15 Magnificent California Lighthouses To Visit!

Looking for the most incredible California lighthouses to visit along the Pacific Coast? You’ve come to the right place! While California is known for its sunny, seemingly perfect climate, just off the shore some perils proved treacherous for ships for centuries.

I am obessed with lighthouses. What is it about them that people seem to love? For me, I love photographing them and seeing these maritime landmarks among their often dramatic coastlines. While East Coast lighthouses are arugably more famous than West Coast lighthouses (there’s way more of them), California has quite a few stunners to see!

Conditions like dense fog, rocky headlands, and intense currents caused many shipwrecks, which proved the need for lighthouses along California’s coast. These beacons of light helped ships safely navigate their way around the dangerous waters, and many of the lighthouses are still active today.

Whether you are just taking in the view of these classic landmarks and their coastal setting, or touring the light tower and learning about their maritime history through guides and on-site museums, or even spending the night, there are a variety of California lighthouses to visit!

And better yet, some of these lighthouses in California offer the opportunity to stay overnight! How cool is that?!

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Stunning Lighthouses in California to Visit

Point Reyes Lighthouse


If you’ve seen John Carpenter’s 1980 film The Fog, then you have already seen this classic California lighthouse. The tower and nearby structures painted white and accented with red, are perched down a cliff near crashing waves.

Located in Marin County, the Point Reyes Lighthouse is part of the Point Reyes National Seashore, one of the most stunning places to visit in Northern California

This lighthouse was constructed in 1870, and it stayed in active service until 1975. The purpose of the lighthouse was to signal the danger of the Point Reyes Headlands, which extended 10 miles from the mainland into the ocean. It’s also part of a protected area managed by the National Park Service

Visiting the Point Reyes Lighthouse is possible by parking at the Lighthouse Visitor Center. There is a parking lot, from here, it’s an uphill 0.5-mile walk to the cliff where you can view this majestic California lighthouse from the Lighthouse Visitor Center.

At the Lighthouse Visitor Center, you can learn about the lighthouse here through exhibits. The Ocean Exploration Center explores the marine life and features of this part of the California coastline and the Observation Deck is where you can get great views of the lighthouse and ocean views. If you’re visiting from late December through mid-April you can join whale watchers to see if you can spot any in the ocean from this cliffside vantage point.

Even if you’re not visiting during the prime whale watching months, this is also a great place for coastal bird watching.

Then you’ll have to decide if you want to make your way down the 313 steps to the Point Reyes Lighthouse! Just remember you’ll have to come back up those steps. You’ll only be able to access the exterior of the lighthouse, not go inside.

However the clockwork room in the lighthouse is open on occasion, so it’s possible that when you visit the clockwork room may be open for you to tour.

Pigeon Point Lighthouse


Located around 50 miles south of San Francisco at Half Moon Bay, where you can find one of the tallest lighthouses in the United States (and the tallest lighthouse in California and the West Coast) at Pigeon Point Lighthouse!

This active lighthouse in California is not only one of our favorite stops on a California coast road trip when you’re exploring northern California, but it’s also on the National Register of Historic Places, as well as being a California Historical Landmark.

Dramatically perched out on a peninsula, the lighthouse towers above the crashing waves below. The scenery here is exactly what you imagine would be on a postcard.

Constructed in 1871, the lighthouse and surrounding area comprise the Pigeon Point Light Station State Historic Park. At this idyllic outdoor space, be sure to look out for seals and whales as you enjoy the fresh air. You can take 30-minute guided history walks, available depending on staff availability or upon request.

But perhaps the coolest thing here is that you can spend the night here, at the HI Pigeon Point Lighthouse Hostel. They have shared dorms, private rooms, and full vacation-rental-type digs. Book one of these charming rooms, and enjoy your close proximity to your beautiful surroundings.

Spend time at the secluded beach, wade in the tide pools, watch whales and harbor seals, embark on one of the nearby hiking trails, check out the ocean views when you get up in the morning, and stargaze at night.

Battery Point Lighthouse


If you’re a country music fan, you might recognize this California lighthouse from Tim McGraw’s music video for “Not A Moment Too Soon”.

