There are over 40 lighthouses along the California Coastline, some of which are still functional and important structures for the U.S. Coast Guard. The historical and inherently romantic notions of lighthouses in the fog, however, commonly come to mind more readily for most travelers. Fortunately, most of the California lighthouses are open to the public. They offer spectacular views, and some even house museums or a place to stay overnight.
Bed and Breakfast Lighthouse
The East Brother Light Station sits on an island about 30 minutes from downtown San Francisco, and it is an active lighthouse that also operates as a bed-and-breakfast inn. There are five rooms available, and the stay includes champagne and hors d’oeuvres, a full dinner with wine and a gourmet breakfast each morning. A boat picks up guests and personally delivers them across the bay. It takes about 10 minutes; be ready to step from the boat onto a ladder, and climb up to 12 feet, depending on the tide. The Light Station is at 117 Park Place,
Point Richmond, CA 94801, (510) 233-2385, www.ebls.org.
Youth Hostel Lighthouse
The Point Montera Lighthouse, about 25 miles south of San Francisco near Moss beach, still functions as a working lighthouse for the Coast Guard, but is also set up as a youth hostel. It is open to all ages and offers both dormitory style accomodations and private rooms. It has DSL and WiFi, and an espresso bar. Contact information: PO Box 737, 16th St at California Hwy 1, Montara, CA 94037, (888) 464-4872, www.pointmontara@hi.USA.com.
Whale Watching from Lighthouses
The Point Arena Lighthouse on the Mendocino coast juts out into the ocean for two miles, offering an excellent place to watch for California Gray Whales as they migrate from Baja to the Bering Sea during the months of December through April. It is one of the tallest lighthouses in the state, and visitors can climb to the top of it–115 feet. Overnight accomodations are available in the historic keepers home quarters, and there is a gift shop onsite. Point Arena Lighthouse: P.O. Box 11, 45500 Lighthouse Road, Point Arena, CA 95468, (877) 725-4448, www.portarenalighthouse.com.