203 stairsteps to the top…

I think that lighthouses are fascinating.  And maybe it’s because I had such a wonderful experience in visiting the lighthouse in Peggy’s Cove, Nova Scotia six years ago.

So when I discovered there was a lighthouse in the general area of my Florida vacation, I made arrangements to visit it.  Yes, I wanted to photograph it, but I also wanted to know why this lighthouse existed – and, if possible, I wanted to climb to the top of the lighthouse itself.

Ladies and gentlemen… here is the Ponce de Leon Inlet Lighthouse, just south of Daytona Beach.

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Would you look at the size of that thing?

This lighthouse is on the National Register of Historic Places, and it – along with several properties that encompass the homes of the lighthouse keepers and their families – was all available for viewing.

And at the gift shop, one of the cashiers mentioned that if I chose to do so, I could climb the 203 steps to the top of the lighthouse and take in the breathtaking view.

Breathtaking view, she says.  If I climb 203 steps, it’s not just the breath that will be taken from me.

But I thought to myself… why not accept this challenge?  I may never visit Florida again, and I can’t just say, “Hey, I’ll do this next time when I’m older and the diabetic neuropathy that’s already affecting my feet and ankles will subside in time.”

Two hundred and three steps.

I can do this.

I entered the lighthouse.

And I saw the challenge.

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What you see is the spiral staircase to the top of the lighthouse.

Okay.  Deep breath.  And up I go.

One flight.

Two flights.

Move over for a family coming down the staircase.

Three flights.

I’m counting every step.  Taking breathing breaks.

Halfway there.

Don’t give up now, Miller.

Keep going.

Another flight.

And another.

And finally…

Is that the lens at the top of the lighthouse?

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Holy third order Fresnel lens, Batman, it is!

I had reached the top of the lighthouse.  There was a small observation deck.  I walked around it.  Breathtaking.

I can barely breathe.  But I take in the rarified air.  Here I am, at the top level of the tallest lighthouse in Florida.  I can look out onto the Atlantic Ocean.  I can see the white sands of the beach.  From this vantage point, I can see the original location of the old sandy race track of what was the precursor to the Daytona International Speedway.  From another part of the lighthouse observation deck, I can see what looks like Cape Canaveral.  Oh man, if I had been here years ago, perhaps I could have photographed a space rocket launch from this point.  Stunning.

Okay.  203 steps up… time for 203 steps down.  And no, I can’t ride down the banister like I’m Tony Hawk on a skateboard.

Slowly descending.  One flight.

Two flights.

Move over for a family that’s going up to the top of the lighthouse.

Another flight.

Watch your step, Chuck.  Keep your balance.

And finally…

Ground level.

Whew.

Exhilarating.

Invigorating.

And of course… now that I’ve climbed the tower and returned to the ground…

I gotta get a night-time picture of this magnificent structure.

I go back to the parking lot and retrieve my Nikon Df and the tripod.

A few dusk shots of the tower itself.

Ponce de Leon Inlet Lighthouse.  Nikon Df camera, Vivitar 19mm f/3.8 lens.  Photo by Chuck Miller.
Ponce de Leon Inlet Lighthouse. Nikon Df camera, Vivitar 19mm f/3.8 lens. Photo by Chuck Miller.

And then, after the main grounds closed, I took a few more pictures of the lighthouse from the parking lot.  And this was the best shot of the batch.

Ponce de Leon Inlet Lighthouse small
Ponce de Leon Inlet Lighthouse. Nikon Df camera, Vivitar 19mm f/3.8 lens. Photo by Chuck Miller.

Stunning.

Inspiring.

And as I left, I stopped in the gift shop and purchased a lighthouse passport book.  Every time you visit a lighthouse in the United States, you can receive a special inked stamp in this book.  Let it now be said that Ponce de Leon Inlet Lighthouse becomes the first stamp in my book.

And I certainly hope it won’t be the last.

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9 thoughts on “203 stairsteps to the top…”

  1. Beautiful series of pics. They are gallery-worthy, could win prizes, and/or bring you some money–especially that last photo.

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  2. Nice work Chuck. Put on your bucket list visiting the lights in and around Cape Hatteras, especially the Hatteras Light. That one is the quintessential American lighthouse.

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  3. Great pictures. I agree with Roz; I especially think the nighttime picture is gallery-worthy. I have seen that lighthouse, but was not aware you could go inside.

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  4. I thought I recognized that lighthouse!! I grew up in New Smyrna Beach and visited that lighthouse often. You can see one of the apartments we lived in from up there. Those stairs are so small and a bit loose, or used to be! Did you eat lunch at the restaurant on the water? I can’t remember what it is actually called because we always referred to it as Margarettaville. Down the Hatch, maybe?

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  5. My mother and I have been doing a lot of lighthouses along the coast….visited Ponce de Leon last year, and also visited the St Augustine one. This year we visited the lighthouses in Georgia, at St Simons and Tybee Islands. I would also highly recommend that if you ever find yourself in Michigan, that you see the lighthouses around Lake Michigan, from Mackinac down the west side of the state.

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  6. Wonderful pictures! My sister is absolutely crazy about lighthouses. We’ve been to the one in St. Augustine a couple of times and we’ve been to the Ponce Inlet Lighthouse too. The interior of the St. Augustine lighthouse is wider, and so are the steps. The St. Augustine lighthouse also has wider landing areas, so you can rest and out of the way of other people. I actually found the Ponce Inlet lighthouse climb to the top scarier, because the stairs were narrow, and I thought it was more scary going down than up. However, I do like the grounds around the Ponce Inlet lighthouse, and the little shaded park next to it, better than St. Augustine Lighthouse’s grounds. St. Augustine Lighthouse grounds have huge moss-laden oak trees and a really cool old lighthouse keeper’s house, which is actually a duplex shared with the assistant keeper and his family. So, if you get to Florida again, check out the St. Augustine Lighthouse. Of the two, the Ponce Inlet Lighthouse gift shop had better made t-shirts and souvenir choices. I hope you picked a t-shirt up that brags about you having climbed those 203 steps. I bought one to commemorate my effort at climbing to the top, and it is actually one of my favorites and I get a lot of compliments on it. Thank you so very much too for sharing your story and those wonderful pictures, and I’m definitely sharing this with my sister too.

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  7. My father lived in Ponce Inlet and climbed to the top of the lighthouse every day until the age of 92. This is a can’t miss stop if you are in the area.

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