Ponce Inlet Florida Marine Center + Lighthouse

A playful octopus and a harrowing climb …

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Explore the Ponce Inlet Lighthouse

Only 203 steps to the top … that’s what kept going through my mind as we climbed the narrow, winding staircase to the top of the Ponce Inlet lighthouse on our day trip from Daytona.

As someone who hits the treadmill almost every day, this should be a breeze, right? Wrong! By the time we had ascended and walked back down those 203 steps, my legs were shaking. And they continued to do so for about an hour.

Ponce Inlet Lighthouse stairs

Was it worth it? The answer is a definite yes. The views from the top were amazing and I was proud of myself for the accomplishment. Even those of us in our party afraid of heights agreed it was worth facing their fear.

A short drive from our oceanfront Daytona, FL resort, the Ponce Inlet Light Station & Museum combined with a trip to the nearby Marine Science Center is the perfect respite from the beach. As a day trip from Daytona, it can’t be beaten.

The lighthouse itself is a national historic landmark and was completed in 1887. It was restored in 2004 and what’s especially unique about this museum is that all of the light stations’ original buildings are also found right where they were when it was a working lighthouse.

When you visit the Ponce Inlet lighthouse, you don’t just walk to the top of the lighthouse, you also get to see what life would have been like for the lighthouse keepers and their families.

The exhibits are very well done and full of interesting artifacts and pictures portraying life at the light station. The grounds are lovely to explore with additional exhibits such as a Cuban raft exhibit (hard to believe anyone would venture across the sea in those rafts!), an oil storage building, a Lens Exhibit Building, and a garden area.

Ponce Inlet Lighthouse Museum + Florida Tourism is a great day trip from Daytona

All in all, there are 14 sites to explore. Not only did we check them all out, but we also spent some time enjoying the front porches of several of the buildings while resting our tired legs thanks to comfortable and well-placed rocking chairs.

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Learn about ocean life at the Marine Science Center

Once the kids had their fill of history, we drove just a short distance down the road to the Marine Science Center. This small but extremely interesting center exists primarily to educate the public as well as rehabilitate sea turtles.

Throughout the day, the staff puts on a variety of talks sharing their knowledge about the amazing creatures housed here as well as animals one would encounter when visiting Florida. We especially enjoyed watching the stingrays being fed and learning how the center handles injured sea turtles.

Marine Science Center, Ponce Inlet, Florida

The staff is quite passionate about their center and were out and about constantly talking to guests, showing them the various marine life, and answering questions. While there, we had the opportunity to touch a stingray, hold a starfish and learn the difference between poisonous and non-poisonous snakes. Pretty cool.

Marine Science Center Ponce Inlet, FL

My personal favorite exhibit was the baby octopus. I’ve always been a little weirded out by the octopus, but thanks to this center I’ve completely changed my mind. Their octopus is a young 5-month-old female and we learned that the octopus is very intelligent.

This one enjoyed playing ball with the staff members. You heard that right – they would float a small plastic ball in her tank and she would reach out and grab a hold of it. She’d then bat it around and send it back for them to push at her again.

It was fantastic.

Next time you are in the Daytona or New Smyrna Beach area, please mix up your week by visiting these two fabulous spots. Our vacation was richer for it and everyone enjoyed the change of pace. I know we’ll be back as it’s the perfect day trip from Daytona!

👉 Book your stay near Ponce Inlet at Booking.com

Ponce Inlet Lighthouse & Museum, 4931 South Peninsula Drive, Ponce Inlet, FL (386) 761-1821

Ponce Inlet Marine Science Center, 100 Lighthouse Drive, Ponce Inlet, FL (386) 304-5545

Thanks to the Daytona Beach Convention & Visitors Bureau for sharing with us these treasures and hosting part of our visit! We enjoyed both locations immensely. All opinions and pictures in this post are 100% mine.


Ponce Inlet Lighthouse and Marine Science Center + Florida is a great day trip from Daytona. Spend a day exploring the area and enjoy a short break from the beach. #daytona #florida #ponceinlet