Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Celebrate Florida Lighthouse Day!

"Every purposeful journey must be guided by a beacon, however faint." ~John
Lighthouses hold the power to evoke emotional responses in people, whether or not they live near the sea. Anyone who has experienced total darkness, as mariners do on a moonless night, can imagine the joy generations of sailors have felt at the sight of a lighthouse beacon on the horizon.

In the words of Peter Ralston, founder of the Island Institute in Maine, an educational organization devoted to offering services to island communities within his state and preserving their unique way of life, "People get what lighthouses are about. Lighthouses speak to vigilance. They speak to caring. They speak to being there. The speak to helping other human beings."

The Lighthouses along the Forgotten Coast certainly speak to all these things. All were built within the 1800s. All have succumbed to hurricane winds, were damaged or destroyed, and all were rebuilt by communities who cared, who were there, who wanted to help preserve an important part of their heritage, who wanted to restore (for all of us to enjoy) these beacons of hope.

During your visit to Summer Dream and WindMark Beach, we hope you are able to visit the Historic Lighthouses of the Forgotten Coast: Cape San Blas, Cape St. George, St. Marks, and Crooked River.

Each Forgotten Coast lighthouse tells a story of Florida’s maritime heritage and the commitment of its community to preserving history for future generations.
Cape San Blas Lighthouse and Sleeping Beauty Gift Shop is only a short 20 minute drive away from WindMark Beach on Cape San Blas Road (Hwy 30A). The gift shop offers coastal themed items and is open Wednesday through Friday. Tower Climbs may be scheduled on Fridays and Saturdays.

Check out this view from Cape San Blas Lighthouse in this Virtual Tour.

During my first visit to the lighthouse, I passed right by. The gated entrance is actually a military reserve. I learned that just because the sign says it is Air Force property, visitors are still welcomed inside the gate.

Built in 1852 on what is now Little St. George Island, The Cape St. George Light is located at the center of St. George Island, off the coast of Florida’s Panhandle between Tallahassee and Panama City, and is open every day except Thursday for tours and for climbing.

While there, you will enjoy taking time to explore St. George Island with its pristine, pet-friendly beaches, shops, restaurants, abundant wildlife, and family activities.

Check out the St. George Island Light Virtual Tour.

The St. Mark's Light is the second oldest light station in Florida. It is located on the east side of the mouth of the St. Mark's River and Apalachee Bay within the St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge near St. Marks, Florida. The 68,000 acre wetlands refuge was established in 1931 to protect wetlands habitat for migrating birds, and it is managed by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.

The refuge includes numerous rivers, marshes, tidal islands and creeks and is home to abundant wildlife which includes the Florida black bear, otters, raccoons, bobcats, and hundreds of bird species. The refuge is especially known for the migrating waterfowl that seasonally visit the refuge. The Apalachee Bay borders the refuge to the south. This is where the famed St. Marks Lighthouse can be found.

Download a child's activity checklist before your trip: St. Mark's Wildlife Refuge Checklist

The Crooked River Lighthouse was constructed in 1895 to replace the lighthouse on Dog Island that was destroyed by hurricane in 1873. The 103 foot tall iron and steel structure was decommissioned by the U.S. Coast Guard in 1995. In 1999, despite its inclusion on the National Register of Historic Places, the Coast Guard had plans to surplus the lighthouse and auction it off to the highest bidder. It was at this time that the Carrabelle Lighthouse Association (CLA) was formed by a dedicated group of local citizens with the goal of preserving, restoring, and opening the lighthouse to the public.

The lighthouse grounds contain The Keepers House Museum and Gift Shop, a covered picnic pavilion, a playground that includes a 70 ft replica of a pirate ship, the Carrabella, and a wooded conservation site. The Keeper's House Museum is open noon to 5:00pm Thursday through Sunday. The lighthouse is open for climbing every Saturday from 1:00pm to 4:00pm.

During April, to celebrate Florida Lighthouse Day, Franklin County Tourist Development Council and The Forgotten Coast will host the first "Forgotten Coast Lighthouse Mini-Challenge. Participants who visit all four lighthouses on Friday and Saturday, April 23-24, 2010, will not only create lasting memories but also receive prizes.

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