Point Arena Lighthouse Mendocino County
Located at the end of a small peninsula is the lovely Point Arena lighthouse. For over 100 years, the lighthouse has protected sailors from the rough shoreline and rocky outcroppings along this part of the Pacific Coast. If you are traveling down Highway 1, be sure to make a side trip to this historic lighthouse and museum.
Visitors can enjoy the lighthouse museum, which documents the history of the lighthouse, the 1906 earthquake and subsequent rebuild of the lighthouse, as well as other events that occurred in the area. The centerpiece of the lighthouse is the beautiful Fresnel lens that used to be up in the lighthouse. Friendly docents are available to answer questions.
Join one of the guided trips up the lighthouse. Tours leave every 20 minutes and are on a first come, first serve basis. The top of the lighthouse is accessed by an interior spiral staircase of over 140 steps, with the last bit on a steep and narrow stairwell.
Once at the top, you can enjoy a 360-degree panorama view that takes in the Pacific Ocean, the Garcia River Valley, and the Stornetta Public Lands. On clear days, and during the right time of the year, it is common to see migrating whales.
The guide will point out interesting landmarks and is happy to answer questions. There is plenty of time to take photos and also step out onto the circular balcony area for fresh air views.
Fog is a regular occurrence in this area. Therefore, try to time your visit on a non-foggy day to take full advantage of the views. A visit to the lighthouse on a foggy day is still a great experience. The stunning views are traded for a grey cloak that hugs the lighthouse. If you have an active imagination it can be a little eerie and spooky.
There are a few picnic tables on the lighthouse grounds, as well as a trail to a gazebo on an overlook. Leashed dogs are allowed on the trails.
Point Arena Lighthouse Cottages
A particularly unique feature of the lighthouse is that they have four rental houses on the property. These are the former lighthouse keeper homes and are now available as vacation homes.
The homes enjoy stunning views of the ocean, and at night, the flashing lighthouse is a neat sight to behold. These rentals make a great family or romantic getaway. Reservations can be made through the lighthouse webpage.
Once you are out at the lighthouse peninsula, a great way to extend your visit is to take in the natural beauty of the Stornetta Public Lands. Bordered on one side by the lighthouse, this 1,132-acre area includes two miles of coastline and the Garcia River estuary.
Popular features include sinkholes where you can watch the ocean water rush in at high tide. Following a heavy rain, there is a waterfall that drops from the rocky ledges right into the ocean. The terrain is generally flat unless you want to work your way down to the rocky shoreline to tide pool.
The Stornetta Public Lands are an ideal area for hiking, picnics, nature photography and wildlife viewing. Be sure to bring your camera and binocular, because stunning shore and land wildlife are common.
Migratory birds, such as waterfowl, can be seen, as well as shorebirds, raptors, and special status avian species. Because this area is an active, eroding and dynamic coastline, be aware of sinkholes and unstable cliffs. Keep your pet leashed and your children close at hand.
When visiting the lighthouse or the Stornetta Public Lands, be sure to dress in layers with wind protection. The weather changes quickly in this coastal area. Don’t forget your camera binoculars to capture the stunning views from the top of the lighthouse.
There is a small gift shop on site, but no food services. You can pick up picnic provisions in Point Arena at one of the markets or enjoy a sit-down meal at one of the restaurants in town or near the Point Arena pier before or after your visit.
Where is Point Arena Lighthouse
The lighthouse is located a few miles north of the town of Point Arena. From Highway 1, turn west on Lighthouse Road and drive towards the ocean. There will be signage on Highway 1 for the lighthouse.
Just follow Lighthouse Road to the end. A gate and attendant will provide more information. For the Stornetta Public lands, there are pullout areas before you get to the lighthouse entrance. Look for a cleared area under large trees at the 90-degree bend in the road.
Point Arena Lighthouse is open daily from 10:00 AM to 3:30 PM the winter, and extends the closing time to 4:30 PM in the summer. Entry is charged on a per-person basis.
Point Arena is 129 miles from San Francisco. Drive time is about three hours. You might want to consider spending one night in the area for this trip.