Welcome to Part 3 of my Florida lighthouse travels, where I actually explored 3 lighthouses over the weekend, one on the east coast and two on the west coast. Part 1 in March covered Jupiter and Key Biscayne and Part 2 in August was at St. Augustine and Daytona Beach. This time, it was the Hillsboro Inlet Lighthouse in Pompano Beach and the two on Gasparilla Island in Boca Grande. This was the most unique of the three trips, and included a lighthouse I had no idea was even open to the public.
A couple weeks ago, while walking along Pompano Beach, I had the rare opportunity to get some great water shots of the Hillsboro Inlet Lighthouse. After a little research online, I found out that it also open to the public, and the next tour was this past weekend. Situated on a private Coast Guard base, they allow access to the lighthouse six times a year through the Hillsboro Lighthouse Preservation Society. After boarding the tour boat along the Intracoastal Waterway, we made our 25-minute trek up north to the inlet and onto the lighthouse grounds. Built in 1907 and reaching 136 feet high, the 175 steps lead you up the narrow spiraling staircase to a gorgeous view of south Florida’s coastline. I felt very lucky to have this chance to actually go in it as I’ve seen it many times along my walks on Pompano Beach, but never thought it’d be open.
After the lighthouse tour, I made my way to Tradewinds Park in Coconut Creek, where I played the 3 o’clock disc golf league there. It was the first round of golf I’ve played there since January, and it was great to catch up with some golf buddies I haven’t seen in a while.
Early Sunday morning, I headed across the state to the west coast, where I made a brief stop in the historic area of Punta Gorda. It started to rain lightly so I then continued on til I got to the Charlotte Harbor, which is about 2 and a half hours away from home. With the rain easing up, I got out my bike and rode a couple miles along the Cape Haze Pioneer Trail and then headed across the causeway and onto Gasparilla Island. This was the second time I’ve been here (the first time was a year ago), so I was a little familiar with the area. But I wanted to explore it more. So I parked my car at the north end of Boca Grande and biked along the paved trail that runs parallel to the main road. I got to the Port Boca Grande Lighthouse a hour before it opened, so I walked around the surrounding beach area, taking in the views and snapping pictures. Although you can go inside the lighthouse, you can only stay on the first floor, which is now a museum dedicated to the house and the island. They don’t allow any visitors up to the actual light or lookout deck. At a mere 44 feet tall, though, the 1890 lighthouse wouldn’t have nearly the impressive view as the one in Pompano Beach.
As I biked my way back north, I stopped for lunch at the South Beach Bar & Grille, where I had a delicious Key Lime Shrimp Wrap. I then checked out the other lighthouse on the island, known as the Boca Grande Rear Range Lighthouse. Built in 1932 and standing at 105 feet high, this run-down non-accessible lighthouse is full of rust and pales in comparison to the look of the first two lighthouses of the weekend. It also didn’t help that the sun wasn’t making much of an effort to show its bright face. But I did enjoy biking around the quaint town of Boca Grande, with its many colorful shops and boutiques.
With just a few hours of daylight left, I next headed south to Fort Myers Beach, where I ended my weekend with a nice stroll along the light sands and a nice but cloudy sunset.