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    California Lighthouses: West Coast waterfront tour

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    Lluis Enric Mayans
    @lluisenricmayans
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    wikipedia.org, lonelyplanet.com

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    When it comes to American lighthouses, most likely, the ones that can be found on the beautiful coast of Maine and New England come to mind first, but even if they are not as famous, the West Coast lighthouses are certainly no less fascinating. and interesting to visit.

    In particular, they can be an excellent opportunity to discover a part of local history full of curiosities and to enjoy splendid views of the ocean and its sunsets.


    Index


    • California lighthouses: where they are and why to visit them
    • Old Point Loma Lighthouse – San Diego
    • Point Fermin Lighthouse – San Pedro
    • Point Sur Lighthouse – Big Sur
    • Point Pinos Lighthouse – Pacific Grove
    • Lighthouse Field State Beach – Santa Cruz
    • Pigeon Point Light Station – Pescadero
    • Point Montara Light Station – Montara
    • Point Bonita Lighthouse – Marin
    • Point Reyes Lighthouse – Point Reyes
    • Point Arena Lighthouse and Museum
    • Point Cabrillo Lighthouse – Mendocino
    • Battery Point Lighthouse – Crescent City

    California lighthouses: where they are and why to visit them

    Most of the signposted lighthouses are easy to visit and therefore can be a nice stop to rest for a while on your California tour. Those that are located within the cities can also be considered to enjoy a spectacular one sunset over the ocean, especially if you have the opportunity to sleep in the area (the premises of some lighthouses have been converted into hotels or hostels).

    Obviously, mainly for reasons of readability, I have not been able to include all those that can be found along the California coast, but I have pointed out those that can be considered the most representative, and that may have more chances to be visited given their position.



    For clarity, the lighthouses have been described following the direction from south to north.

    Old Point Loma Lighthouse – San Diego

    The construction closely resembles that of other lighthouses that we will encounter during this journey, for example that of the Point Pinos Lighthouse in Monterey with which it also shares the year of its construction: 1855. Unfortunately, the choice of the location in which to build the lighthouse does not was the happiest.

    Although it was built almost 130 meters above sea level, this altitude did not in fact mean greater visibility, but instead meant that the light emitted by the lighthouse, for most days of the year, was hampered by dense fog and the low-lying clouds characteristic of this area. This problem turned out to be so serious that already in 1891 it was necessary to build another lighthouse further downstream.

    How to get there: the lighthouse is located inside the Cabrillo national monument at the very tip of the Point Loma peninsula near the city of San Diego. How to visit it: access to the lighthouse is possible according to the park timetables: from 9:00 to 17:00 every day of the year. The cost to visit the lighthouse refers to the one needed to access the national park which is $ 20 per car or $ 10 per person if you reach it by other means. However, the America the Beautiful parks card can be used. Accomodation: being a short distance from the city of San Diego I suggest you read our advice dedicated to the best facilities in the city by clicking on the link below.

    Where to sleep in San Diego


    Point Fermin Lighthouse – San Pedro

    Certainly one of the most original shape headlights. Structurally it is very similar to the Old Point Loma and Point Pinos lighthouses, with the actual lighthouse rising above the keeper's quarters, but in this case the lighthouse column has a square shape rather than circular, as we are used to imagine a construction of this type.


    Built in 1847, it was the first to make its appearance in the San Pedro bay area, in the so-called Stick Style, which involved the use of numerous wooden decorations both in the facade and in the interior of the building.

    How to get there: the lighthouse is located in the town of San Pedro south of Los Angeles, the address is 807 W. Paseo Del Mar. How to visit it: the lighthouse is open to the public from Tuesday to Sunday from 13pm to 00pm, while it is closed on Mondays and major holidays. No ticket payment is required but a donation is recommended. Accomodation: if you do not want to look for accommodation directly in the town of San Pedro, you can also consider the option Long Beach which is just a few minutes' drive away, or opt for a day trip directly to Los Angeles. To read our advice on where to sleep in the city of angels you can click on the link below.

    Where to sleep in Los Angeles

    Point Sur Lighthouse – Big Sur

    One of the almost obligatory stops if you are traveling along the spectacular Pacific Coast Highway. This lighthouse is in fact one of the most popular places for those traveling along the scenic road that runs along much of the Californian coast.


    One of its peculiarities is that it was built on top of one volcanic rock which rises to over 100 meters above sea level, and from which it dominates the entire area below. As you can easily imagine, from here you can admire splendid views not only of the ocean but also of the characteristic coastal stretch.

    Nearby you can also visit what was once one US Navy base in operation during the Cold War period, with the main task of identifying Soviet submarines off the Californian coast. Today you can visit the area thanks to tours (costing $ 10) lasting about an hour and a half carried out on Saturdays and Sundays at 10:00.


