Generally, when we think of a lighthouse, we think of a narrow, cylindrical structure at the base of a distant shoreline, gently warding off approaching ships from the perils of the reefs. Alligator Reef Lighthouse is just such a structure, minus the land. The lighthouse, erected in 1873, is a skeletal rig moored in the open ocean in an area known as the “Florida Passage.” The water here is the clearest in the Keys, making it ideal for snorkeling, scuba diving and fishing.
The lighthouse was originally built after the famous USS Alligator, a Navy schooner that acted as a nautical sheriff, ran aground after attempting to subdue a fleet of pirate ships. The crew abandoned ship and blew up the Alligator in order to keep it out of the hands of the pirates. To this day, a popular pastime is to dive the area in search of artifacts left over from the wreckage in the graveyard of pirate ships at the ocean bottom.