The Cape Canaveral Lighthouse is one of the oldest lights on the Florida coast. The original light was built in 1848, and stood 65 feet tall. It was abandoned a year later during a Seminole Indian uprising. When the threat passed the blinking white light was put back in operation until the Civil War, when it was ordered dark by the Confederate government.
After the war, in 1868, a new tower, 151 feet tall, was built out of cast iron and bricks. This is the same black and white striped tower that stands today, but in a different location. Because of erosion concerns the tower was painstakingly disassembled in the late 1880’s and moved inland by mule drawn rail system, over a mile to its current location. It was relighted in 1894.
The tower is built with bricks encased in cast iron. There are 179 steps on a twisting interior stairwell that lead you to the top where you can get a closeup view of the light, and a panoramic view of the Space Coast.
The light was originally fueled with oil, then kerosene, and finally converted to electricity in 1931. The light emits a signature dual flash every 20 seconds, visible as much as 18 miles out at sea.
Today, even in this age of GPS and satellite navigation, the tower still serves as an aid to navigation through the treacherous shoals of the Canaveral inlet. The tower is maintained and operated by the U.S. Coast Guard, and sits on land at what is now the Canaveral Space Force Base, not far from the base’s rocket launch complex. Access is controlled by the 45th Space Wing at Patrick Air Force base.
The operation of the light is now automated, and no longer manned by light keepers.
The tower is supported by the Cape Canaveral Lighthouse Foundation, which raised funds to restore and convert the old light keeper home into a museum. The museum opened in 2019, then closed for awhile because of COVID-19, and has recently reopened to tours on a limited basis. The museum holds historical items and educational displays that detail the history of the light and light keepers. The foundation hopes to build two other cottages at the site, to replicate the homes of assistant light keepers. Information about the foundation can be found at canaverallght.org.
Tours of the lighthouse property can be booked online at canaverallight.org, or by calling 321-307-2900. Tour bus capacity and schedules are currently reduced because of the pandemic. Because the light is located on the Space Force military base you cannot drive there in your own car. Tours must be booked at least two days in advance, and each person has to be vetted by Space Force security. All visitors are required to wear masks.
Tours are by van and last about four hours, visiting the Space Force base in addition to the lighthouse. Prices are $59.95 for adults, $49.95 for teens, and $39.95 for children.