    How to get there: Point Sur Lighthouse is located about 35 kilometers south of the town of Carmel by the Sea. How to visit it: to visit the lighthouse it is necessary to take part in a tour that takes place at fixed times depending on the time of year. During the winter months (from October to March) on Saturdays and Sundays at 10:00 and on Wednesdays at 13:00. During the summer season (from April to September) on Saturdays and Wednesdays at 10:00 and 14:00, while on Sundays at 10:00. A payment of $ 15 is required to register for the tour. There are also special and themed tours (such as the one dedicated to the ghosts that should haunt the area or the midnight tour), I invite you to check the official page of the site for more information.   Accomodation: the nearest towns are the aforementioned Carmel by the Sea to the north and the town of Big Sur South. To see the accommodations closest to the lighthouse you can click on the link below.

    Look for accommodation in the area

    Point Pinos Lighthouse – Pacific Grove

    Its construction dates back to 1855 and is still active, this makes it the oldest still used lighthouse on the entire West Coast. The other peculiarity of the Point Pinos Lighthouse is that it was built inland rather than directly on the coast.

    However, since 1975 the lighthouse has been fully automated and the premises that were once used as lodgings for the guardians now house a museum. We can consider it one of the symbolic places of the town and it is definitely recommended to come to the area to enjoy a beautiful sunset.

    How to get there: The lighthouse address is 80 Asilomar Blvd, Pacific Grove, CA 93950. How to visit it: the lighthouse is open all year round except Christmas, Thanksgiving and January 10st. During the week it is closed on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, on Saturdays it has opening hours from 00:16 to 00:13, while on the remaining days from 00:16 to 00:5. To visit it you need to pay a $ XNUMX ticket that will allow you to access the museum, built in the premises of the lighthouse keepers, and climb the tower.  Accomodation: if you want to sleep in the immediate vicinity of the lighthouse you can consider the structure of the Sunset Inn Pacific Grove, well cared for that offers more than just the rooms of the spacious mini apartments equipped with all comforts. Otherwise if you want to take a look at all the facilities in the town of Pacific Grove you can click on the link below.

    Search for accommodation in Pacific Grove

    Lighthouse Field State Beach – Santa Cruz

    Within the premises of the Mark Abbott Memorial Lighthouse one of the first museums entirely dedicated to history of surfing, which trace over 100 years of the history of this discipline in the city of Santa Cruz. In the park there is also the beach of Steamer lane one of the most popular for both surfers and those who want to enjoy a little relaxation.

    How to get there: it is located along the coast in the downtown of the town of Santa Cruz south of San Francisco, along the West Cliff Drive. How to visit it: it is possible to visit the park from 7 in the morning until sunset. Admission is free. Accomodation: given the location, if you want to sleep in the area, it is recommended to opt for the city of Santa Cruz. Find our advice by clicking on the link below.

    Where to sleep in Santa Cruz

    Pigeon Point Light Station – Pescadero

    This is one of the tallest lighthouses on the West Coast, its construction dates back to 1872 and is still in operation today, albeit fully automated. Due to the restoration works, the lighthouse tower cannot be visited but it is still allowed to access the surrounding area.

    However, it is worth visiting this area for the splendid beaches that can also be found in the immediate vicinity of the lighthouse.

    How to get there: This lighthouse is also located along Highway 1 (also known as Pacific Coast Highway) roughly halfway between San Francisco and Santa Cruz. How to visit it: the lighthouse is located inside the homonymous state park which can be accessed from 8:00 until sunset. Admission is free.  Accomodation: in the premises of this lighthouse a popular hostel has been created which, at reasonable prices, allows you to spend one or more nights in a certainly original location. Obviously you will have to be willing to accept all the limitations that a hostel accommodation necessarily entails.

    Look for accommodation at the Pigeon Point Lighthouse Hostel

    Point Montara Light Station – Montara

    The Point Montara lighthouse is characterized by being a solitary tower, with the structures of those who have been its guardians over time, built not close to the lighthouse itself, unlike most of the lighthouses described up to this moment.

    This lighthouse has a very curious story it's particular; it is in fact the only one in America to have carried out its function both on the West Coast and on the East Coast. How was this possible? The lighthouse was originally installed on the Cape Cod shoreline in Massachusetts where it operated for nearly 50 years before being decommissioned in 1925.

    Everyone thought that the remains of the lighthouse had been destroyed until some scholars discovered that the lighthouse had actually been transported (how and in what way is still unknown) to the California coast and rebuilt in 1928.

    Unfortunately it is not possible to climb inside the structure either independently or through tours, and the only thing you can do is visit only the surrounding area, which today is part of a hostel where you will have to register just to do a stroll around.

    How to get there: it is located about 40 kilometers south of San Francisco between Montara State Beach and the town of Moss Beach. How to visit it: as mentioned, to access the lighthouse area you will need to register at the hostel reception. Accomodation: surely the hostel of the lighthouse is the best solution if you want to sleep in the area. By clicking on the link below you can check the availability of rooms during the period of your visit.

    Look for accommodation at Point Montara Lighthouse Hostel

    Point Bonita Lighthouse – Marin

    This is one of the lighthouses located in a location that is certainly among the most fascinating and scenic in the whole state. Given the importance and beauty of the place, we have dedicated an in-depth study to the structure and the area of ​​Marin Headlands, where you will find all the information you need to reach the area and visit it at its best.

