Coasting: Climbing’s not necessary to enjoy St. Augustine Light!

St. Augustine Lighthouse

St. Augustine Lighthouse

With our third entry in the Coasting series based upon our stay in St. Augustine, we have this maybe-because-we’re-old-folks revelation:  You don’t have to climb to the top to enjoy the St. Augustine Lighthouse!  Really? you might say in disbelief.  You couldn’t even make it 219 steps for a glimpse of the nation’s oldest port and the beach and the city?

Well, sometimes you just can’t do it all when you travel.  Or you’re not able.  Or just not inclined. But you can make the most of what you see.

So what’d you do if you didn’t climb up? you might ask.  And we’d answer: Try this! 

1.  Stand back and look up.

At 126 years old, the St. Augustine Light is just one of six Florida lights open to the

Window detail, St. Augustine Lighthouse

Window detail, St. Augustine Lighthouse

public.  We loved the barber-shop swirls in black and white — its daymark, we learned.  A daymark allows mariners to establish their location during daylight hours just by seeing the unique marking or paint on any given lighthouse. If you were to see these swirls, you’d know you were at St. Augustine.

On the other hand, a nightmark  is the timing of a lighthouse’s flashing signal that identifies this and only this one particular beacon for seagoing vessels.  Before the automation in place today, the St. Augustine Lighthouse was known for this nightmark:  one bright flash every three minutes, a pattern that existed for 62 years.

2.  Go inside.  Read.  Take pictures. 

Pretty impressive were the displays of artifacts housed in the lighthouse museum, the little house with the red roof.  From the history of shipwrecks to discussions of archaeological finds, the museum collections tell the story well.  (Read the lighthouse story here.)

Artifacts -- St. Augustine Lighthouse and Museum

Artifacts — St. Augustine Lighthouse and Museum

You can also peer into the stairwell for patterns and photo-ops or just chat with the ones who made it to the top and back.  You can even ask a ranger about the paranormal tour — Dark of the Moon   that will take you to the top for a moonlight view of St. Augustine.

View of the stairwell -- St. Augustine Lighthouse

View of the stairwell — St. Augustine Lighthouse

3.  Visit the Harns where they used to live.

In the setting of an actual lightkeeper’s home in the 1880s, learn about the family of William Harn, the first long-term St. Augustine Lighthouse keeper  (1875-1889).  Sit in the Victorian parlor, read about the six daughters in the Harn family, or try your hand at some of the interactive games.  At Home with the Harns helps you imagine what it would be like to live onsite and maintain a lighthouse day in and day out.

4. Watch artisans at work.

We’re not sure how many artisans ply their trade in an area to the right of the lighthouse or even which days of the week.  But we could see one artisan scrutinizing an old piece for cleaning and repair.

Artisan scrapes and cleans an old piece at the site of the St. Augustine Lighthouse.

Artisan scrapes and cleans an old piece at the site of the St. Augustine Lighthouse.

Fascinating indeed was one finely crafted boat sitting under cover where we could examine the dovetailed joints and braces holding pieces together.  Digging through the St. Augustine Lighthouse website revealed this information:  Three mornings per week (Tuesdays through Thursdays), volunteer craftsmen build traditional wooden boats.

And according to the site: Using an old steamer box to soften the wood, each board is carefully molded into the keel, ribs and planking of a functioning vessel. Once a year, a completed boat is auctioned off to raise money for the maritime preservation and educational programs at the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Museum.

5.  And then just envy those who climb.

OK.  So we really wanted to climb.  Just couldn’t make it on the day of our trip.  We looked up.  Then waved.  Then said, We oughta come back.  That view is bound to be worth the stairs!!!

People at the rim looking down from the St. Augustine Lighthouse

People at the rim looking down from the St. Augustine Lighthouse

Whether you ascend the light or remain grounded, the St. Augustine Lighthouse won’t disappoint.  So here’s what we say: Travel at your own place.  But make the most of any adventure, no matter when you go.

Have you been to the top of the St. Augustine Lighthouse?  If so, tell us what we missed.  We’d love to know what you saw!

Thanks for Coasting with us,

Bert and Rusha

For more information:

St. Augustine Lighthouse and Museum, 100 Red Cox Rd., St. Augustine, FL 32080; 904-829-0745;

Hours, tours, and events:

St. Augustine Lighthouse and Museum on Facebook:



21 thoughts on “Coasting: Climbing’s not necessary to enjoy St. Augustine Light!

  1. dunelight

    I am a volunteer lighthouse keeper. There will come a day when I will no longer be able to climb the tower. They are still a beautiful reminder of our nations maritime heritage. Thanks for posting.

    1. Oh, the Places We See

      Thanks for reading and commenting. I don’t know how you volunteer day in and day out. But thanks for all you do. We may have climbed up if we had arrived earlier in the day. But even so, climbing is not as easy as it once was. Best wishes to you for continuing the work you do until it is not enjoyable any more. We need people like you!


    Rusha, we lived at St. Augustine Beach (twice) and loved it. We had a house and then a condo a couple of blocks from the beach and it was wonderful. As you probably discovered, SA is a special place. Also, I love the interesting little neighborhood around the lighthouse. This little pocket of unique, eclectic homes is laid-back and pretty neat. Thanks for a walk down memory lane.

    1. Oh, the Places We See

      What great information! I’m constantly thinking, “What took you so long to get to SA?” It really is a wonderful city — such diverse activities and a playful attitude even with all the historical forts, homes, etc. Wish we had driven around the homes near the lighthouse — we love to take side streets and look at houses — just one of our fave things to do when we travel through a town or city. You’re making me think we need to go back!!!

    1. Oh, the Places We See

      You’re so right. It’s all good. We arrived late in the day and just decided to see all except the view from the top. But most people want to “check off” that they have been to the top of the lighthouses they visit. A great goal!

  3. Curt Mekemson

    So, I learned something new. I didn’t know about day marks and night marks with light houses. It makes total sense in the days before modern navigation. Thanks. –Curt

    1. Oh, the Places We See

      Curt, it was new information to me also. So that’s why we put it in the post. It does make sense and explains why each lighthouse is different. Or I guess each lighthouse is different. Need to look into that!

  4. Neil Fischer

    Rusha & Burt,
    We missed that on our recent trip to St. Augustine, but now have a reason to return. Thanks for the great write up and photos.

  5. yprior1

    always love seeing more of my favorite town – and your posts really show folks how wonderful st augustine is – and well, that first photo reminds me of when we there at the lighthouse on a day trip my sons were too little to go up (2001) and they were so sad – but then we went to the alligator farm (nearby) afterwards and it cheered them up.
    and my fav of your post (all of it really) but personally I have not seen the artisan at work – 🙂

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