Lighthouses may have originally been designed to guide sailors, but these historic relics also serve as gorgeous beacons for a vista-filled roadtrip around the Bay Area.
Point Cabrillo Light Station
Located just two miles north of Mendocino, visiting the Point Cabrillo Light Station includes a bit of a hike, but the view is worth it. The lighthouse was built after the 1906 earthquake to guide small schooners carrying lumber to rebuild San Francisco.
It’s an easy 10 to 15 minute walk down the access road from the parking lot to the lighthouse. The single flight of stairs up to the Fresnel lens are only open select days of the year, but the downstairs of the fully restored lighthouse is open daily from 11am to 4pm.
Closer to home, the Point Montara Light Station is just 20 miles south of San Francisco. Established in 1875, the historic lighthouse isn’t the towering kind at just 30 feet tall, but the view is huge. An added perk, the Fitzgerald Marine Reserve, great for tide pooling, is just a few minutes down the road.
Pigeon Point Light Station
Keep heading south to Pescadero if you’re interested in a lighthouse with a little more stature. At 115-feet tall Pigeon Point Light Station will catch your eye. It’s one of the tallest lighthouses in America and has been glowing since 1872. The actual lighthouse is closed to the public, but the surrounding area is a State Historic Park and the grounds are open.
Unlike other lighthouses, where you might have the place to yourself, there’s a good chance you’ll have company at the Lighthouse Field State Beach in Santa Cruz. With beach to the right, surfers to the left, and a lighthouse in the middle, there’s something for everyone here. The Santa Cruz Surfing Museum is housed inside Mark Abbott Memorial Lighthouse. It’s open Thursday through Sunday, 12 to 4pm, so plan your visit accordingly.
Tucked in the Marin Headlands, many people are surprised to learn that Point Bonita is still an active lighthouse. There’s a small parking lot near the trailhead, so there’s no excuse not to check it out. The lighthouse is open to visitors Saturdays, Sundays, and Mondays from 12:30 to 3:30 pm. Check out National Park Service website for easy to follow directions.
View from Alcatraz Lighthouse
You can’t exactly drive to it, but you can see the first West Coast lighthouse without ever leaving San Francisco. The light on Alcatraz Island flickered to life in 1854.