    You can read our tips in the article Point Bonita Lighthouse e Marin Headlands.

    Point Reyes Lighthouse – Point Reyes

    Even if the structure of the lighthouse is not aesthetically the most beautiful and characteristic seen so far, it is worth taking some time to visit the location where it was built.

    It is in fact located within the National Seashore of the same name managed by the National Park Service on one cliff close to the ocean. To be reached it requires you to walk a path that starts from the Lighthouse Visitor Center and includes a part where it is necessary to descend (and then go back up) well 313 steps.

    Since the area is very windy (in some cases the wind speed reaches over 60 km per hour) in some cases the last part of the path could be closed for safety reasons. I therefore invite you to consult the official page so as not to find any nasty surprises upon your arrival.

    How to get there: the lighthouse is located at the furthest tip of Point Reyes National Seashore. To reach it, it is necessary to travel all the more than 32 km of Sir Francis Drake Boulevard which begins near Point Reyes Station. You will therefore have to consider at least an hour and a half driving round trip, not counting the time necessary for any stops and exploration of the lighthouse area. Given the time required, you will be "forced" to plan your travels carefully by carefully calculating the times you have available within your itinerary. How to visit it: while the park is open every day from 6:00 to midnight, if the weather conditions allow it, the premises of the lighthouse are open from 10:00 to 16:30 from Friday to Monday. It is not necessary to pay an entrance ticket to either the park or the lighthouse.  Accomodation: the choice in the area is not very much but there are still some structures along the main routes that lead to the park. You can find the most comfortable ones for your needs by clicking on the link below.

    Look for accommodation in the area

    Point Arena Lighthouse and Museum

    Lighthouse located in the northern part of California on the promontory of the same name. Its fortunate position also allows you to see in the distance, at certain times of the year, the fascinating spectacle of the migration of whales (by the way, if you are interested in the subject you can consult our article dedicated to whale watching in California).

    In particular, gray whales can be seen from late November to May, while humpback whales basically throughout the year. A museum has been set up within the lighthouse premises that traces the history of the structure and the surrounding area.

    How to get there: You will find the lighthouse along Lighthouse Road which is a small detour from the Pacific Coast Highway near the town of Flumeville. How to visit it: the lighthouse museum is open every day, except for Thanksgiving and Christmas, from 10:00 to 16:30 for the period from Memorial Day (last Monday in May) to Labor Day (first Monday in September ), and from 10:00 to 15:00 for the rest of the year. Limited access to the museum only costs $ 5, while if you want to take a tour of the lighthouse tower too, the cost will be $ 8 per person.  Accomodation: this is one of the few lighthouses that offers the possibility of sleeping in its characteristic rooms obtained from what were once the staff quarters. You can check availability by clicking on the link below.

    Look for accommodation at the Point Arena Lighthouse

    Point Cabrillo Lighthouse – Mendocino

    This distinctive lighthouse is located in Northern California. It is possible to visit the rooms on the ground floor where a museum has been set up which houses a section on the history of Point Cabrillo as well as of the structure. You cannot ascend to the level of the actual lighthouse except on special occasions during the course of the year, which can be checked via the official events page.

    How to get there: located inside the Point Cabrillo Light Station State Historic Park less than 10 minutes drive north of Mendocino, which is the film location of Jessica Fletcher's famous Cabot Cove. How to visit it: even if the park itself is open from sunrise to sunset, the structures inside it, including the lighthouse, open to the public every day from 11:00 to 16:00. A donation of $ 5 must be paid to enter the lighthouse.  Accomodation: the best solution to sleep in the area could be to stay in nearby Mendocino. You can read our advice by clicking on the link below.

    Where sleeping in Mendocino

    Battery Point Lighthouse – Crescent City

    This distinctive lighthouse is located almost on the border between California and Oregon. Not only is its shape particular, it is in fact a house from whose roof a small lighthouse emerges (if compared with those we have seen so far), but also its position. It was in fact built on top of one small island reachable on foot only when low tide allows it.

    This place also has the reputation of hosting the spirit of a ghost, it is said that during storms you can hear footsteps climbing the stairs of the lighthouse and, every now and then, an old rocking chair would seem to move by itself inexplicably.

    How to get there: Battery Point Lighthouse is located at the gates of the small town of Crescent City located along the course of US Highway 101. How to visit it: as mentioned, the lighthouse can only be accessed when the tide allows it. If you do not want to settle for a walk in its surroundings, you must therefore plan your visit carefully. The best way is to check this page where the current phases of the tide are reported so that you know if you will find the road accessible or not. The opening hours vary according to the time of year: from April to September the lighthouse premises are open from 10:00 to 16:00, while during the other months the opening is only scheduled on weekends, obviously tides permitting.  Accomodation: in the Crescent City itself you will find many convenient ways to spend the night. You can search for them by clicking on the link below.

    Find accommodation in Crescent City

    If your on the road itinerary continues north you can take a look at our two insights related to the Oregon coast:

    • Oregon coast: on the road to discover the main wonders of the state
    • The lighthouses of Oregon: itinerary along the Pacific coast.
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