Driving down the coast along California’s famous Highway 1 is many a road tripper’s dream. Adventurous sightseers can take it from misty Portland to sunny San Diego, but the most famous stretch is beautiful central coast of California, between San Francisco and Big Sur. There you’ll expect to find innumerable beaches, windswept mountains and rocky cliffs, but you might not expect to find a New England-style lighthouse rising out of the surf.
Pigeon Point Lighthouse rests at the top of a cliff, far above the crashing surf thundering through the rocks it was built to warn ships against. Built in 1872, the lighthouse is still operational, though only as a navigational aid for the US Coast Guard training purposes. Mostly, it’s a picturesque piece of history that was almost lost to the sands of time.
The lighthouse and the land it’s built upon have always belonged to the State of California. However, for several decades in the mid-twentieth century, the land was leased and used by the Coast Guard. Terms of the lease allowed the Coast Guard to perform only routine maintenance to the lighthouse, but not major restoration, and as a result it fell into disrepair.
Relatively recently, the lighthouse was returned back into the hands of the state, and a restoration effort has begun. Donations are being accepted from the public to help fund the landmark’s repair and preservation. One of the more exciting aspects of the restoration, replacing the massive Fresnel lens, took place in November 2011. The Fresnel lens is 16 feet tall, 6 feet in diameter, and weighs 8,000 pounds.
A hostel is also operated on the lighthouse grounds, offering mostly young travelers incredible views of the ocean and surrounding scenery for as little as $23.00 per night. Amenities are in short supply and the area is remote, but the location is unbelievable.
Know Before You Go
Head South on Highway 1 from San Francisco, or west from the silicon valley towns of the peninsula. You won't miss this landmark along the highway.