How to spend a day at the Ponce Inlet Lighthouse
The Ponce de Leon Inlet Lighthouse is one of the tallest and imposing lighthouses in the United States. It is located in Ponce Inlet, roughly 10 miles south of Daytona Beach and just east of New Smyrna Beach. Standing 175 feet tall, the lighthouse towers above the surrounding region. The current tower was completed in 1887 and in over a century of existence has contributed greatly to the shipping, transportation, and tourist industry of Central Florida.
Ponce Inlet’s lighthouse is the only one between St. Augustine and Cape Canaveral which makes it the perfect place to stop for the day when visiting Daytona Beach or Port Orange. Visitors to the lighthouse are able to climb all 206 steps to the top for an astounding view of the coastline below
Cost of Admission: Adult (12+) $6.95 | Children (2-12) $1.95
Hours of Operation: Daily, 10:00 AM - 5:00 PM
Ponce Inlet is named for the renowned Spanish conquistador, Juan Ponce de Leon, who visited the central and southern portions of modern-day Florida in his expeditions for the Spanish Crown. The town is a possible location of Ponce de Leon’s first embarkment upon continental America. There were many shipwrecks that occurred near the coast so it was decided that a lighthouse be erected serve as a navigational aid for naval vessels.
In 1835, the first lighthouse was constructed on the southern embankment of Ponce inlet, then Mosquito Inlet. However, just after its completion a massive wave struck the area and destabilized the structure. Then the First Seminole War broke out between the United States and the Seminole Native American tribe. During this war, the Seminole people attacked the lighthouse, destroying the entire facility.
And There Was Light
The location, north of the inlet, where the lighthouse now stands was chosen as the replacement site of the former structure. Built in 1887, the Ponce de Leon Inlet Light could be seen from over 20 miles away and has guided ships through the night for over a century. A well-known short story “The Open Boat” by Stephen Crane was inspired by a nearby shipwreck. A small crew escaped and eventually were guided back to shore when they spotted the Ponce Inlet Light.
Originally, the light flamed bright from the burning of kerosine; however, in 1933 the beacon was upgraded with the installment of an electric bulb. After changing hands from the Lighthouse Service to the United States Coast Guard, the Ponce Inlet Lighthouse fell into disuse and was eventually shuttered in 1970. Two years later, in 1972, the town of Ponce Inlet decided to take over the site to restore the iconic local structure and curated a museum dedicated to its history.
The Destination: Ponce de Leon Inlet Lighthouse
Ponce Inlet can be reached by road via State Road 1. This road can be taken south from Daytona Beach for a short 20-minute drive to the lighthouse and offers the opportunity for other side adventures on the journey. Other access points to Ponce Inlet are the Intracoastal Waterway and the Daytona Beach International Airport. If you are not already staying in the region, New Smyrna Beah is just 2 miles east of Ponce Inlet and offers a variety of accommodations for tourists.
Standing at 175-feet tall, the Ponce Inlet Lighthouse is the tallest lighthouse in Florida and the second tallest in the United States, after the Northern Carolinian Cape Hatteras. Since the lighthouse’s conversion into a tourist facility and complimentary museum, 170,000 visitors arrive annually to be inspired by the history and natural beauty of the destination.
Visitors can climb all 206 steps up to the pinnacle of the lighthouse for views of the seascape unmatched anywhere else in the vicinity. From the outlook point, you can see portions of Daytona Beach, far into the Atlantic Ocean, the Intracoastal Waterway, and New Smyrna Beach. The beauty of the white picket fence circumscribed around the lighthouse grounds creates an even more majestic scene. You will feel as if you stepped back in time to a romantic notion of a lighthouse bound coastline and a white sand beach at its base.
The Ponce Inlet Lighthouse is only one of eleven such buildings to be listed on the National Register of Historic Places which makes it a key component to understanding the history behind the local identity of Central Florida. It is one of the most authentic and well-preserved lighthouses in the United States. In correspondence with the site’s ties to its history, the local government established a museum dedicated to the establishment and operations of the lighthouse.
