Have you been to the tallest lighthouse in the West Coast?
Visit the Point Arena Lighthouse in California
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Point Arena Light is an iconic landmark along the rugged shores of Mendocino County.It is one of the best spots in California to watch migrating gray whales every November to May, or you may see occasional blue whales and killer whales. But there are also humpbacks passing by through out the year as well.
The lighthouse is located 2 miles north from Point Arena, on a rocky point and the closest accessible beach nearby is Manchester Beach. The Point Arena Light was built in 1870 and it is the tallest lighthouse in the west coast.
The tower was originally built with brick and mortar, the balcony supports were made of ornate iron. The lighthouse has living quarters that was big enough for the light keepers and their families.In April of 1906, a devastating earthquake damaged the keepers’ living quarters and the lighthouse. The damage was beyond repair that the two structures had to be demolished.
The lighthouse was then rebuilt from reinforced concrete. It had to be strong enough to withstand earthquakes. Eighteen months later after the earthquake, the new light house was operational again.
There were a couple of movies that were filmed near the light house. One was the final scenes from the movie Forever Young in 1992, starring Mel Gibson.
The new Lighthouse towers at 115 feet, featuring the First Order of Fresnel Lens from France. Before electricity was available, the light keepers have to crank a 160-pound weight up the center shaft of the lighthouse by hand, every 75 minutes to keep the lens turning, and they have to refuel every 4 hours the hydraulic oil lamp that produced the light, and the wicks had to be trimmed regularly. Imagine the hard work and the sleepless nights the lighthouse keepers had to endure. The tour guide will actually talk about all these in detail during your visit.
In 1977, the First Order Of Fresnel Lens was discontinued and was automated. The current modern lens projects light 25 nautical miles into the horizon. In 1978, the Fog Signal was replaced by a bell buoy nearby.
In the event of power failure, there is an emergency battery-powered back up and a radio beacon to assist the mariners into safety and the radio beacon can reach 50 miles into the sea.
Today, the Fog Signal Building which was built in 1890 is the oldest structure on the property. It now houses the museum and the little gift shop with a good amount of souvenir choices. It also has a whale watch room with educational displays of sea wild life and the changes of the area due to erosion over the years.
The First Order of Fresnel Lens which was removed from the tower in 2009 and is the most imposing structure and the center piece of the museum. It is surrounded by a display of information of the light house history.
The interactive tour starts inside the museum. The tour guide talks about the history of the lighthouse, the devastating earthquake and the rebuilding. You are given a little colored laminated card that you give up to the tour guide as you up to the top of the lighthouse.
The cylindrical tower has 145 steps to the top.The first step bears the name of the manufacturer and the original iron steps were reused. There are benches on some landings for anyone who wants to rest on their way to the top. This is a strenuous activity, rest if you must and take your time going up. It took us about 4 minutes to reach the top. We were out of breath but the beautiful view made the effort worth it.
A tour guide at the top talked some more about the history of the light house. Once you are up top, you are welcomed by a 360 degree spectacular view. The sky seemed bluer and the cloud fluffier! You can see the vast horizon and if you get lucky, you can see the tails and spouts of a passing whale.There are also night tours on every full moon of each month and on some special events.
There is a balcony just below the top of the light house and visitors are allowed to go out and take pictures. It was an experience to be out there and up over 100 feet from the ground. You can feel the gust of wind, and the people and objects below seemed small and so far away.
There is a crater known as the Devil’s Punch Bowl. You can see it clearly from the top of the lighthouse. It was a fully enclosed crater 100 years ago but due to the constant pounding of the powerful Pacific Ocean, the walls have eroded over the years.
Down on the ground, the property is on 23 acres of grounds and trails. The Point Arena Lighthouse South Trail is a loop of .8 miles and it is for all skill levels.There are multiple spots to settle for bird and whale watching on the headlands. The property is graced with wild flowers. For your safety please stay with in the fences as the edges are crumbly and eroded.
This is a beautiful place to take your family on a day of exploring the lighthouse, take a nature hike along the south trail, spread your mat and have a lunch picnic on a spot on the headland and enjoy the stunning view. We had a wonderful time walking the grounds and just enjoying the fresh environment and the stunning surroundings.
The historic homes of the light keepers are converted into a vacation rental units. There are 6 vacation units and it can accommodate a total of 34 people. It is a gorgeous venue for weddings and other events. It offers a waterfront view and well appointed with modern amenities.
We went on a Sunday when it was the Cruise the Coast Event. We were privileged to see these beautiful vintage and luxury cars.
Please click here for the Point Arena Lighthouse rates, tour hours and event schedules. And dress in layers for your comfort since it could get chilly up there even in the middle of summer.
Today, the official owners of the Point Arena Lighthouse is the nonprofit organization called Point Arena Lighthouse Keepers. It was awarded to them due to their continuous and diligent efforts of historical preservation and education. Please support the organization by visiting, become a member or by buying items from the gift shop, or staying at the vacation rentals. You can also support them by telling people about this beautiful lighthouse.
In this day and age of modern technology, the Point Arena Lighthouse still stands and its light will continue to give guidance for mariners at sea who will need the light to safely lead them home.
When are you going to visit the Point Arena Lighthouse?
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