That’s the typical comment I hear when wide-eyed visitors step onto the 360-degree platform around the high, breezy perch atop the Jupiter lighthouse.
The turquoise-blue Atlantic Ocean is to the east. The mangrove-lined Indian River to the north. To the west is the winding Loxahatchee River emptying into the Jupiter Inlet. The Singer Island skyline is to the south. Manatees munch on seagrass. Great blue herons soar. Paddle boarders drift by. The wind swishes through the palm trees.
I’m above all this every Friday because I have the weekly privilege to be a tour guide at the red brick lighthouse first lit in 1860. Spotting sea turtles, explaining erosion, pinpointing where Burt Reynolds lived, highlighting Jupiter’s rich history and apologizing that there is no elevator — it’s all part of the fun I have every week.
First, a little history of Jupiter Lighthouse
Built before roads, electricity and Henry Flagler’s railroad, the 145-step Jupiter Inlet Lighthouse has withstood hurricanes, floods and lightning strikes. The iconic beacon has played a powerful role in Jupiter’s development.
Construction started in 1855. The Civil War, the Seminole Wars, malaria, yellow fever all delayed until July 10, 1860, the lighting of the Fresnel lens made in Paris.
Steamboats were the main travel mode at the intersection of the Indian River and the Jupiter Inlet. The Rockledge, at 260 tons, was among the largest. U.S. President Grover Cleveland steamed down the Jupiter Inlet in it in 1888 during his honeymoon.
In another era, those white buildings scattered on the property are former barracks for Station J, a secret military mission, operated on the property during WW II. Their mission was to intercept radio messages and seek out German U-boats and subs patrolling off the coast to destroy American merchant ships carrying war supplies to war-torn Europe.
Incidentally, Lighthouse officials are seeking non-profit, environmental organizations to occupy the vacant, single-story buildings. If you know of such an organization, send them our way.
The lighthouse and the surrounding 120 acres (about twice the area of a large shopping mall) have been designated as the Jupiter Inlet Lighthouse Outstanding Natural Area by the federal government. Made up of state, local and federal organizations, JILONA works on projects including river restoration, erosion control, wetland reconstruction and lighthouse improvements.
Getting to Jupiter Lighthouse while the US 1 bridge is out
Construction has started on a new, taller, wider bridge on U.S. 1 that leads to the Lighthouse — but don’t let that deter you.
Coming from the south, take Alternate A1A to the lighthouse. Coming from the north, do yourself a favor and take beautiful A1A across Cato’s Bridge to Lighthouse Park at 500 Capt. Armour’s Way.
Parking at the Lighthouse is free.
While there is some whining, most locals welcome the new bridge. Ask any North County driver, bike rider or pedestrian, crossing the current, creaking structure — with string-wide lanes for bike riders and pedestrians — is a nightmare.
The new bridge will have 8-foot-wide sidewalks and 7-foot-wide bicycle lanes – get this — in BOTH directions. The new 42-foot-high span will be taller, so vehicle traffic will not be stopped as often to let boaters pass. The new four-lane bridge, at a cost of about $122 million, is expected to be finished in early 2026.
Lots to do around Jupiter Lighthouse Park
Along the walkway to the lighthouse is the 1892-built Tindall Pioneer Homestead, the oldest house still existing in Jupiter. George and Mary Tindall raised eight children in the home. The family grew bananas, pineapples and citrus.
A meandering path will take you down to park benches overlooking the pristine Jupiter Inlet waters. On the way you’ll pass a tiny cemetery that has the gravestones of stillborn children of Lighthouse Keeper James Armour and his wife Almeda Carlile. They served at the lighthouse in the late 1860s.
Ancient stone tools, pottery and adornments dating back up to 5,000 years from the Jobe (pronounced Hoe-bay) and Jeaga (pronounced Jay-gwa) have been unearthed by archeologists on the property.
Laden with gold from South America, Spanish galleons wrecked off the treacherous Jupiter Inlet coast. Wooden galleons, up to about 60 tons, ran the gauntlet of shallow waters, unpredictable sandbars and craggy coral reefs as they followed the swift Gulfstream. But many, like the San Miguel Archangel, sunk. The wrecks left tools, coins, silver and gold scattered on the ocean floor.
More outdoor activities at Jupiter Lighthouse
Sunset, moonrise, full moon and tours are available at the bright red brick lighthouse that sailors still look to for nightly direction. There’s twilight yoga, guided history tours and docent-led walks around 120-acre Jupiter Inlet Loxahatchee Outdoor Natural Area.
Rent a kayak or paddle board at nearby Jupiter Outdoor Center or other watercraft rental locations and see manatees, tropical fish, graceful birds and sea turtles. Morning, mangrove, moonlight and evening guided tours are available.
