Beyond Destin: Pensacola Lighthouse and Museum
Destin has a lot to offer, and although its beaches are world-famous and its seafood delicious, there are hundreds of hidden treasures in the surrounding area of Northwest Florida that yield for fun adventures, day trips and weekend getaways. This column which will be featured on Wednesdays, will follow the wanderings of reporter, Savannah Vasquez, and explore the many opportunities in Destin’s surrounding area. I invite you to explore with me Beyond Destin.
Pensacola has a great wealth of historical sites, and as a port city offers one of the oldest area relics with its lighthouse. Built in 1859, the lighthouse offers centuries of history, and even several ghost stories.
A restored two-family keepers house sits at the base of the lighthouse with a museum inside depicting life at the lighthouse as well as offering exhibits on the first European settlement in Pensacola and the early Pensacola villages. On the grounds surrounding the lighthouse, several hands-on stations are set up to display the daily skills needed for lighthouse keepers such as knot-tying and the use of different pulley systems.
Of course no lighthouse tour would be complete without a hike to the top of the tower, but be aware, the journey is steep and slightly taxing on the muscles as 177 spiral cast-iron stairs lead the way to the viewer’s deck. However, if you can make the climb, the view is worth it as the lighthouse stands 191 feet above sea-level and offers a view up to 27 miles along the Gulf Coast.
The day Cristian and I visited the lighthouse, the weather was a bit rainy and winds were blowing strong and steady. The climb to the top of the tower was a bit precarious as we were told the rail along the wall was first priority for those descending, so on the ascent we were asked to use the stairs as our handholds. The lattice cast-iron stairs allowed us to look down the long brick tower as we climbed, although I wouldn’t recommend this for someone with a fear of heights.
As we slowly climbed the tower we passed several windows overlooking the yard or ocean below. About halfway up, we came across a small corridor and followed it into a storage room which held a bench and a single TV that displayed a ghost video produced by the Travel Channel and SciFi's Ghost Hunters. We discovered that the lighthouse offers ghost hunt tours for those interested by reservation at different times throughout the year.
At the top of the lighthouse we found the revolving light reflector manned by a guide, and after a moment of gazing, were directed to go out onto the viewing deck. Once outside we were suddenly met by a huge blast of Gulf wind. Much to my enjoyment, Cristian found that instead of holding the handrail he felt safer suctioned to the lighthouse like a starfish until we reached the north side of the tower out of the wind.
Needless-to-say, we only stayed outside long enough for a few photos before making our way back down sea-level. But even with a fear of heights, the 360 degree view at the top was amazing, as we could see the National Aviation Museum across the street, the forested land of the Navy base and the Gulf of Mexico stretched out as far as the eye could see.
The Pensacola lighthouse also offers a gift shop and a nature walk down to the beach and for those wanting to make a day of it, NAS Pensacola also offers two other attractions to the public with the National Naval Aviation Museum and Fort Barrancas.
The Pensacola Lighthouse is located on NAS Pensacola, an active military base, at 2081 Radford Blvd. Every adult must present a valid ID in order to enter the base. The lighthouse is open Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. and Sunday from 12 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. Cost is $6 per adult or $4 for children 12 and under, seniors and active duty military. In order to climb the tower visitors must be 44 inches tall, and no flip-flops or heels are permitted as they may cause a tripping hazard. For more information call 393-1561 or visit www.pensacolalighthouse.org.