouse and its construction. I have seen a fair number of people not go all the way to the top on hot days, and that’s totally okay, but if you’re able to make it safely, you’ll enjoy the views.
Believe it or not, despite the sweating and huffing and puffing, by the time out-of-shape-Rob got to the top it really hadn’t taken too long to get up there. I forgot about how high I’d just climbed until I realized…how tall a 219 step lighthouse actually is. I just about threw up over the edge when it hit me, but then I calmed down and it was gorgeous.
Tip: heights are something to consider when you’re traversing anything, especially a lighthouse that has open rails at the top. I’m so glad I did it because it was really a breathtaking view. It also go me out of my comfort zone and showed me how out of shape I’d gotten. Oh, the benefits of travel…
Maritime Museum and Keepers Quarters
A highlight of your time here will be the keepers’ quarters, which is part of the maritime museum. It’s set up as days of yore would have and is neat, and then in the basement are newly renovated maritime exhibits both about the St Augustine Lighthouse and the shipping history of the area. We try to consider how interested the kids will be in museums, and some, like this, are pretty good for family travel and will hold a medium to short attention span. We’ve also visited as part of a school field trip and it’s been a hit with all sort of kiddos.
For me, one of the exhibits I think is most interesting is actually the maritime archaeology area. Here you can see people actively working to preserve all kinds of things pulled up from the shipwrecks that St Augustine is known for. From cannonballs to kitchen equipment, the process they go through is fascinating.
Another unique feature of the St Augustine Lighthouse and Maritime Museum is the boat building exhibit. There are legit wooden boat builders working on site at the lighthouse constructing traditional wooden boats like were used before coastal operations were modernized. And the people doing the boat building LOVE to talk about what they’re working on.
The Lantern of the St Augustine Lighthouse
It’s a beautiful glass. It’s the most perfect piece I’ve seen, and I’ve been to a lot of lighthouses. The beveling and construction are seamless and the current keepers maintain it very well; all 370 hand-cut prisms of it. When assembled, like it always is, the lantern is 12 feet tall and 6 feet across. That’s huge. And it’s beautiful to stare into and just get sucked into it, kind of like when you’re staring at fire and can’t look away.
The lamp is no longer running off oil, but electricity, like every other lighthouse in the USA. It’s still brilliantly bright, but doesn’t need to serve the same function as it did when it was first built in 1871. Today, it’s a nostalgic beacon and a place to visit and learn about the maritime past of St Augustine.
Lighthouse Playground and Nature Trail
The coolest part of the grounds for young kids is the playground. While some kiddos may really dig the museum and pictures, the play space has a ship with a slide to play on. The playground is located apart from the keepers’ quarters and lighthouse, so the original structures do feel like they’re in their authentic, timeless setting.
To climb the lighthouse, you must be at least 44 inches tall…which wasn’t the case for two of the four in our group on our first visit. And that’s why we were thankful for the ship-like playground. If you’ve got extra time, kids will enjoy the nature trail too.
Circling the property, the nature trail is an easy walk through the shady parts of the lighthouse grounds. Along the way you’ll find placards and information about the native plants, and a bit about the history of Anastasia Island and the St Augustine lighthouse.
Other Nearby St Augustine Beach Activities
This is our neighborhood and we love living here. There is plenty to do, both here in St Augustine Beach and on Anastasia Island in general. The island is bigger than the main town area of St Augustine, so you can spend a whole day exploring and visiting our beaches and still need more time.
Very near the St Augustine lighthouse you’ll find many other fun things to do and experience. Check out our full article about all the best things to do in St Augustine for a complete list, but here are four easy additions to your time in the St Augustine beach area:
- Saint Augustine Alligator Farm (small SSP zoo)
- Anastasia State Park (beach and historic quarry)
- Ocean Hammock Park (dunes and beach)
- Fort Matanzas National Monument
- kayaking ecotours at Marineland
- fishing from the lighthouse pier
Where to Eat Near the Lighthouse
And you’ll be hungry too. We have a lot of great St Augustine restaurant recommendations! The nearest of our top picks in the Village Garden Food Truck Park, which is about five minutes from the lighthouse. You’ll find handhelds, bowls, bbq and more. And then all along Anastasia Blvd there are wonderful restaurants.
Top picks for where to eat on Anastasia Blvd include:
- Osprey Tacos – next door to Ancient City Ales, great outdoor dining
- GAS Full Service – I love their burgers and the people are amazing
- Gypsy Cab Co – very eclectic and delicious
- Kaisers Deli – our friend’s place, really good sandwiches
- Mellow Mushroom (I know it’s a chain, but we love it)
- Odd Birds – the best cocktail menu on the island
Where to Stay on Anastasia Island
If you’re not interested in staying in Downtown St Augustine for your visit, there are lots of wonderful choices here on Anastasia Island. From hotels to vacation rentals, there are options!
Very near the St Augustine lighthouse is The Local: St Augustine. I love this charming, pink roadside motel. The people are great and the rooms are very nice. It’s in a great location too. Check out our full review!
Other options on the island include the VOCO Hotel on Anastasia Blvd, the Conch House Marina Resort on the water, and then over at the beach there are quite a few great picks:
- Embassy Suites on St Augustine Beach
- Courtyard Marriott (best for people visiting us)
- Guy Harvey Resort
- Castillo Real Hotel
I think that just about covers it. You should be able to plan a fun visit to the lighthouse and Anastasia Island now. It’ll be a great addition to your trip to St Augustine. If you have any questions about visiting the St Augustine Lighthouse feel free to leave a comment or send us a note!