Northern California February 18, 2017
The Lighthouse Road Trip On The Northern California Coast That’s Dreamily Beautiful
Did you know that Northern California is home to some of the most spectacular lighthouses in the country? With our rocky shorelines and dramatic coastal features, it was definitely necessary for these beacons to guide ships safely through the storms. A drive up or down gives you plenty of amazing views of these lighthouses. Some of them are open to the public for tours, others are seen only from a distance. No matter how close you get, seeing the Northern California lighthouses along the coastline is a trip that should be on everyone’ bucket list.
1. St George Reef Lighthouse
Unless you have access to a helicopter, the St. George Reef Lighthouse is one that you will only be able to see from the shore. It was completed in 1892 and is surrounded by water on all sides, making it what is known as a wave-washed lighthouse. It was built here after the wreck of the Brother Jonathan on July 30, 1865. Several prominent people died that day, making it obvious that there needed to be some sort of beacon in this area to safeguard travelers. The light station was replaced by a "floating lighthouse" buoy and decommissioned in 1975, and its 8-foot (2.4 m)-high first-order Fresnel lens was removed in 1983 for display at the Del Norte County Historical Museum in Crescent City. Today, you can take a helicopter tour through the St. George Reef Lighthouse Preservation Society.
2. Battery Point Lighthouse
What makes this historical lighthouse really unique is that it was built on a peninsula that becomes an island at high tide. It was one of the first lighthouses on the West Coast and was commissioned by the government in 1855. The lighthouse is open to the public only when low tide permits access. Visit anytime on the weekends or between April and September to take a tour, which are offered from 10am to 4pm daily (depending on the tide). The museum includes the lighthouse keeper's quarters with period furniture and artifacts left behind since the 1850s, as well as displays of maritime artifacts, photos and historical documents. Tours include a climb into the light tower. We recommend researching the tide times before visiting, as the it rises very quickly at the point and the land bridge to the lighthouse can disappear rapidly.
3. Trinidad Head Lighthouse/ Memorial Lighthouse
Originally built in 1871, the Trinidad Head Lighthouse was replaced in 1947 by modern parts and the original structure was torn down. The community rallied around this historical point of interest, however, and created this replica, which houses the original original fog bell and Fresnel lens of the Trinidad Head Light, as a memorial to those lost at sea. Today you can visit the Memorial Lighthouse and the surrounding park, which has a tribute to those who have passed.
4. Punta Gorda Lighthouse
Now located in the King Range National Conservation Area, the Punta Gorda Lighthouse is actually only accessible via the Lost Coast Hiking Trail. If you have neither the time or the ability to hike into this lighthouse, it's still worth knowing of it's existence and seeing the surrounding area that is accessible by road. The name, Punta Gorda, is Spanish for substantial point. Locals petitioned for a lighthouse to be built here due the rocky and treacherous area starting in the 1880s, but it wasn't until the 1910s and several wrecks later that it was actually established. Like many old lighthouses, it was eventually replaced by advances in navigation and offshore lights. The Coast Guard transferred the lighthouse to BLM management in the 1950s, and several of the old buildings were burned to the ground in the 1960s to keep squatters from residing in them.
5. Cape Mendocino Light in Shelter Cove
Originally located in Cape Mendocino, this lighthouse was moved to Shelter Cove by helicopter in 1998. (Technically, it was just the lantern that was removed this way, the rest of the structure was in disrepair and moved by truck). The historic Fresnel lens was moved to Ferndale in 1948 and while an automated beacon operated for a number of years, it too was removed in May 2013. The Cape Mendocino Lighthouse Preservation Society was responsible for restoring it, painting it, and fitting it with new glass.
6. Point Cabrillo Light Station
Part of the California state park system, the official name for this spot is the Point Cabrillo Light Station State Historic Park. It was built in 1909. . Most of the original structures remain, but the barn is missing: in 1986 it was destroyed in a fire department exercise. The remaining lighthouse station is recognized as one of the most complete light stations in the United States.
7. Point Arena Lighthouse and Museum
Constructed in 1908, this towering lighthouse is a great place to get out and explore. It features a small museum and gift shop. Guided tours of the light station as well as self-guided tours of the grounds are available daily. In 1988 the California Coastal Conservancy began buying the land surrounding the light station, and in 1991 the station was added to the National Register of Historic Places. An interesting example of coastal erosion can be seen clearly in this photo. Known as the Devil's Punch Bowl, the black and white photo was taken from the top of the tower 100 years ago and shows how much the same spot has changed.
Well, what are you waiting for? With more storms on the way this weekend, it sounds like the perfect time for a trip to the coast! For more Northern California road trip ideas, check out
The Perfect Weekend Itinerary If You Love Exploring Northern California’s Waterfalls