TGIF: First Day Hike Cape Florida Lighthouse

Cape Florida Lighthouse.

Copyrighted Cape Florida Lighthouse by Elaine Marie.

Start the New Year off on the right foot. Experience a day of hiking adventure on January 1. Journey through one of Florida’s most breathtaking ecosystems. Learn about the Top 10 butterflies at Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park beginning at 9 am. End the hike with a visit to the Lighthouse.

For more information, call 305–361-5811.


Preservation 50 Friday: Hurricane Matthew’s Mayhem and Mercy

A view of new Smyrna Beach

A view of New Smyrna Beach along A1A before Hurricane Matthew.

Florida’s iconic A1A is symbolic of the struggles facing Florida after being hit by Hurricane Matthew. Portions of the scenic route will be closed for several months. Some areas face massive damages while others have no or minimal property damage.

The powerful winds and rain caused the downfall of trees throughout the state. Nine people died in hurricane related deaths in Florida. Because much of Florida’s Atlantic coast is at sea level, storm surge caused huge damage and beach erosion in spite of the hurricane staying offshore.

Hillsboro lighthouse

Hillsboro Lighthouse Inlet at Pompano Beach

Beach erosion and sea encroachment are major problems for lighthouses. It led to the demise of Cape St. George Lighthouse on the Gulf Coast. The Hillsboro Lighthouse on the Atlantic Coast was already suffering from beach erosion and Hillsboro Lighthouse Society was raising funds for restoration.

Florida has approximately nine lighthouses on the east coast between Miami and Amelia Island. The St. Augustine Lighthouse is currently open but the phones are down. The Amelia Island Lighthouse, Cape Canaveral Lighthouse, Hillsboro Lighthouse, Ponce de Leon Lighthouse and Cape Florida Lighthouse are open regular hours. There are no lighthouse tours currently scheduled for Jupiter Lighthouse. Check their website for updates. As for status of the two lighthouses located Naval Station Mayport, I was unable to verify anything.

The road to recovery may take a while in Florida. Still Floridians should be thankful for the lives that were spared during Hurricane Matthew.

Preservation 50 Friday: The Legend of the Mooncussers

Cape Florida was attacked by Seminoles.

Cape Florida was attacked during the Second Seminole War.

While I knew that lighthouses have often come under attack during various wars in the United States. I had never heard of the Mooncussers. Legend has it that some attacked light keepers and put out the light.

They would also lure vessels onto the dark coastline. Armed with a “Judas Lantern,” these shoreline pirates would situate themselves along the coast, directly behind dangerous rocks.

They would gyrate a lantern to resemble a swaying ships lantern. Seeing the light and thinking another ship had found safe harbor, the deceived captain would stir in that direction and become aground. In rocky seas, the ship would break up and its cargo would be stolen by Mooncussers. Some claim that if the sea was calm, Mooncussers would beat or kill the sailors.

America’s Atlantic Coast Lighthouses by Jeremy D’entremont


Celebrate Biscayne Bay

Cape Florida Lighthouse.

Cape Florida Lighthouse at Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park.

I read an editorial in Coastal Living Magazine with the motto ” find something to celebrate everyday.” It implied celebrating nature promotes longevity and nourishes your soul.


Last Saturday, I found spiritual nourishment while helping with restoration efforts at Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park. It is the home of one my favorite lighthouses, Cape Florida.  I joined a Park Ranger and volunteers at the State Park for Baynanza.

A truck at the park.

A truck load from one of the areas cleared during Baynanza.

Baynanza culminates month-long environmental festivities in Miami. Baynanza harnesses the energy of thousands of volunteers to clean up several parks and areas near Biscayne Bay.

Trash collected during Baynanza.

Some of the trash collected during Baynanza.

Biscayne Bay is the largest estuary on the coast of southeast Florida. It is the home of the Port of Miami, one of the largest commercial and passenger port of calls in the world. Biscayne Bay is also a part of a large ecosystem that flows directly from the Florida Everglades.

A view of the bay from the park.

A view of Biscayne Bay from Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park.

Biscayne Bay like most estuaries faces many challenges. Keeping the Bay ecologically heathy while meeting the needs of a growing community is a major concern. Events like Baynanza educate and involve the community in addressing these challenges.

For more information on Biscayne Bay visit,

Vacation with a Purpose in Miami

Volunteer at Cape Florida.

Volunteer to cleanup Cape Florida, Key Biscayne.

Eco tourism and volunteer tourism is one of the fastest growing segments of the travel market. Vacation and volunteer in sunny Miami at “Baynanza” on April 16. Join thousands of volunteers who gather to clean up the Biscayne Bay. “Baynanza” is the highlight of Miami’s month-long environmental celebration.

A couple of years ago I joined a group of volunteers for a trip to Henry Flagler Monument Island near South Beach. After a hearty and healthy breakfast courtesy of Whole Foods, we began our journey. We departed by speedboat from Maurice Gibbs Park for Monument Island. A few souls braved the bay on kayaks donated by South Beach Kayak.

View of Monument Island.

View of Monument Island.

At Monument Island, Ecocom’s Luis Rodrigues talked about the impact of plastics on our environment. I learned that plastics are photodegradable. Even when plastic disintegrates into smaller pieces it attracts other chemicals and contaminates the water and disrupts the food chain. The tiniest piece of plastic makes a huge impact because it is consumed more easily by wild life. As we trekked through the island, we found an abundance of trash like sanitary items, Styrofoam cups, paper plates, liquor bottles, Styrofoam blocks, etc. By the end of the venture, we filled 40 bags!

Pioneer statue

“Pioneer” Statue surveying the Island.

During the outing, I must confess to taking a few snapshots of the memorial to Henry Flagler. The monument had four statues—Pioneer, Education, Industry, and Prosperity—representing what I consider the four pillars of Flagler’s character. A Standard oil tycoon, Flagler, built a railroad from Jacksonville to Key West to transport the rich and famous. Not only a man of great wealth but also of great generosity and vision, Flagler built schools and churches along Florida’s east coast. His legacy as the Father of Florida tourism continues today in the Sunshine state.

Biscayne Bay is a lagoon approximately 35 miles long. In 1975, the bay was designated as a Florida aquatic preserve. A second preserve was soon added off of Cape Florida on Key Biscayne. These two preserves are now managed by the state under the Biscayne Bay Aquatic Preserves. For more information, visit

Take a hike

Cape Florida Lighthouse.

Copyrighted Cape Florida Lighthouse by Elaine Marie.

Walk off those holiday pounds. Explore Florida’s breathtaking ecosystem. Discover interesting facts about native plants and animals. Journey through Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park on January 1 from 9-11 am. Limited to 30 people. Free with regular park admission.

For more information, call 305-361-5811.

First Light

Cape Florida Lighthouse

My painting of Cape Florida Lighthouse copyrighted by Elaine Marie Austin.

After a week of rain, clouds, and thunder, I was excited about this sunny day. I arose at 6 am and traveled south. This painting of Cape Florida Lighthouse captures the emotions I felt.