Dense fog, heavy rains, and terrifying winds can stand like an impenetrable wall between tired ships and the safety of the shore. Since the dawn of ocean travel, man has employed technology and architecture to guide imperiled sea vessels to land.
With more than 1300 miles of coast, Florida is second only to Alaska for one-on-one contact with the sea. Billions of dollars worth of commercial freight and pleasure cruises come and go from Florida ports every year. In addition, there are more than 1 million personal boats registered in Florida. That's an enormous amount of water traffic. Now consider that Florida is the landing point for more than 500 severe storms a year, from heavy rain to hurricanes. The potential for dangerous conditions is high. But where there is need, there is innovation.
The lighthouse is an ancient solution to the timeless hazard for sea travelers - coming ashore in low or no visibility. These tall towers, originally made simply of rocks, house a lantern that can be seen from the water, helping sailors to safely guide their vessels home. Of course, powerful advances in architecture and lens technology have made the lighthouses of today pillars of strength, beacons that can withstand even the most severe weather and help boats of all sizes.
There are at least thirty lighthouses currently in active use on the Florida coasts. One of the most famous is the Ponce De Leon Inlet lighthouse in central Florida, near Daytona Beach. This gorgeous and vital tower of light was first built in 1835, and has survived many eras to remain a vital tool for sea travel ever since.
By the time electricity was installed in 1924, the lighthouse had become a fixture on Florida's Atlantic coast. It was run by the Coast Guard for many decades before becoming a museum in the early '80s. But this fabled structure was brought out of that early retirement when high rise construction blocked visibility to other nearby lighthouses. You just can't keep a great lighthouse down.
You can take a tour of this living historical legend and see first-hand the care built into every lovingly preserved brick. Hopefully the gorgeous Florida sunshine will be in full effect when you tour the lighthouse. But it's good to know that if you ever find yourself being lashed by wind and rain, unable to see land, the beacon lights of Ponce De Leon and the many other lighthouses in Florida will be there to guide you safely home.