Number 36 - November 2011
Welcome to "Rick's Tips," Blue Heron Custom Tours and Travel's quarterly newsletter of fun and interesting things to do in San Francisco, the Bay Area, and Northern California. Whether you are visiting San Francisco or hosting visitors, Blue Heron can provide an unforgettable experience. Visit our website,, to learn more about our private, custom tours.

Visiting Northern California's Lighthouses - Part II

The last issue of "Rick's Tips" covered visiting lighthouses on the Northern California coast between Monterey and Marin Counties. This issue will cover lighthouses north of Marin County to the Oregon border.

Sonoma County

For such a long coastline, Sonoma County never had any lighthouses. Nevertheless the coastal drive is beautiful, especially between Jenner and Gualala.

Mendocino County

Point Arena: The Point Arena Lighthouse and Museum is one of my favorite lighthouses on the California coast. I have fond memories of staying at one of the Assistant Keeper's Homes as a winter's storm blew in from the Pacific. We listened to the howling wind and watched the rain pour from the skies.

The original lighthouse at Point Arena was built in 1870 but was damaged in the 1906 earthquake. The current lighthouse dates back to 1908 and is 115 feet tall. Today, visitors can climb to the top of the tower and see the original Fresnel lens. The lighthouse is open daily between 10:30 a.m. and 3:30 p.m., except between Memorial and Labor Days when the lighthouse closes at 4:30 p.m.

If you want to spend more time at Point Arena, you can stay in one of three Assistant Keeper's Homes, each with three bedrooms that sleep six people; the Head Keeper's Home, with two bedrooms that sleep four; the Keeper's Apartment, which sleeps two; or the small Keeper's Room, which also sleeps two.

Point Cabrillo: Just north of the town of Mendocino, you'll find the Point Cabrillo Light Station, which was built in 1909. While not as tall as Point Arena Lighthouse, Point Cabrillo Light Station is a collection of pretty buildings that sit on a bluff overlooking the ocean. Unless you stay at the Light Station, you will need to walk about three-quarters of a mile from the parking lot, through a meadow with beautiful views of the Pacific, to reach the lighthouse and museum. The lighthouse, light keeper's home, and museum are open daily from 11:00 a.m. until 4:00 p.m. Guided walks are offered on Sundays from May through September at 11:00 a.m.

If you want to stay at Point Cabrillo, two cottages are available that each have one bedroom and sleep two people. If you have a large group, the Head Lightkeeper's House has four bedrooms and sleeps eight.

Humboldt County

Humboldt County was home to a few lighthouses. Today, most are no longer around to visit or are so out of the way that they only merit visits from the most ardent of lighthouse fans.

Punta Gorda: You have to love lighthouses to visit Punta Gorda, which is an eight-mile drive from the small town of Petrolia (yes, there was oil) followed by a tough, three-mile hike. The lighthouse building still stands but the lens is gone. I've not been but, having seen photos of the building, I won't be rushing to see this lighthouse.

Cape Mendocino: The westernmost point in the continental United States is Cape Mendocino. The cape was home to a lighthouse, but the historic building was relocated to Shelter Cove, an isolated community on the Lost Coast. Shelter Cove is about one hour west of US 101 via a curvy, two-lane road through the mountains. Since the lighthouse building has no lens, is not architecturally interesting, and is open at irregular hours, don't make the journey just to see the lighthouse. (I was able to enter the lighthouse building when it was open for an AA meeting.) However, if you want pretty ocean views from one of the most isolated communities on the California coast, then check out Shelter Cover.

Trinidad Head: No, I'm not detouring to the Caribbean. Trinidad is a small town on the Humboldt County coast. While not a major tourist destination, Trinidad is worth the detour if you are in the area. The head and cove are quite pretty with good views from a nearby overlook. The lighthouse is still active and not open to the public, but a replica with the original Fresnel lens is next to the overlook. If you go, check out Katy's Smokehouse for terrific smoked salmon.

Del Norte County

Battery Point: Sitting on an island just off the Crescent City coast, Battery Point Lighthouse can only be accessed by crossing about 200 feet of sand and rocks at low tide. Built in 1856, Battery Point is among the oldest lighthouses in California. The lighthouse building is open from April through September between 10:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m., tides permitting. If you find yourself in Crescent City during the months the lighthouse is open, be sure to check it out.

St. George Reef: I'd love to visit St. George Reef Lighthouse, which is located about eight miles off the Crescent City coast. However, the only way to get there is via helicopter. After 10 years of work and at a cost of $700,000, the lighthouse opened in 1892. St. George Reef was called "America's most expensive lighthouse." Helicopter tours to the lighthouse are offered between October and April, cost $195/person, and are subject to cancellation due to inclement weather.

Part I Update

A few weeks ago, I finally toured Point Sur Lighthouse in Monterey County. I highly recommend taking the three-hour docent-led walk through the lightstation. While climbing the 300-foot rock you will learn about the lightstation's history and enter the restored lighthouse and support buildings. If you tour on a clear day, like we did, you'll be rewarded with a stunning ocean view.

On the same trip, I visited Point Pinos Lighthouse in Pacific Grove. This is one of the few California lighthouses with its original Fresnel lens. You'll be able to walk through the restored rooms and learn about Point Pinos' two women keepers, a rarity among lightkeepers.

As you can see, there are enough lighthouses to please even the most diehard lovers of these beacons. For more information on Northern California and other lighthouses, the Lighthouse Directory is a great resource. If you would like to take a private tour of Northern California that includes some of these lighthouses, contact Blue Heron Custom Tours and Travel at (866) 326-4237 (toll free) or

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See you on the road,

Rick Spear
Blue Heron Custom Tours and Travel
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