It took us three visits before the weather was nice enough to allow us to the top – lighthouse policy. We met the 44-inch tall requirement and with military discount paid our $17 admission. We had access to climb the 219 spiral steps to the observation deck, about 14 stories high. This lighthouse was built of brick to replace the one made of coquina (sedimentary rock) and first lit in Oct. 1874. Since then, the lighting technique has been changed but the history remains. Staring out, now, through the windows there is still flat land as far as the eye can see, filled with little sailboats sitting in the Matanzas River and St. Augustine Inlet.
The lighthouse is surrounded by flowers and tall trees along a little path and small buildings for oil storage and the lighthouse keeper. The lighthouse has a first-order Fresnel (fray-nel) lens that allows the light to shine up to 24 nautical miles (approx. 28 land miles). The construction of which is thinner, larger, and flatter than the pre-Fresnel lenses prior to 1822. The complete lens is about 12 feet tall, six feet wide, and weighs three tons. A great place to visit to learn about the hard work and dedication many took, not only in St Augustine but, in many ports to ensure the safe arrival of sailors to our sandy shores.