Just south of Daytona Beach on A1A is the charming town of Ponce Inlet, home to the Ponce de Leon Inlet Lighthouse (the tallest lighthouse in Florida), the Marine Science Center, and the Ponce Inlet Historical Museum.
The Ponce de Leon Inlet Lighthouse was originally built in the 1800’s to reduce the number of shipwrecks because of the treacherous offshore reef.
Activated in 1887, the initial lighthouse was lit by a kerosene lantern within a Fresnel lens, and later in the 1930s powered by electricity with a third-order Fresnel lens. The updated light has been fitted with a modern rotating beacon and continues to operate.
Today, visitors can climb the 203-step lighthouse for a 360-degree view of the Atlantic Ocean, Intracoastal Waterway and surrounding area.
Explore the full complex that includes historic homes of former lighthouse keepers, a lens exhibit, oil storage buildings and a pump house – all providing insight into the life and times of those who toiled in this remote outpost.
General admission is Adults (age 12+): $6.95; Children (age 3-11): $3.95; Infants (age 0-2): Free. Free admission is also granted for Lighthouse Members, Ponce Inlet Residents, and FLA Members.
NOTE: The Ponce de Leon Inlet Light Station is one of only 11 lighthouses on the prestigious National Historic Landmark list.
Next door to the Ponce de Leon Inlet Lighthouse is the Marine Science Center, an ideal stop for the whole family to experience local marine life. The Marine Science Center serves as a sea turtle and migratory bird rehabilitation facility where visitors can get up close with Florida’s sea creatures and learn about the coastal environment and marine life ecosystems.
Don’t miss the “touch pools” featuring an array of marine life including stingrays, fish, crabs and sea urchins.
The Marine Science Center is open from 10pm to 5pm, Tuesday through Saturday, and from noon to 5pm on Sunday. Admission is $5 for adults and teenagers, $4 for seniors, $2 for children ages 3 to 12, and free for children 2 and under.
Before you leave, swing by the Ponce Inlet Historical Museum. Located in two Florida Cracker-style cottages that have been restored to their original layout, the museum is full of interesting facts about the town’s cultural heritage.
Museum hours are 10am to 2pm, Monday to Saturday. Admission is free, but donations are greatly appreciated.
Where To Eat.
If you’ve worked up an appetite, grab a bite at Down the Hatch Seafood Company, or as locals call it: “The Hatch”.
A classic waterfront restaurant, the diverse menu includes appetizers, soups, salads, sandwiches, burgers, seafood baskets/dinners, pasta and more. Don’t miss the smoked fish dip appetizer or the Ponce Fish Reuben. You may dine inside or outside with a great view of the Intracoastal Waterway. An outside table at sunset is ideal, but it’s first come first served, so plan accordingly.
Check their website for their Chef Selection Specials and a schedule of live entertainment: DownTheHatchSeafood.com
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