Battery Point Lighthouse is located on a tidal island in Crescent City, this California lighthouse is also known as the “Crescent City Lighthouse” and it is one of the original lighthouses in California that’s still active to this day.

Just like the Pigeon Point Lighthouse, it’s on the National Register of Historic Places and a California Historical Landmark.

I personally love lighthouses that look like little houses with their lighthouse tower. Battery Point Lighthouse is exactly this, with the most charming creamy, white house structure with a muted red roof, and a light tower extending out of the center perched on its coastal cliff. I could just move in!

Built and lit in 1856, the Battery Point Lighthouse has survived the testament of time and natural disasters! It’s still standing even after the 1964 tsunami caused by the strongest earthquake recorded in the northern hemisphere at the time.

To visit this California lighthouse, head to the Battery Point Lighthouse and Museum. It’s open to the public for tours, and you can see many pieces on display that give insight into the history of the lighthouse.

Look at the living spaces of past lighthouse keepers, including furniture and other items, and climb into the light tower.

Just keep in mind that the only way to visit this lighthouse is by planning a visit around low tide. It’s two hundred feet between the mainland and the island where the lighthouse is nestled. Also, you should stay off the rocks and shore of the island as sneaker waves are a threat to visitors of the area.

Point Cabrillo Lighthouse


Just a couple of miles from Mendocino, in northern California, is the gorgeous Point Cabrillo Lighthouse. I love how adorable this lighthouse is! It’s just the most darling little house perched on a cliff overlooking the Pacific Ocean.

Construction began on this California lighthouse in 1908, and it was first lit in 1909. The light tower is 32 feet above the ground, but because of the area where the lighthouse is situated, the light tower is really just over 80 feet above sea level.

The lighthouse is part of Point Cabrillo Light Station State Historic Park and has several restored buildings in addition to the light tower. There’s the lighthouse, three homes of past lightkeepers, a blacksmith and carpentry shop, and three storage buildings.

The blacksmith and carpentry shop is now the Marine Science Exhibit and has a saltwater aquarium featuring local marine life like abalone.

One of the lightkeepers’ homes is now a period museum, and one of the storage buildings has not been renovated into anything else. As for the other two lightkeepers’ homes and two storage buildings, those are now rentals.

Okay, now for my favorite part! You can actually spend the night here! Point Cabrillo lighthouse is also part of the group of California lighthouses where you can spend the night! To rent one of these quaint spots, check out Mendocino Coast Reservations.

If you’re just wanting to do a day trip to the Point Cabrillo Lighthouse, you can do a self-guided tour. Browse the Lighthouse Museum, Marine Science Exhibit, and Lightkeepers House.

There are also hiking trails, which are great to see the marine life in the area. Harbor seals, sea lions, birds, and whales are known to hang out here. Specifically, Gray whales are likely to be spotted from December to April.

And while you’re visiting, be sure to check out the gift shop for a souvenir or two!

Point Sur Lighthouse


California’s only complete turn-of-the-century light station that the public can visit is the Point Sur Lighthouse. Situated about 25 miles south of Monterey, in Big Sur, this lighthouse in California is part of the Point Sur State Historic Park.

This Central California lighthouse became active in 1889, and still helps ships with navigation to this day. Before it’s construction, this was a very treachourous section of the coastline that saw many shipwrecks. Standing 40 feet tall, the Point Sur Lighthouse is on the National Register of Historic Places.

Visitors are only able to get to the lighthouse by guided tours only. These are typically only on the weekends and will require a time commitment as they are three hours long. Keep in mind that you’ll have to be able to walk at least 1.5 miles and a good portion of this is going up an incline.

They also offer the occassional specialty tours are fun and offer a combination of the lighthouse tour along with whale watching, ghost hunting, and even holiday-themed tours like Halloween!

Another reason why the Point Sur Lighthouse is great to visit is because while you’re here, you can also visit the Point Sur Naval Facility and take a walking tour. It’s the only stand alone Naval Facility from the Cold War on the West Coast of the country.

