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St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum open during government shutdown

ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. – The St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum, a private nonprofit, is open for guests during the government shutdown. Extended holiday hours are 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. through January 1; and regular hours (9 a.m. to 6 p.m.) return on January 2. The Museum is open seven days a week. Dark of the Moon Ghost Tours also are available December 26-30 and each Friday through Sunday in 2019. For ticket and tour details, go to staugustinelighthouse.org or call 904-829-0745.

The St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum is not government owned. In 1998 the Museum was separately incorporated as a not-for-profit institution with a mission of maritime history, education and community service.

Climb 219 to the top of the St. Augustine Lighthouse. Guests are shown on the observation deck of the St. Augustine Lighthouse.

In 1980, the Junior Service League of St. Augustine, Inc., who were then a group of only 16 volunteers, began a fifteen-year campaign to restore the Keepers’ House that was destroyed and gutted by a vandal’s fire. The League went on to restore the lighthouse tower, and with assistance from the United States Coast Guard, they performed the first Fresnel Lens restoration in the world.  The lens had been damaged by a vandal’s bullet, and was almost removed, but the entire community stepped in to save this front porch light for the community.  A maritime museum was opened to the public part-time in 1988 run by volunteers.  In spring 1994, the full site was opened to the public full time. 

The Keepers’ House at the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum, built in 1886. View multiple exhibits on three levels within the house and basement.

THINGS TO DO

At the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum, climb 219 steps to the top of the 165-foot tower for a breathtaking view of historic downtown St. Augustine, the beaches, and the nation’s oldest port.  Discover St. Augustine’s rich maritime history at the site of Florida’s first lighthouse. Explore exhibits in the restored Keepers’ House about the lives of the Lighthouse keepers and their families, and shipwreck discoveries made off the coast of St. Augustine.

Incredible views of the St. Augustine area and the Atlantic Ocean can be seen from the observation deck of the St. Augustine Lighthouse.

Also on site, a WWII US Coast Guard Barracks, Behind the Scenes Tours, a Maritime Hammock Scavenger Hunt, an archaeology lab, and a View from the Top video (for those who don’t climb the Lighthouse) in the Maritime Education Center. For little ones: A shipyard playground and hands-on activities throughout the exhibits and grounds (children less than 44 inches tall can’t climb the tower but get free admission). Don’t forget to shop in the museum store for unique lighthouse and maritime gifts.

View conservation of shipwreck artifacts in the viewing window of the Archaeological Maritime Education Center at the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum.

EXHIBITS

  • Wrecked! The Story of a Revolutionary War Shipwreck
  • At Home with the Harns: A Look Inside the Home of a Keeper Family
  • Legends of the Light: Stories from the Lighthouse’s Past
  • US Coast Guard Barracks from WWII with artwork depicting the US Coast Guard
  • Maritime Education Center ship models and Spanish Watchtower replica
This photo shows the WRECKED! exhibit in the basement of the Keepers’ House where shipwreck artifacts are on view from a 1782 British loyalist shipwreck found in St. Augustine.

OTHER THINGS TO DO

  • Self-Guided St. Augustine Light Station Tour
  • View from the Top video (for those who don’t climb and those under 44 inches)
  • Behind the Scenes tour: on the hour from 11:00 AM to 3:00 PM
  • Keepers’ House
  • Heritage Boatworks: Building on Florida’s Maritime Heritage
  • Northeast Florida Shrimping: Foundation of a Global Enterprise
  • Maritime Hammock Nature Trails & Scavenger Hunt
  • Archaeology Conservation Lab & viewing window 
  • Shipyard Playground
  • Hands-on children’s activities
  • Gift shop with Lighthouse & Maritime items

For more details about the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum, visit staugustinelighthouse.org or call 904-829-0745. Stay updated on social media at facebook.com/staugustinelighthouse, Instagram.com/stauglighthouse, and twitter.com/firstlighthouse

Interactive tablets help visitors learn about shipwrecks in the Keepers’ House.

