West Florida Lighthouses: Cedar Key, Gasparilla Island, Sanibel, Ancolte Island, and Egmont

Do you love lighthouses? Today we have a great guest post from Samet Bilir about the lighthouses on the west coast of Florida. I need to add these to my list!

Lighthouses have served an important part of our nation's history, as well as the history of the West Florida coast. Florida has a rich maritime history both in the shipping trade and in Naval operations. Over the years, Florida's lighthouses have provided that beacon of light - warning ships of danger and welcoming sailors home.

Cedar Keys Light

The Cedar Key lighthouse around 1894.
The Cedar Keys light actually resides on a neighboring island - Seahorse Key - not on Cedar Key itself. Structurally, the lighthouse is one of the shorter lights in the state. The light itself is only 30 feet tall, but was built on a part of the island which is 40+ feet above sea level, so the effective overall height is just over 70 feet.
The light was decommissioned in the early 1900's, and several decades later the island was incorporated into the Cedar Keys National Wildlife Refuge. As part of the refuge, the lighthouse is not open to the public, although tours are generally offered for a couple of days each year during the Cedar Keys Annual Seafood Festival which is usually held in October. The lighthouse itself and surrounding structures are leased to the University of Florida, which operates a laboratory there. The surrounding structures are used as dormitory space accommodating roughly 25 students, faculty and staff.

Anclote Keys Light

Anclote Keys Lighthouse when it was still manned.
The Anclote light was decommissioned only fairly recently - in 1985. It had been unmanned and converted to an automated light during the early 1950's. The tower and light were originally constructed in the late 1800's. Many sailors heading south from the inter-coastal waterways in the Florida panhandle use Anclote as a waypoint on their Gulf crossings, and are always happy to bring the lighthouse into sight. The dwellings and pier will be refitted, and will house a new park ranger station.

Egmont Key Light

The Egmont Key Lighthouse before its lantern was removed in 1944.
The light at Egmont has stood at the entrance to Tampa Bay since the mid 1800's. It is very likely the oldest structure in the Tampa Bay area to still be utilized for it's original purpose. The light's beacon can be seen from a distance of 15 miles, thanks to it's flashing 140,000 candlepower light. The Egmont light was not automated until 1990, making it one of the last in the country to be converted.
Egmont Key is accessible only by boat. Several sightseeing boats ferry visitors to the Key from Pinellas and Manatee county beaches. Egmont is also a popular anchorage for private vessels.

Gasparilla Island Light

The structure is now a museum, and the buildings have faced destruction from the seas on more than one occasion, but it's still with us. The light was built in the late 1800's, and is housed at the roof apex of the one story bungalow which originally served as home to the keepers. It's original use was as the rear range mark for vessels entering Charlotte Harbor.
Rock Jetties now help protect the structures from the seas, and the lighthouse bungalow was opened as a museum in early 1999. The light is now part of the Gasparilla Island State Recreation Area.

Sanibel Island Light

The Sanibel Island Light Station in 1933.
The Sanibel light and it's surrounding compound of structures is a favorite subject among many Florida artists, and can be seen in numerous pen and ink drawings, post cards, and on canvas at almost any art show. The light was constructed in the late 1800's, and remained manned until it was automated in the mid 1950's. It was converted to electric power ten years later. The light has stood over considerable change on Sanibel Island, which is now a popular tourist destination and thriving beach community. The lighthouse and it's surrounding structures were the first construction on the island.

Samet Bilir writes about technology trends, digital camera reviews, and photography, such as Lowepro pro roller AW and Sony alpha a65. To read more articles from him visit his website at www.chi-photography.com.


  1. Hi there! I'm a Floridian and I've actually seen some of these in real life. Too cool. Stopping by from the blog hop :-) Happily following you. Hope you have a chance to stop by.
    take care,

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