Climbing 177 steps to the top of the Pensacola Lighthouse in Florida was quite an experience for us(especially me). We were heading to the Pensacola airport after a delightful week of being beach bums, and when we were about 20 minutes from the airport, we got a notification that our flight had been delayed.
Well, I knew we did not need any extra time sitting in a crowded airport, so I decided that it would be a great idea to visit the Pensacola Lighthouse. After all, it was only about 30 minutes from the airport.
I had always been attracted to lighthouses, mostly because they look so cool in photographs. I had photographed a few of them, but I had never been to the top of one.
Since I don’t really have time to go up and down the east coast visiting lighthouses, this one in Pensacola was a perfect lighthouse for us to visit, photograph, and hopefully climb to the top!
About 3 minutes into this adventure, I was pretty sure I had bitten off more than I could chew. First off, it was 177 steps to the top. Not such a big deal, except for the fact that I was dressed for the plane… Yep…you guessed it – – sweatpants and flip-flops!
In one of the pictures, you can even see the corner of the sign that says “Please…NO flip-flops. Shoes without a secure heel and ankle strap are considered hazardous”! Oops…
They even had a flip-flop stop. It was a little shelf where you could leave your flip-flops until you were finished touring the inside of the lighthouse. But there was no way I was going up that many steps barefoot, so off I went, up 177 steps in my hazardous flip-flops!
*For no extra charge, I’m going to offer up a piece of advice for those of you considering a visit to a lighthouse – – follow the rules. Do NOT wear flip-flops! Wear sneakers, shorts, and be sure to take a water bottle!
So off we went…up the steps to the top of the lighthouse. “It’s worth the climb,” they said. “The view from the top is beautiful,” they said. And of course, they were right. What they failed to mention is that the inside of a lighthouse is very small, and in the middle of the summer, it’s also very hot.
If confined spaces are not your thing, you might want to just read about lighthouses instead of climbing up to the top of one. When you put a strong dislike (almost fear) of confined spaces together with a very intense fear of heights, you have the recipe for some excitement…
As my kids practically skipped up the 177 steps, my husband and I huffed and puffed behind them trying to keep up. I really tried not to look down the spiral staircase that you could see through, but I just couldn’t help myself. The grip I had on the railing was quite impressive. I couldn’t see any reason to ever let go…
Up we went, slowly but surely! After stopping a few times along the way to catch my breath, roll my long, hot pants up, and to talk myself through some confining space issues, we were at the top.
I had survived the confined space in the stairwell, and now I just had to talk myself through being very high off the ground on a tiny little walkway that circled the top of the lighthouse.
“Lean out and look down, Mom! It’s so cool!” “Mom, look how high up we are! Oh my gosh, you can see forever from up here.” Those are just a few of the things my kids were shouting at me once we reached the top.
Clearly, they were not worried about me and my fear of heights. They were too excited about the fact that we had all made it up 177 steps to the top of the lighthouse.
Once we got out on the little walkway, we were greeted by a nice lady who proceeded to tell us all about the history of the lighthouse. Trying to be pleasant when you’re barely breathing (because you are worrying about falling to your death from the top of the lighthouse) proved to be quite difficult.
After a short story or two, I politely excused myself to make the circle around the top so I could head back down. I have to admit, the views from the top were breathtaking, and I forced myself to stop a few times to look around and take some photos and some selfies.
If only heights didn’t bother me. I really wanted to look straight down, but I knew that would not end well for me. I was already feeling dizzy just from being up that high… So after circling the top and taking a few selfies, we began our descent.
And it was not surprising to me that going down was much harder (for me) than going up. I had my husband stand right in front of me, and I kept my hands on his shoulders the entire way down.
Slowly but surely, we made our way all the way to the bottom as our kids yelled “Hurry up, Mom. Why are you so slow?” they shouted up at us as they skipped down the 177 steps!
The Pensacola Lighthouse was such an exciting adventure for us, and I was so happy that I was able to make it to the top. There was a little gift shop at the bottom of the lighthouse, and as we walked through it to head back to the car, I found the perfect little souvenir for myself.
I bought a baseball cap (surprise) that said “I Climbed 177 Steps to the top!” And yes…I will proudly wear it along with the free t-shirt that came with the hat!
Once I had made it back down and was able to catch my breath, it was fun to read a little bit about the history of the lighthouse. On March 24, 1824, Winslow Lewis offered to build the lighthouse for a little less than $5,000.
He agreed to fix it all up and get it in working condition for an additional cost of $750, and he promised to provide lamps, reflectors, torches, oil carriers, and many of the other things needed to get a lighthouse up and running.
The light from this lighthouse was first seen on December 20, 1824. The lighthouse was run by Jeremiah Ingraham who, while working this post, got married and went on to raise his 3 children at this lighthouse.
When he passed away in 1840, his wife, Michaela took over the responsibility for the lighthouse until 1855, when she passed away.
This original lighthouse was in working condition until early 1850s when it was recommended that they construct a “first-class seacoast light” at Pensacola, one-half mile west of the original lighthouse.
Since then, there have been many lighthouse keepers operating the lighthouse, many extensive repairs done, several closings of the lighthouse, and finally, in 1996, the Coast Guard Auxiliary began offering public tours of the Light Station.
This lighthouse that we climbed to the top of sits at 191 feet above sea level. It is currently the highest focal plane in Florida. It has a visual range of 27 miles! The Pensacola Lighthouse uses a First-Order Fresnel lens, and it was first lit on January 1, 1859. The lighthouse is now maintained by the Pensacola Lighthouse Association.
If you decide to visit, be sure you go during the week. One of the views from the top of the lighthouse is of the fields and runways that are used by the Blue Angels for practice! Sadly, we were there on a Saturday, so all we could see were the Blue Angels’ airplanes parked outside one of the hangars.
You can find out more about the Blue Angels on the Visit Pensacola Website. It has information about upcoming shows, events, practice schedules, and the history of the Blue Angels. Next time, my trip will be scheduled around one of their shows, or at least a practice!
There is also a lot more information available on the Pensacola Lighthouse. You can follow them on the Pensacola Lighthouse and Museum Facebook page, or you can read up on the lighthouse on the Pensacola Lighthouse and Museum Website.
On this page, you can find out about the hours they are open, admission prices, and a little bit about the history of the lighthouse.
If you find yourself in Pensacola, or hanging out at the airport with some extra time, I highly recommend venturing over to see the Pensacola Lighthouse. If I can make it to the top, so can you. Who knows…maybe this won’t be my last lighthouse to climb to the top of…
Until next time….