ABOUT THE ST. AUGUSTINE LIGHTHOUSE & MARITIME MUSEUM:

A pivotal navigation tool and unique landmark of St. Augustine for over 140 years, the St. Augustine Light Station is host to centuries of history in the Nation’s Oldest Port®. Through interactive exhibits, guided tours and maritime research, the 501(c)(3) nonprofit St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum is on a mission to discover, preserve, present and keep alive the stories of the Nation’s Oldest Port® as symbolized by our working lighthouse. We are the parent organization to the Lighthouse Archaeological Maritime Program (LAMP) and an affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution. (StAugustineLighthouse.org)

A model of the first St. Augustine Lighthouse (Spanish Watchtower) is located in the Maritime Education Center, along with ship models, a View from the Top video, and hands-on children’s activities.

About the American Alliance of Museums:

The St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum is accredited by the American Alliance of Museums (AAM), the highest national recognition afforded the nation’s museums. The American Alliance of Museums has been bringing museums together since 1906, helping to develop standards and best practices, gathering and sharing knowledge, and providing advocacy on issues of concern to the entire museum community. As the ultimate mark of distinction in the museum field, accreditation signifies excellence and credibility. Accreditation helps to ensure the integrity and accessibility of museum collections,  and reinforces the education and public service roles of museums and promote good governance practices and ethical behavior. Representing more than 35,000 individual museum professionals and volunteers, institutions, and corporate partners serving the museum field, the Alliance stands for the broad scope of the museum community. (www.aam-us.org)  

Ghost Tour Experience: ‘Each floor held new secrets about the history of the Keepers’ House.’

The St. Augustine Lighthouse shown on October 31, 2018 during a Dark of the Moon Ghost Tour. Photo by Jayda Barnes

By Jayda Barnes, Flagler College student

The first thing I noticed about the Dark of the Moon Tour was that it was, indeed, very dark. The chill in the air may have been due to the setting sun or the spookiness of Halloween night. The Museum grounds, usually bright with sunlight, faded into the shadows of the trees which hovered around it. The only true source of light appeared in the beacon of its namesake: The Lighthouse.

After receiving my tickets, I rented an EMF meter to sense the electromagnetic fluctuations caused by any ghosts, mostly because I knew my best friend would glare at me all night if I didn’t.

The occasion of the evening only became more apparent as we stood outside of the Museum gift shop, waiting to be led on our spooky journey. Halloween shirts and costumes popped up sporadically in a few of the more festive guests. Promptly at 7:30 pm, our party was escorted to the base of the tower, where we learned the rules for the evening and split into groups. My group entered the Lighthouse first. We stood at the bottom of the tower and listened to the stories of ghosts seen in the past, especially the mysterious Shadow Figure who has been seen peering over the railing down at guests.

Perhaps the scariest moment of the evening came as we huffed our way up the 219 steps to the top of the Lighthouse. The exercise of it was frightening enough, but on top of that, the entire tower was shrouded in darkness, save for the few lanterns dangling along the way. Silhouetted figures painted on the walls of each landing invoked images of the Shadow Figure we’d just been told about.

Despite the fear and the height, everyone made it to the top and embraced the whipping chill of the wind. All of St. Augustine stretched below, hundreds of tiny lights peppering the ground. It was almost beautiful enough to make me forget the ghost story I was standing on.

Once the heat of the climb wore off and the wind became more chilling than relieving, the group made its way back down to the ground. Our guide led us around to the side of the Lighthouse, where she detailed the haunting tale of one Lightkeeper’s plummet from the original tower.

After catching our breath, we journeyed to the Keepers’ House. Stories of fatal accidents and irritable Lightkeepers filled the darkness. Each floor held new secrets about the history of the Keepers’ House. We ended in the basement, where we were released to explore on our own for the rest of the night.

The basement had the most activity of the evening. One man sat in one of the resident ghost’s favorite chairs. As the guest spoke to the room, EMF meters began lighting up red around his shoulders, indicating some paranormal activity. The more we spoke and scanned the room, the more lights lit up, travelling behind the chairs to the back of the room. Upstairs, we explored an area called the Shadow Room, where the energy of the room intensified as soon as we entered. My friend heard beeping in the corner as we searched the room for signs of ghostly activity.

The tour ended at 9:30 p.m., sending us back into the world to reflect on our supernatural experiences. Even with the Lighthouse looming behind us, we carried the eeriness with us into the festive evening. The tour might have been even spookier because of Halloween, but it was also even more fun because of it. As our guide told us, the Museum is “not a haunted house, just haunted.” And on Halloween, when the spiritual veil is said to be thinnest, it’s always possible the ghosts will make a special appearance, just for you.