Not to mention, you’re near Big Sur, one of the most popular stops along the California coast just south of the popular Bixby Creek Bridge, and if you’re doing a coastal drive, this is an epic stop on the San Francisco to San Diego drive too!

Point Arena Lighthouse


I am obsessed with the idea of staying overnight in a lighthouse! And Point Arena Lighthouse is another lighthouse in California that offers the opportunity to stay overnight!

Located in Mendocino County, about a two hours drive north of San Francisco, dating back to 1870, this lighthouse has been through alot. In 1906, an earthquake severely damaged this light stsation and it had to be taken down. The current lighthouse you see today is the rebuilt lighthouse that’s been active since 1908 and stands at 115 feet in height.

When you visit, you can check out their Indoor Museum, Outdoor Museum, and Lighthouse Store. The Indoor Museum used to be the Fog Signal Building, and it has the original 1908 1st Order Fresnel lens.

Additionally, you can explore other objects and learn about the history of the lighthouse. The Lighthouse Store is also in the Fog Signal Building, along with the Indoor Museum, so be sure to stop by and see what they have.

At the Outdoor Museum, which spans the entire 23 acres of the property, check out installations and other artistic-type displays. There is a small fee to get into both museums and store. There are also tours offered for the light tower if you prefer to have a guided experience.

And if you want to stay at the Point Arena Lighthouse overnight, that’s also possible! Choose between their cottages and studios, with everything from one to three bedrom options.

Better yet, staying at the lighthouse accommodations comes with a free tour of the Lighthouse Tower and Fog Signal Museum.

Chill out and watch the marine life, enjoy the oceanfront scenery, and dig into the bottle of wine and chocolates that await you when you arrive at your rental. Staying overnight in one of the best California lighthouses is absolutely one of the most unique stays in California.

Point Fermin Lighthouse


This is one of the most recent California lighthouses we visited and we absolutely loved it! Located in San Pedro, just north of Long Beach in Southern California is Point Fermin Lighthouse and offers plenty of things to do and see around Point Fermin Park including visiting the Korean Friendship Bell perched on a hill overlooking the lighthosue and coast!

Point Fermin Lighthouse was built in 1874, it’s one of the oldest lighthouses on the West Coast and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

What I love about this lighthouse is it looks like a dollhouse! That’s primarily beacause it’s built in a Victorian-architectural style. And it’s actually constructed of lumber from California Redwoods.

This California lighthouse actually portrayed “The Foundation for Oceanic Research” headquarters in Man from Atlantis in the 1970s.

This California lighthouse helped ships safely navigate between the Channel Islands and here with the help of the Los Angeles Harbor Light that dates back to 1913.

You can visit this lighthouse at the Point Fermin Lighthouse Historic Site and Museum, in Point Fermin Park. Take a guided tour around the lighthouse to understand the backstory of this beautiful property. The lighthouse is open for tours every day except Monday, and general admission is free, but donations are requested.

Afterwards, be sure check out Point Fermin Park. You can walk along the coastal park and take in the gorgeous coastal views! There are trails you can walk along and spot wildlife.

Another point of interest is the Sunken City. This is the site of a natural landside in the 1920s. Structures and homes were completely engulfed in the landslide and there are still foundations of structures you can see. This area is technically closed off to the public and there’s a no trespassing sign (people have been ticketed) but that doesn’t stop some adventure and thrill seekers wanting to check out all the graffiti down here.

It’s rumoured that the famous spreading of the ashes scene from “The Big Lebowski,” was filmed here at Sunken City.

And as mentioned, visit the Korean Friendship Bell located on the hill above Point Fermin Lighthouse for more stunning views and a glimpse into traditional Korean culture.

And, a bit of interesting trivia about the park, it’s actually the southernmost point in Los Angeles, you can also find one of the most interesting beaches in Los Angeles here for beach combing and tide pools.

Point Bonita Lighthouse


Out of the lighthouses in California, the Point Bonita Lighthouse was the third lighthouse built on the West Coast dating back to 1855. It also had the West Coast’s first fog signal, and it was the final manned lighthouse on California’s coast.

