Visiting the Jupiter Inlet Lighthouse and Museum
Florida’s east coast certainly has its share of interesting and historic lighthouses. The Jupiter Inlet Lighthouse just might be the most fascinating. The Lighthouse and adjacent museum offer visitors a glimpse into the history of the lighthouse and surrounding area, and a chance to climb the 105 steps for a spectacular view of Florida’s beautiful Coastline.
History of The Lighthouse
Authorized by Congress in 1853, Jupiter Inlet was one of six locations in Florida selected for a lighthouse project. Completed in May of 1860 after years of disruption due to the Seminole Indian War, it was first lit on July 10, 1860. Designed to aid commerce ships coming up the trade routes from the West Indies, the lighthouse was disabled for five years during the Civil War. The story goes that Confederate sympathizers buried the lens of the lighthouse to impede the guidance of Yankee ships engaged in the blockade of Confederate supply ships. Following the end of the Civil War, the lighthouse was once again illuminated and its beacon has been aiding ships for over 150 years saving countless wrecks and lives in the process.
What to See
In addition to the Lighthouse, the park includes the museum, which is housed in a restored World War II building, the Tindall Pioneer Homestead, the Lighthouse Keeper’s Workshop, the Oil House, a recreation of a Seminole Chickee, and a series of nature trails. The trails wind through the 120 acres of the property at the confluence of the Indian and Loxahatchee Rivers providing scenic views of the water.
You will also have a chance to see an Early Native American shell mound and one of the largest ficus trees I have ever seen. The ficus tree is located at the base of the lighthouse surrounded by a sizable deck that can host parties and events. It really is a beautiful setting and the red exterior of the lighthouse makes for great photos against the lush green landscape and a bright blue Florida sky.
As you gaze up at the lighthouse you realize that you will have to traverse 35 steps just to get to the base of the lighthouse. The lighthouse was built on a hill thought to be an Indian shell mound so you have a little bit of a climb just to get to it. Upon entering the lighthouse the spiral stairs will take you up the 105 steps to the top. Once at the top you can take in the views from the viewing platform that circles the lighthouse. Just above you is the Fresnel lens that sends a beacon of light 28 miles out to sea. The lighthouse measures 105 feet tall and stands 153 feet above sea level. The views in every direction are stunning and you have a wonderful look at the Jupiter Inlet with boats of all sizes coming and going.
The Jupiter Inlet Lighthouse was designed by then Lieutenant George G. Meade, a US army officer, and civil engineer. Interestingly, Meade is best known as the General who defeated General Robert E. Lee at the Battle of Gettysburg during the Civil War.
What’s a Seminole Chickee
A Seminole Chickee is a type of structure that the Florida Seminole Indians built starting in the early 19th-century. It was constructed of Cyprus logs to support the structure and had a palm thatch roof. The Chickee had no walls and was used for a variety of purposes including cooking, eating, sleeping and community gatherings. The Jupiter Inlet Lighthouse and Museum grounds contain a large Chickee that was built in 2009. Today it is used for monthly children’s learning activities and storytelling. If you opt for the tour your docent will stop in the Chickee to explain its significance to the early Native Americans who inhabited this area.
The museum is located in a renovated building that dates to World War II. It contains 8 rooms with a variety of interactive exhibits that highlight the history of this region of Florida from the Native Americans who inhabited the area to the early pioneers who found their way to south Florida. You’ll see and hear the stories of the lighthouse keepers who helped to maintain this important beacon of light. Don’t miss the short, but informative film on the history of the lighthouse. If taking the lighthouse tour you can visit the museum either prior to or after visiting the lighthouse. Plan on about 30 to 45 minutes to go through the museum.
The Tindell Pioneer house is the oldest existing house in Jupiter and provides visitors a rare glimpse into the life of the early pioneers who settled along the Loxahatchee River. The house was built by George Washington Tindall in 1892 on the banks of the Loxahatchee River and was moved to its present location in Lighthouse Park in 2007. The small cracker-style house is typical of the houses built in this part of Florida by the early settlers. It is furnished with period furniture and pieces from the museum’s collection. One welcome addition is air conditioning, which you will appreciate if touring the house on a hot day.
- The museum, grounds, and lighthouse are open 7 days a week from January through April 27.
- From May through the end of December it is open Tuesday – Sunday.
- Closed on most major holidays and occasionally for special events.
- Daily from 10 am to 5 pm.
- Guided Tours at 11 am and 2 pm daily.
- The last admittance to the lighthouse grounds is 4 pm.
- Adults: $12
- Seniors (60+) and US Veterans: $10
- Children (Ages 6-18): $6
- Rates are reduced from October 21 to November 15 with no Lighthouse climbs allowed due to maintenance.
- Please note that you must be at least 48” tall to climb the lighthouse.
Your ticket fee includes a guided tour, which I highly recommend. Tours are daily at 11 am and 2 pm, please inquire when purchasing your ticket. The docents do an excellent job and are well schooled in everything related to the museum and lighthouse. There is also an app that can be downloaded that will guide you through the park should you want to go it alone.
I think you will enjoy the combination of history, culture, and nature that the Jupiter Inlet Museum and Lighthouse provides. Plan on at least a couple of hours to tour the museum, park grounds, and to climb the lighthouse. They only allow so many people at a time at the top of the lighthouse so you may have a short delay, but rest assured the views are worth the wait and the effort to climb.
© 2020 Bill De Giulio