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Climbing the Pensacola Lighthouse, Florida

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A friend and I climbed to the top of the Pensacola Lighthouse. Yet, somehow, even this seemingly tame activity took a terrifying turn.

Pensacola Lighthouse

First problem: You are not allowed to wear flip-flops. We are both wearing flip-flops.

“No flip-flops allowed,” reads the sign.

“Hm, how odd,” I say, as I take off my flip-flops and place them in the little cubby holes at the bottom of the staircase.

This is where you had to leave your flip flops. Why is there a kerosene can? I have no idea.
This is where we had to leave our flip-flops. Why is there a kerosene can? I have no idea.

Second Problem: The stairs have NO railing on the right side (AKA the side where you could plummet to your death)

A few steps later, I realize that being barefoot on these wrought iron steps is actually a good thing–because I have to cling to the steps with my toes as there is NO railing on the right side of the staircase. (Who designed this??)

To make matters worse, the rule is that if you encounter someone coming down the steps as you make your way up, YOU (the person headed upstairs) must move over to the right (to the side where you could plummet to your death because there is no railing) until the person coming down passes you.

No railing = TERROR
No railing = TERROR

Cue every falling nightmare I’ve ever had.

We grasp the steps with our fingers and toes, clench our eyes shut, and whine as people make their way passed us. We are so terrified that the people coming down start to feel sorry for us and say, “Oh, don’t worry. We’ll just make our way around you.”

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    Third Problem: We are shown up by a 70-year-old lady.

    After screaming, squealing, and hyperventilating, we make it to the top of the 177 steps. But then we freeze. If we thought the staircase was a challenge, stepping out onto the windy balcony suspended 150 feet above the ground is much, much worse. People keep piling up behind us on the platform. We are blocking their way. Eventually, we have to make our way outside onto the balcony.

    I step outside first and immediately feel my stomach drop. I can hardly breathe, let alone lift my arms to take a picture of the view. We stay outside for ten seconds before rushing back in.

    “Oh no!” says the lighthouse employee. “You HAVE to make your way around the entire balcony. It’s beautiful, and it’s less windy on the other side!”

    Is she serious? We can’t go back out there!

    Just then, a frail, 70-year-old Asian lady comes waltzing back in from the balcony, a huge smile on her face.

    Balcony of the Pensacola Lighthouse
    This woman is fearless!

    My friend looks to the old lady and back to me. “If she can do it, we can do it.”

    But we can’t do it. No, really, we can’t. Someone has placed a huge ladder to our left, and we can’t get around it. We can’t go right because other people are blocking the way. So we’re just stuck there. On a windy balcony. 150 feet above ground. I’m about to pass out.

    Don't look down
    Don’t look down

    Fourth Problem: WHY are there Tibetan monks?

    Just as I think I might lose consciousness, my fried nudges me. “WHY are there monks? Why are there monks???”

    Oh great, I think. She’s hallucinating from her fear. “What monks?”

    “No, really, like Tibetan monks. Down there!”

    I bring myself to look over the edge of the balcony. And what do ya know? There ARE Tibetan monks down there.

    Tibetan monk
    Proof that we were NOT hallucinating. That’s a monk, no?

    Fifth Problem: On the way down, my friend asks me to stay by her side because she’s scared. I abandon her.

    Satisfied with the views we saw on the balcony of terror, we rush back inside to safety.

    The employee sees us. “Did you make it all the way around?”

    “Oh yeah, yeah! Great views!” we mutter as we trip over each other trying to be the first ones to head back down the staircase onto solid, steady ground.

    For me, heading down is easy. We no longer are subject to hanging off the edge of the staircase. For her, it’s just as difficult as before.

    I am in a hurry to get back to the safe ground. I take the steps by two, and soon, I’m out of my friend’s sight.

    I hear her call out to me.

    “I’m right here!” I yell as I continue running down the stairs. “Don’t worry!”

    I hear her call again. This time, her voice is much farther away, but I’m not heading back up that death trap.

    When I get to the last few steps, just above the ground, I feel brave again. I call back to my friend reassuringly, “We’re almost there!” I don’t even see her anymore.

    We make it down safely, grab our flip-flops, and hit the road.

    At least the views were nice.

    A view of the white sands and blue waters of Pensacola Beach from the lighthouse window
    A view of the green trees, white sands, and blue waters of Pensacola, Florida from the lighthouse window

    Travel Tips for the Pensacola Lighthouse


    2081 Radford Blvd
    Pensacola, FL 32508

    *Please note the lighthouse sits on an active military base, NAS Pensacola. Be prepared to stop at the gate, and tell them you’re headed to the lighthouse.*

    Phone number: (850)-393-1561

    10:00am–5:30pm Mon.–Sat.

    12:00–5:30pm Sun.

    (extended summer & holiday hours)


    Adults $6.00
    Children 12 and under $4.00
    Seniors 65+ $4.00
    Active Duty Military $4.00
    Admission includes museum exhibits and lighthouse.

    Don't forget travel insurance to protect your trip in case of injury or delays! Get World Nomads
    Other tips: If you’re afraid of heights, this may not be the best activity for you. But the views at the top are breathtaking, and there’s something so thrilling about climbing to the top! Do not wear flip-flops, unless you want to climb the steps barefoot.