Located in Sausalito, just outside of San Francisco at the entrance of the San Francisco Bay, Point Bonita Lighthouse is operated by the National Park Service and is on the National Register of Historic Places. It’s still an active lighthouse and maintained by the U.S. Coast Guard.

This lighthouse location was originally built at a higher elevation at the southwest tip of the Marin Headlands, butdue to the thick fog known in the area (Hello, Karl! Karl is the name of the fog in San Francisco) it was relocated to a lower spot for ships to navigate the Golden Gate Straight.

Visiting this dramatic California lighthouse requires a bit of planning around weather as the area closes off for inclement weather and you’ll have to plan to arrive and be at the tunnel that leads to the lighthouse before 3:20 PM as it closes promptly at that time daily.

Visiting also isn’t for the faint of heart, not only is parking limited, but there’s a steep and uneven .5 mile hike to get to the lighthouse along the Point Bonita Lighthouse Trail. While it’s a bit sketchy at times, it also is incredibly scenic and you’ll have to cross the little suspension bridge to get to the lighthouse. (If it’s a windy day this bridge will be closed).

While you’re here, be sure to bring a picnic to enjoy at Battery Wallace. It’s near the Point Bonita trailhead and is an inredibly scenic picnic spot that has views of the Golden Gate Bridge (with tables and grills).

Before your visit, you can also see if they are leading any sunset tours with a docent guide or ranger. If so, you’ll want to see if you can snag a spot!

Point Pinos Lighthouse


Amongst the California lighthouses, the Point Pinos Lighthouse is the oldest continually operating lighthouse on the West Coast!

Located in Pacific Grove, this lighthouse is on the National Register of Historic Places, and still assists with navigation to this day.

Shortly after California became a state, Congress set aside funds for six lighthouses to be built in the state, and Point Pinos Lighthouse was one of them. It became active in 1855, and the building, lenses, and prisms are original.

Point Pinos is an adorable cottage-style lighthouse, reminiscent of Cape Cod style architecture, with a light tower extending out of the roof. It’s only open a few days per week, typically in the afternoon.

There is a museum, and to visit it there is an entry fee. However, whether you visit the Point Pinos Lighthouse when it’s open or closed, the grounds surrounding this landmark are gorgeous, and free to explore.

Take your time and have a serene, peaceful cruise around the property. Take in all of the colorful flowers, the fresh and vibrant greenery, and sights and sounds of the ocean.

Alcatraz Island Light

view of Alcatraz Island and Alcatraz Island Light from San Francisco Bay boat tour in California

You may already be familiar with Alcatraz Island, because of the famous prison that was located there and it’s one of the most iconic landmarks and places to see on a San Francisco itinerary.

In addition to touring the abandoned penitentiary, via a short boat ride from Pier 33 in Fisherman’s Wharf, you can wander around Alcatraz Island via an audio guide and see the lighthouse and historic site in the Golden Gate National Recreation Area overseen by the National Parks Service.

Located in the San Francisco Bay and constructed in 1854, was the first lighthouse built on the US West Coast. The original cottage-style lighthouse structure was replaced in 1909 to a taller structure to see over the cell house.

While you are not able to tour inside the actual lighthouse, you can tour Alcatraz Island and see the lighthouse from the outside. It sure is interesting to look at as far as lighthouses go, since it was made with concrete, which gives it a kind of solemn, hollow appearance which is fitting for one of the most secure federal prisons in the country at the time housing some of the most notorious of criminals.

Make a half day trip out of it and book a tour of Alcatraz Island while you’re in San Francisco and learn more about the history of this lighthouse in California and historic prison.

Point Vicente Lighthouse


While many of the most famous and interesting lighthouses in California can be found in the northern portion of the state, there are a few notable lighthouses and places to see in Southern California like the Point Vicente Lighthouse!

Located in Rancho Palos Verdes, just north of the Los Angeles Harbor, the Point Vicente Lighthouse has been in operation since 1926. It’s construction was spearheaded after several years of complaints of how dangerous the waters were to navigate around the Palos Verdes Peninsula.

