The historic landmarks, bolted offshore to mark the locations of coral reefs, date back to the 1800s.

By Marisa Spyker
April 02, 2019
Alligator Reef Lighthouse
Luke Wendling/Getty Images

If you’ve ever shopped for real estate in the Florida Keys, where land is scarce and everyone wants a piece of it, you know that dynamite properties are usually hard to come by. If you’re in the market for something a little unusual, however, this just might be your lucky day.

According to the National Trust for Historic Preservation, the federal government is looking to unload four historic Florida Keys light stations from its real estate arsenal. And unlike many traditional lighthouses, these landmarks happen to be perched out in the middle of the crystal-clear tropical sea. (Translation: they’re blessed with some of the best views around.)

Sombrero Key Lighthouse in Marathon
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The four are among the Keys’ six total skeleton-style lighthouses constructed in the 1800s to warn passing ships of their proximity to shallow reef areas. Now out of commission, they’re primarily markers for some of the island chain’s most sought after snorkeling spots. Perhaps the most famous of the up-for-grabs stations, the Alligator Reef Lighthouse in Islamorada stands watch over a vibrant landscape of sealife, coral, and the wreck of an old navy ship that once hunted pirates.

Related: This Maine Private Island Estate Comes With its Own Historic Lighthouse: 

But while the relics are rich with history, they’re also notoriously expensive to renovate and maintain. (Larry Herlth, an advocate and artist known in the Keys as “Lighthouse Larry,” estimates it’d take $4 to $6 million to restore a historic lighthouse and another $100,000 per year to maintain.) To offset those costs, the government passed the National Historic Lighthouse Preservation Act in 2000, which allows the landmarks to be given away free of charge to certain entities, including nonprofits and community organizations, who intend to preserve them. And if a keeper who fits that criteria isn’t found, the lighthouses then go to auction, where any member of the general public can snatch them up for use as a public museum, B&B, or—yup—a really cool vacation house.

If the idea of basking in an overwater keeper’s cottage lights your fire, the four offshore stations currently available in the Keys span from the American Shoal Lighthouse off Sugarloaf Key to the Carysfort Reef Light in Key Largo. Each stands at over 100 feet tall with an elevated platform housing either a conical or octagonal dwelling. And, having been decommissioned for years, you can expect each to be in need of a little TLC.

But, if you have the cash and the time, can you imagine a cooler fixer upper (and an even better payoff)? Yup, neither can we.