Fodor's Expert Review Point Reyes Lighthouse & Visitor Center

Point Reyes National Seashore Nautical Site/Lighthouse
Free Fodor's Choice

In operation since December 1, 1870, this lighthouse—which was decommissioned in 1975—is one of the premier attractions of the Point Reyes National Seashore. It occupies the tip of Point Reyes, 21 miles from the Bear Valley Visitor Center, a scenic 40-minute drive over hills scattered with longtime dairy farms. The lighthouse originally cast a rotating beam lighted by four concentric wicks that burned lard oil. Keeping the wicks lighted and the 6,000-pound Fresnel lens soot-free in Point Reyes's perpetually foggy climate was a constant struggle that reputedly drove a few early attendants to alcoholism and insanity.

The lighthouse is one of the best spots on the coast for watching gray whales. On both legs of their annual migration, the magnificent animals pass close enough to see with the naked eye. Southern migration peaks in mid-January, and the whales head back north in March; see the slower mothers and calves in late April and early May. Humpback whales can be spotted... READ MORE

In operation since December 1, 1870, this lighthouse—which was decommissioned in 1975—is one of the premier attractions of the Point Reyes National Seashore. It occupies the tip of Point Reyes, 21 miles from the Bear Valley Visitor Center, a scenic 40-minute drive over hills scattered with longtime dairy farms. The lighthouse originally cast a rotating beam lighted by four concentric wicks that burned lard oil. Keeping the wicks lighted and the 6,000-pound Fresnel lens soot-free in Point Reyes's perpetually foggy climate was a constant struggle that reputedly drove a few early attendants to alcoholism and insanity.

The lighthouse is one of the best spots on the coast for watching gray whales. On both legs of their annual migration, the magnificent animals pass close enough to see with the naked eye. Southern migration peaks in mid-January, and the whales head back north in March; see the slower mothers and calves in late April and early May. Humpback whales can be spotted feeding in the summer months.

On busy whale-watching weekends (from late December through mid-April), buses shuttle visitors from the Drakes Beach parking lot to the top of the stairs leading down to the lighthouse and the road is closed to private vehicles. However you've arrived, consider whether you have it in you to walk down—and up—the 308 steps to the lighthouse. The view from the bottom is worth the effort, but the whales are also visible from the cliffs above the lighthouse. Keep in mind that the parking lot is a quarter-mile trek from the visitor center and the lighthouse steps are open only during visitor center hours. Winds can be chilly, and food, water, gas, and other resources are scarce, so be sure to come prepared.

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Nautical Site/Lighthouse Historical Views Free Fodor's Choice Family

Quick Facts

27000 Sir Francis Drake Blvd.
Inverness, California  94937, USA

415-669–1534-visitor center

www.nps.gov/pore/planyourvisit/lighthouse.htm

Sight Details:
Rate Includes: Closed Tues.–Thurs., Fee for weekend shuttle

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