What makes this lighthouse in California different from the rest is that since it was built in the mid-1920s, it features Art Deco architecture and has become a symbol of the area featured prominently in art, photography, and popular culture.

Surrounded by gorgeous palm trees on a bluff overlooking the Pacific Ocean, you can see why this picturesque California lighthouse has been portrayed so much in art.

The lighthouse is typically not open to the public, but you can visit if you catch when it’s open. When it is open, typically the second Saturday of each month (and the first Saturday in the month of March, from the morning til around mid-afternoon), visitors can visit the tower and small museum attached.

If you can plan around visiting when it’s open, we highly recommend it! However, on any given day you can visit the Point Vicente Interpretive Center and waterfront park to get views of the Point Vicente Lighthouse! This is also a spectacular whale watching spot from December through April.

Anacapa Island Lighthouse


One of the most stunning places to visit in California are the Channel Islands National Park off the coast of Ventura. We have only had the pleasure of visiting Santa Cruz Island so far, but hope to visit all the islands that make up this archipelago and interesting national park in the US!

One being, Anacapa Island, home to one of the most interesting lighthouses in California, Anacapa Island Lighthouse. This was the final big light station constructed on the west coast positioned at the eastern entrance to the Santa Barbara Channel.

This island is the second smallest and closest to mainland of the Channel Islands. The original structure was erected in 1912, but it wasn’t a true lighthouse, but more like a bare bones structure with a light at the top. The actual lighthouse was built in 1932.

Touring the interoir of Anacapa Island Lighthouse is not possible as it’s not open to the public, but you can take a ferry from Oxnard on a day trip to the island to get a closer look at the lighthouse. Visiting on a day trip will give you about 4 hours to enjoy the island, although you can arrange for a camping trip by reserving a camping spot through the National Park Service.

When you’ve arrived to Anacapa Island, it’s about a .5 mile hike from the landing port to see the viewpoint of the lighthouse.

Use this as an opportunity to take advantage of taking scenic hikes around Anacapa Island including Cathedral Cove, the beauty of the Channel Islands National Park will not disappoint.

Walton Lighthouse


Alson known as the Santa Cruz Breakwater Lighthouse, Walton Lighthouse is yet another impressive California lighthouse to check out in Santa Cruz.

Nestled in the Santa Cruz Small Craft Harbor, the Walton Lighthouse is what I imagine as a classic lighthouse, a single white tower with no buildings attached set out on a rocky jetty.

The original box light was active from 1964 to 1996. Then, it went through a couple of structure changes from 1996-2002, which were not terribly visually pleasing to the eye. In the late 1990s, efforts started to renovate the lighthouse to a classic lighthouse aesthetic, and by 2001 enough money was raised to make the renovations.

Charles Walton donated a significant amount of the funds, hence the name of the lighthouse. The Walton Lighthouse is not open to the public, but a great thing to do here is take a stroll along the coast and scope it out since you can get a great view of it.

Better yet, there’s another California lighthouse nearby you can visit, the Santa Cruz Lighthouse, plus a bike loop that makes it easy to see both.

Point San Luis Lighthouse


When it comes to lighthouses in California I’d definetely live in as my home, this one comes to mind! It’s the most charming little house that also happens to be a lighthouse!

Point San Luis Lighthouse in California has the distinctive Queen Anne Victorian style, and it’s the last example of this type of lighthouse architecture on the West Coast. That’s reason enough for it to be on the National Register of Historic Places, and one of the lighthouses in California worth a trip for any fellow lighthouse lover.

The Point San Luis Lighthouse is close to Avila Beach, in central California and a great addition to exploring all the best things to do around San Luis Obispo.

This picturesque lighthousedates back to 1890, and was active until the 1970s. The lighthouse is not much taller than the charming house it’s connected to, and it looks out over San Luis Bay.

The lighthouse is open to visitors as a historic destination, but as an interesting note, the Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant owns the property that the lighthouse sits on. Consequently, due to security purposes, the road and hiking trail that go to the lighthouse are not open to the general public.

As a result, there are specific ways to reach the lighthouse. You can get to and visit the lighthouse either by trolley, hiking, or kayaking to Whalers Beach.