Located in the former living areas of the lighthouse keeper, the museum contains exhibits focusing on the Ponce de Leon Inlet Lighthouse as well as Lighthouses across America. Fresnel Lenses were created in the late eighteenth century to effectively magnify a light source across vast distances and were namely used in lighthouses. One of the largest collections of Fresnel Lenses in the world is located inside the museum complex at Ponce Inlet for you to explore.
Open every day beginning from 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM, the Ponce Inlet Lighthouse is the ideal location to spend a day when visiting the “most popular beach in the world” or anywhere else in the Daytona Beach Metro area. It is a fantastic place for the entire family to enjoy a nautical educational experience along with views of natural beauty. the site has a cost of Admission for Adults is $6.95 and for children under 12, it is $1.95.
What’s the Weather?
Ponce Inlet is located on the eastern Floridan coastline adjacent to Daytona Beach. Therefore, Ponce Inlet has similar optimal times to visit which are in the spring and fall when its neither oppressively hot nor too chilly. Central Florida hardly ever dips below freezing in the winter season but the cool air can make it less enjoyable of an experience, especially at the top of the lighthouse where the winds are stronger.
On the other hand, the heat and humidity in the summer months can create harsh conditions as well. Hurricanes are generally not a prominent issue in the region as most break land further south.
Things to Do
Daytona Beach is located just 10 miles north of Ponce Inlet and is one of the most prominent beach towns in Florida with a packed history built on early Americana. Coastal portions of Daytona Beach have attracted beachgoers for decades. The historic downtown of Daytona Beach Shores offers up a wide selection of shopping, dining, and entertainment facilities. Ocean Walk Shoppes is a primarily outdoor shopping and major restaurant chains like Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. Situated next to the mall, the Daytona Beach Bandshell is a historic live outdoor entertainment center. It features a lineup of free concerts in the summer months.
The auto race loving past of Daytona Beach is still an ingrained cultural staple of the region. The city’s beach is one of the few in the world which is open to automobiles. If you are visiting at the right time, there are a plethora of motorsports events in Daytona Beach you can attend from the Daytona 500 Race to Bike Week. Or even take a cruise up through State Road 1 and see the tropical paradise as you drive by.
Maybe you are just visiting for the day and want to explore the lighthouse and have a relaxing day at the beach. Ponce Inlet has beach access as well. Adjoining the lighthouse, are the Ponce Inlet Park, Lighthouse Point Park, and Ponce Inlet Dog Beach. All of these parks have public beach access and you can spend the day enjoying the warmth of the sun and the spray of the ocean.
The Ponce Inlet Dog Beach allows your favorite four-legged friend to join you. Most of these parks are not utilized much so it may feel like you are the only one in the vicinity. Furthermore, these parks provide a unique viewpoint of the Ponce Inlet Lighthouse.
The restaurant Racing’s North Turn is located in one of the most prominent historic racing locations in the city. North Turn is the spot in which the Daytona Beach and Road Course began. Adorning the walls are decorations of racing memorabilia and nostalgia for the era of Daytona’s racing heyday, . the restaurant is a great location for any motorsport enthusiast. Traditional American food and seafood are the main offerings of the restaurant.
Climb to the Moon is a fantastic event at the Ponce de Leon Inlet Lighthouse held each full moon. On the evening of the full moon, enjoy after-hours access to the lighthouse and museum space. Relax and take in the gorgeous sunset as the moon rises high into the sky. Included in this unique event is a sparkling drink and hors d'oeuvres catered Hidden Treasures - Ponce Inlet Restaurant. The cost of admission to this limited-access special occasion is $35 for non-Preservation Association members. You can purchase tickets at the gate or ahead of time by contacting the museum at: (386) 761-1821
Take a look at the Ponce de Leon Inlet Lighthouse website to book tickets and find further information about the destination
How would you spend your day at Ponce Inlet?
4931 S. Peninsula Drive, Ponce Inlet, Florida 32127