Since time immemorial, humans have been mesmerized by the ocean, and what better way to explore the beautiful coastline of the great state of California than punctuating a trip along Highway 1 and visiting some beautiful historic lighthouses. The California coast is dotted by over 30 lighthouses that are open to public tours. Here are a few of the coolest you may find in your travels.
Located at Cabrillo National Monument near San Diego, the Point Loma Lighthouse was established in 1855 on a cliff 422 above sea level. Heavy fog prevented the lighthouse from being useful to sea faring vessels on many a stormy winter night. 35 years later, the lighthouse was closed and operations moved to a new lighthouse at the base of the cliff. These two lighthouses, and the surrounding Cabrillo National Monument, render a gorgeous view of Coronado Island and San Diego waterfront.
The beautiful Point Fermin Lighthouse was built in 1874 with a Stick Style Victorian design. One of only 6 lighthouses in the United States using this design style, it is characterized by its gabled roofs, horizontal siding, decorative cross beams and hand carved porch railings. In 2002, the lighthouse was restored, retrofitted, and rehabilitated for public access with funds from the City of Los Angeles, the Port of Los Angeles, and the State of California. The lighthouse was opened to the public on November 1, 2003 under the management of the Department of Recreation and Parks for the City of Los Angeles.
Founded in 1890, the Point San Luis Light Station has served as the beacon over San Luis Bay for over 120 years from its founding in 1890. Styled in Prairie Victorian/Gothic style, the light is maintained to this day by The U.S. Coast Guard, while the rest of the station is maintained as a historic site open to public visitors. The Point San Luis Light station was added to the U.S. National Register of Historic Places in 1991.
Point Sur has been a navigational hazard for sea farers throughout history, to which many shipwrecked captains can attest. After many petitions to the U.S. Lighthouse Service Board, the light station was founded in 1889. Today, the lighthouse is maintained by the U.S. Coast Guard. A total restoration of the lantern room atop the Pt. Sur Lighthouse was completed on January 13, 2001. Located just off Highway 1, the grounds extend beyond the beach to a giant outcropping in the ocean where the lighthouse holds vigil, offering a gorgeous view of Monterey Bay.
Pigeon Point is one of the tallest lighthouses in America at 115 feet and has been guiding mariners through the Pacific Coastline since 1872. The Fresnel lens of the original light contains 1008 prisms and stands a staggering 16 feet tall and weighs over 2,000 pounds. Whale and seals can be seen beyond the surf most days of the year and the rocky reefs surrounding the lighthouse contain many tide pools teeming with life.
The cultural history of Point Reyes reaches back some 5,000 years to the Coast Miwok Natives who were the first human inhabitants of the Peninsula. The lighthouse itself was founded in the 1870's and is now on the National Register of Historic Places. While the National Seashore and surrounding historic buildings are open to the public, the lighthouse is currently under restoration that will be complete by January 31, 2019.
Founded in 1870, The Point Arena Lighthouse is surrounded by water on three sides and shares land with the Point Arena-Stornetta Unit of the California Coastal National Monument. It is also one of the best whale watching spots on the North Coast, with the annual Gray Whale migration from late November through May, Humpbacks throughout the year, the occasional pod of transient Killer Whales and even Blue Whales. While the entire structure was rebuilt after earthquakes destroyed the original tower and buildings in 1906, the 115 foot tall light tower still shines to this day.
The Battery Point Lighthouse was built in 1856 on a small island that is connected to Battery Point by an isthmus that is only exposed during low tide. Built in Cape Cod style, this lighthouse was not included in the 1852 U.S. contract for the first eight west coast lighthouses, but was lit 10 days before the eighth lighthouse was operational at Humboldt Harbor. Earthquakes and tsunamis have been part of it's tumultuous history, but since its re-lighting in 1982, the Battery Point Lighthouse has been in continued operation.