If you take the trolley, there is a fee and it will transport you directly to the lighthouse. The fee provides you with a docent-led tour of the lighthouse, and the money goes towards the restoration of the lighthouse. As a note, the trolley runs Wednesdays and Saturdays at select times, and it only goes between the lighthouse and designated pickup area.

You can also get to the lighthouse by taking a hike on the Pecho Coast Trail with the Pecho Coast Trail Guides. For just over an hour, enjoy a moderate hike that takes you from Port San Luis, to the bluffs above the bay, and then to the lighthouse.

Enjoy awesome views of the active port and Avila Beach. And for $10, you can take a tour of the lighthouse led by a docent. The hiking tours take place on Wednesdays and Saturdays, and start at 9:00 AM.

Old Point Loma Lighthouse


Moving south to San Diego, you can find Old Point Loma Lighthouse, one of the oldest commissioned lighthouses in California dating back to 1855 located in the San Diego Bay on the Point Loma Peninsula.

This historic California lighthouse is situated within the Cabrillo National Monument. It’s a Cape Cod, cottage-style lighthouse, with a a whitewashed exterior, red roof, and black lantern room and has a really charming appearance!

The Old Point Loma Lighthouse only operated for 36 years, from 1855 to 1891. The reason was because fog and low clouds would often envelop the lighthouse, making visibility difficult. Another lighthouse was built nearby, at a lower elevation, and that became the active lighthouse at the time.

While the Old Point Loma Lighthouse ceased operating as an active lighthouse when the location was moved, it has turned into a public museum. The first two floors of the lighthouse and Assistant Keeper’s Quarters are available to the public. Check out displays, brochures, and talks led by Rangers. The interior has been designed to look like how it would have looked in the 1880s.

The top of the tower is open at select times throughout the year, like on Open Tower Days. After visiting the lighthouse, explore Cabrillo National Monument!

There are tidepools as well as a hiking trail with awesome views, including Whale Overlook. This scenic viewpoint is a spot where you may see whales in January and February.

Additionally, Point Loma has a bit of a military history, and there is a military building on site with an exhibit and it’s worth exploring nearby things to do in San Diego including visiting Coronado, a great addition to any Southern California road trip!

Interesting Lighthouses in California (Post Summary):

  • Point Reyes Lighthouse
  • Pigeon Point Lighthouse
  • Battery Point Lighthouse
  • Point Cabrillo Lighthouse
  • Point Sur Lighthouse
  • Point Arena Lighthouse
  • Point Fermin Lighthouse
  • Point Bonita Lighthouse
  • Point Pines Lighthouse
  • Alcatraz Island Light
  • Point Vicente Lighthouse
  • Anacapa Island Lighthouse
  • Walton Lighthouse aka Santa Cruz Breakwater Lighthouse
  • Point San Luis Lighthouse
  • Old Point Loma Lighthouse
How many lighthouses are in California?

California has over 30 lighthouses dotting its coastline, each with unique histories and architectural styles, serving as iconic landmarks and guardians of maritime safety along the Pacific Ocean.

What is the oldest lighthouse in California?

The oldest continiuously operating lighthouse in California is the Point Pinos Lighthouse, located in Pacific Grove. It has been guiding ships along the Central California Coast since 1855.

What’s the prettiest lighthouse in California?

The Point Reyes Lighthouse, with its stunning coastal backdrop and iconic white tower, is often considered one of the prettiest lighthouses in California, attracting visitors with its scenic beauty.

What’s the windiest lighthouse in California?

Point Arena Lighthouse, located on the Mendocino Coast, is considered the windiest lighthouse in California, enduring strong coastal winds due to its exposed location on a rocky promontory.

What’s the most photographed lighthouse in California?

The picturesque Pigeon Point Lighthouse, with its striking white tower and dramatic coastal surroundings, is one of the most photographed lighthouses in California, drawing photographers and visitors alike.

What’s the most famous lighthouse in California?

The iconic Point Reyes Lighthouse, perched on dramatic cliffs overlooking the Pacific Ocean, is widely regarded as the most famous lighthouse in California, attracting visitors from around the world.

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