Climb The St. George Island Lighthouse In The Florida Panhandle

When we were first trying to decide where to go in Florida before coming back out to Utah, the plan was St. George Island but then we settled on Cape San Blas and decided to go to the island to see the St. George Island Lighthouse one day.  It was the perfect day trip and fun to pass through Apalachicola.

We set off earlyish  on our way to St. George Island with a stop in Apalachicola for coffee (of course.)  When we got there, the coffee shop was closed (of course) so we walked around a bit, stopped in a couple stores, got some Tupelo honey, and found a different little coffee shop.

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When we got there we spent some time looking around the museum.  My favorite part was the little lighthouse models upstairs.  There was a collection of cool lighthouse replicas from around the world and it definitely made me want to see more than the two I’ve seen so far.

We did the 92 stair climb up to the top and squeezed up through the ladder to admire the view from the top.  You have a great view of the beach, the bridge, and the town.  It wasn’t too hard of a climb, but I definitely got a little dizzy if I went too fast because of the spiral stairs.  It’s totally worth the $5 to climb up to the top.

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I really enjoyed the drive out there going along the coast and over the really long bridges over the Gulf.  I love all of the long bridges in Florida.  I loved Apalachicola, at least what we saw of it.  And I loved the lighthouse, especially because of the history of it.  So, is it worth visiting the St. George Island Lighthouse?  Yes!  If you’re in the area or passing through and want to stretch your legs, it’s a great short stop.

About the St. George Island Lighthouse

Now about the lighthouse, the good part.  Waaaay back in 1852, the original lighthouse was built where it survived hurricanes and war, until 2005, at least.  Before this one was built, there was another one built on the western tip of the island in 1833, but it was hard for ships to see coming from the eastern Gulf,  so when it was destroyed by a storm in 1846, they rebuilt it at the island’s southern tip.

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Well, in 1851, that one was destroyed by a storm too.  This storm also destroyed the Cape Sand Blas and Dog Island Lighthouses.  The third lighthouse was finished in 1852 and was built right in the center of the island this time.  It was a little further inland and the pine pilings were driven deep into the sand as a foundation.

During the Civil War, the light was turned off so they weren’t helping Yankee ships and it was finally relit in 1865 by the keeper, James Reilly.  In 1949 the Coast Guard put in an automated light meaning the keepers weren’t needed anymore, but the keeper’s house and oil house stayed on the island.

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Come 1992 and the lighthouse was in peril yet again.  Storms and natural erosion were threatening the lighthouse and in 1994, it was deactivated when the Coast Guard realized it might be lost.  Then, in 1995 Hurricane Opal came around and the powerful tidal surge swept it off its foundation giving the lighthouse it’s lean.

As it slid into the sand, the iron spiral staircase inside was ripped from the walls and the keeper’s house and oil house were also damaged.  But still, it stands.  Now, it’s 1995 and the Apalachicola Times editor John Lee began the Save the Lighthouse campaign and raised over $200,000 by 1999 with the help of the Cape St. George Lighthouse Society.

By 2002, the lighthouse was righted thanks to some slow excavating and settling.  Once it settled, a new concrete base was built under it to help stabilize it.  When this was finished, the lighthouse society was dissolved and the lighthouse was deemed restored.

However, storms had other ideas.  By spring of 2005, the lighthouse was twenty feet out into the water and it’s new concrete base started to see the storm damage, too.  Finally, on the sad day of October 21, 2005, th St. George Island lighthouse collapsed into the Gulf of Mexico.

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But wait!  The St. George Lighthouse Association was formed and decided to rescue the light.  Working with the state of Florida DEP, pieces of the fallen lighthouse were salvaged and used in the rebuilding of the current lighthouse in 2008 at the center of St. George Island.  A replica of the keeper’s house was built next to the lighthouse and is now the museum where you can learn even more.

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Where is the St. George Island Lighthouse

The St. George Island Lighthouse greets you as you drive onto the Island from the mainland.  It’s the perfect day trip from nearby Port St. Joe and Cape San Blas and is a stop on a DIY lighthouse tour in the panhandle.

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How much is the St. George Island Lighthouse

It’s $5 for adults to climb the lighthouse and $3 for kids.  The museum is free, though.  They are closed Thurdsays year-round and have winter and summer hours.

March 1 – October 31: Monday – Saturday 10 – 5, Sunday – Noon to 5, closed Thursday.

November 1 – February 28: Daily noon – 5, closed Thursday.

How long do I need for the St. George Island Lighthouse

An hour or two is plenty.  It doesn’t take too long to go up to the top and the museum is small.  You could spend a few hours in the area relaxing on the beach, looking for shells, and seeing the island.  If you’re visiting from the Port St. Joe area, a half day will be enough.  You can visit Apalachicola on the way there or back, too.

They do full moon climbs most months which could be a fun and unique way to experience the lighthouse.

Have you been to the St. George Island lighthouse?  What did you think of it?  What is your favorite lighthouse in the world?  What about in Florida?

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