Rather kick back and relax? Grab a beverage and snack and climb aboard a 30- or 60-minute boat cruise departing and returning at Charlie & Joe’s at Love Street.
Have lunch near the Jupiter Lighthouse
Locals love The Square Grouper, where t-shirts, shorts and flip flops are considered formal attire. At Charlie and Joe’s on Love Street — that’s Joe as in former NFL star Joe Namath — you have a choice of four waterfront restaurants.
On A1A near DuBois Park is Lighthouse Cove Adventure Golf, where you can grab a burger and a beverage — and a round of mini-golf.
Free parking is available on Love Street. There’s more free parking in a town lot just south of Saturn Street on the east side of A1A. Valet parking is available at several restaurants. Zeke’s Golf Cart provides taxi service along A1A.
Why is the lighthouse so far from the beach — and in Jupiter?
I get asked that question many times. Here’s the answer.
When engineers arrived in the 1850s on the shore of the Jupiter Inlet to figure out where to place the lighthouse, they came upon a 35-foot-tall dune atop a layer of shell.
In flat Florida, a 35-foot sand dune is a lighthouse builder’s dream. The higher the lighthouse, the farther out the beam can be seen.
First lit on July 10, 1860, the lighthouse cost about $60,000 to build. Except for a period during the Civil War when Confederate sympathizers disabled the light, the Lighthouse has been lit ever since.
In case you’re wondering, the Lighthouse is 65 feet in circumference on the bottom. It narrows to 43 feet at the top. The lighthouse structure atop the dune is 108 feet tall.
On a clear night, boaters can see the light from about 24 miles out at sea.
Jupiter was chosen because the town is among the farthest eastern points in Florida. It’s like Jupiter is sticking its nose out into the Atlantic. The Jupiter Inlet is among Florida’s closest points to the Gulfstream — about 10 miles away.
Prime time to climb the Jupiter Lighthouse
Weekdays, especially in the mornings, are the best times atop the Lighthouse.
There’s usually a breeze, and the temperature is still cool. And try to go at high tide —my favorite time.
That’s when that turquoise-blue Atlantic Ocean pushes back the brownish Loxahatchee River water. The result is a beautiful, curly ribbon stretching west toward the watershed of the Loxahatchee River.
No worries if there’s a wait to climb
Early in the year — especially when the St. Louis Cardinals are spring training at Abacoa’s Roger Dean Chevrolet Stadium in late February and March — are usually the only times there are lines to climb the lighthouse. Those enthusiastic red shirted fans are welcome regulars.
Check out the beautiful banyan tree that spreads out like a floating umbrella at the base of the lighthouse. Planted in 1938 by Jupiter pioneer Roy Rood, the lush, shady branches are a regular site for marriage proposals, reunions and other family events.
A few steps away is the Lighthouse Keeper’s Museum, where you can find out the annual pay of a Lighthouse keeper. (Not much!) and photos of the Goliath groupers they caught to eat. (Huge!)
Historical walking tours of the 120-acre property are available. Check times in the gift shop.
Getting to the top
Take your time walking up the narrow, curling and steep black metal steps to the top of the Jupiter Lighthouse. There are three platforms to recharge on the way up, each with a window looking out in a different direction. Hang onto the railing on your right side.
Duck when you get to the top; the ceiling is low. Hang onto your hat.
And your sunglasses. There’s usually a stiff breeze.
Then step outside.
Say hello to your tour guide.
Ask for Bill.
Jupiter Inlet Lighthouse & Museum
500 Capt. Armours Way
Jupiter, FLA. 33469
(561) 747-8380 (extension 101)
Admission to Jupiter Lighthouse
Adult admission is $12. U.S. Veterans and seniors are $10. Children between 6-18 years old admission is $6. Free admission to children five years old and under.
U.S. veterans are admitted free during November.
Days and Hours: Tuesday – Sunday, 10 a.m – 4 p.m.
Things to do near the Jupiter Inlet Lighthouse
- Overview of outdoor and natural outings in Jupiter, including restaurants and hotels.
- Jonathan Dickinson State Park for hiking, biking camping, cabins, kayaking, birding and more.
- Kayaking the wild and scenic Loxahatchee River
- Blowing Rocks Preserve: Dramatic beach is unique
- Jupiter Inlet and Lighthouse Museum
- The “secret beach” at Hobe Sound National Wildlife Refuge
- Kayaking to St. Lucie Preserve State Park and its remote, pristine beach
- Busch Wildlife Sanctuary, free park with native animals
- Riverbend Park is great for family bicycling, picnics, walks
- Biking Jupiter Island, scenic low-traffic beachfront road
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