Discover the most beautiful lighthouses in California. They have protected sailors and illuminated the light for hundreds of years. they have protected sailors and illuminated the night. These unique buildings are ingenious monuments that face the wind and the sea to protect us.
These majestic lighthouses along the California coast are some of the state’s most photographed icons. Many of these decommissioned lighthouses are transformed into museums and tourist accommodation, allowing visitors to experience a unique vacation.
Some of these lighthouses in northern California have easy access while few southern California lighthouses require some planning ahead if you want to take a tour inside. Below is a list of the best California lighthouses that can be found in several places along the coast from north to south.
#1 Alcatraz Island Lighthouse
If you are planning to explore the lighthouses in San Francisco Bay Area, look no further than Alcatraz Island Lighthouse. This popular Northern California lighthouse is located at the southern end of Alcatraz Island which is infamous for Alcatraz prison.
Constructed in 1854, this is the first lighthouse on the west coast of California. The lighthouse is still operated by the U.S. Coast Guard and functions as a museum on Alcatraz Island, which welcomes over 1.5 million visitors a year.
You can enjoy its view from the shoreline of San Francisco. Although the lighthouse is not open to the public, but to get an up-close view of the tower you have to book a tour to Alcatraz Island.
Tip: Alcatraz island itself is a popular tourist attraction in San Francisco. Generally, tickets are sold out up to one week in advance. Buy your ticket online in advance to confirm the reservation.
#2 Battery Point Lighthouse
Located in Crescent City, it is another famous California lighthouse which is also considered as one of the oldest(constructed in 1856) lighthouses in California. Unlike other lighthouses, Battery Point Lighthouse doesn’t have any towering column structure. It looks more like a house with a light on it.
This lighthouse is now turned into a museum that offers a guided tour from 10 am to 4 pm during low tide. The museum features several maritime artifacts, photos, used furniture, and historical documents.
You have to plan in advance if you want to visit this lighthouse as it is not accessible during high tide. Be sure to check the tide conditions before visiting this lighthouse. Although you can still take photos of this picturesque lighthouse from Battery Point Beach.
#3 Point Arena Lighthouse in California
Looking for lighthouses in California with lodging? This 115- foot tall Point Arena Lighthouse is not only one of the tallest lighthouses in California but also it offers a unique experience with great accommodation. It could be very romantic spending one night with your partner in the historic keeper’s quarter.
Located in the Mendocino area, Point Arena Lighthouse was first built in 1870, but the tower you see today was reconstructed after the destruction of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake.
The lighthouse features a small museum and a souvenir shop. Guided tours are available or you can go for a self-guided tour and explore the place. Visitors can climb up the tower and enjoy the breathtaking views from the top.
#4 Fort Point Lighthouse
This small lighthouse is located at the south end part of the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco and was operational from 1864 to 1934. The US Army Engineers constructed this lighthouse of Fort Point to protect San Francisco Bay from naval attacks.
While visiting the Golden Gate and Presidio park grounds, you can check out the Fort Point National Historic Site that remains open to the public from October to May from 10 am to 5 pm(Friday to Sunday).
#5 Point Sur Lighthouse
Point Sur Lighthouse should always be one of the top lighthouses in California. This lighthouse is situated on a dramatic volcanic rock at the south of the famous Bixby Bridge in Big Sur. It was first lit in 1889 and still functioning, though it is now fully automated.
Big Sur itself is a popular romantic getaway in California. If you visit this place, don’t miss this majestic lighthouse and the stunning views of the ocean. The main highlight of this stone light station is its isolated location and calmness. December through May is the best time when you can see gray whales on their ocean migration route. If you are lucky enough, you can see humpback and blue whales in summer.
Volunteers provide a 3-hour lighthouse walking tour on a paved road on Saturdays, Sundays, and Wednesdays throughout the year. They also offer whale watch tours, ghost hunts, and Halloween tours. Check out more details on their tours, admission fee, and rules before visiting this beautiful California lighthouse.
#6 Point Reyes Lighthouse: California Lighthouse
Constructed in 1870, this historic lighthouse is a great place to get out and explore. It was in service for 105 years till 1975 when US Coast Guard installed an automated light below the tower. Point Reyes Lighthouse is located at a remote place just 60 miles north of San Francisco.
The road to get there is curvy and beautiful but not the easiest by car. You have to walk down 318 steps to reach the lighthouse. Although it is a little hard to access the lighthouse but once you reach there the stunning views of the lighthouse and the surrounding national seashore will leave you awestruck.
I will recommend staying there at least one night to hike around the place and explore nearby attractions such as Drakes Beach and Alamere Falls.
#7 Pigeon Point Lighthouse
Situated along the Pacific Coast Highway about 50 miles south of San Francisco, Pigeon Point Lighthouse is one of the most beautiful lighthouses in Northern California. Built in 1872, it is the tallest lighthouse on the west coast at a height of 115 feet.
The tower is closed for visitors, but you can still enjoy 270-degree views of the Pacific Ocean or take a guided tour of the grounds. The best thing about this California light station is that it has an affordable accommodation option for visitors. You can enjoy the sunset and stay in one of the lighthouse keeper’s rooms that have been turned into a youth hostel.
If you visit in winter, it is a great place for seal, dolphin and whale watching.
#8 Point Cabrillo Lighthouse
Built after the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, this worth visit California lighthouse is now totally automated and operated by the Point Cabrillo Lightkeepers Association in cooperation with State Parks. It is located on the grounds of Point Cabrillo State Historic Park in Mendocino.
Visitors can access three buildings including the lighthouse, the assistant light keeper’s house, and an informative Marine Science exhibit with a 270-gallon saltwater aquarium. You can also enjoy the museum and the gift shop in the lighthouse.
When you are in Point Cabrillo Light Station State Historic Park, don’t miss the unique opportunity to visit the Lantern Room and the 100-year-old operational 3rd order Fresnel lens. Please note: This tour($5 per person) is conducted only 8 days each year. See the Point Cabrillo Lightkeepers website for available dates.
Apart from these, you can watch migrating gray whales and spend a night in the beautifully restored lightkeeper’s house.
#9 Point Vicente Lighthouse
Situated on the Palos Verdes Peninsula in Los Angeles, Point Vicente Lighthouse is worth visiting. This active Southern California lighthouse was manned by civilian keepers until 1939 when the U.S. Coast Guard took over this tower for its maintenance and operation.
Now there is an automated radio station too that works as a communication center in various rescue operations. Visitors are allowed to access the Point Vicente Lighthouse on the second Saturday of every month from 10 am to 3 pm.
The Point Vicente Interpretive Center is another highlight of this place where you can enjoy exhibits about the history of Palos Verdes Peninsula and marine life. Point Vincente is a great place for whale watching during migration months(December-May).
#10 Piedras Blancas Lighthouse
If you are a lighthouse lover, you shouldn’t miss Piedras Blancas Lighthouse, one of the best lighthouses in Southern California. The lighthouse can be seen along California’s scenic Highway 1.
The lighthouse was first lit in 1875 and still, it is functioning, but the upper level of the lighthouse is removed. Its Fresnel Lens is now on display on Main Street in the nearby town of Cambria.
Guided tours are available here on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday mornings year-round. Visitors are allowed inside the building but not allowed in the tower.
It’s an amazing place to visit with families. Kids can enjoy watching sea birds and sea lions and elephant seals on the rugged shorelines in the winter months.