Point Arena Lighthouse & Museum, Point Arena

4.7
#1 of 7 in Things to do in Point Arena
Must see · Lighthouse · Tourist Spot
Climb to the top of one of the tallest Pacific Coast Lighthouses as Keepers have done for over 100 years!

Set in one of the most spectacular yet peaceful surroundings on the northern California coast, the Point Arena tower is the only Pacific West coast lighthouse of significant height (115 feet) that you can climb to the top.

Guided tours of the light station as well as self-guided tours of the grounds are available daily. Afterward, spend some time browsing through our Lighthouse Gift store, a shop featuring unique souvenirs, interesting gifts, custom-made jewelry, beautiful collectibles, and lighthouse clothing.

For those who want to spend more time by the sea, you can stay in comfortable accommodations in our historic keepers' home vacation rentals which are available year round. Magnificent views, coastal mountains and the Pacific Ocean surrounding the point provides a beautiful backdrop for your lighthouse wedding and other special events.

Visit the Point Arena Lighthouse today for one of your most memorable experiences on the breathtaking Mendocino Coast!

HISTORY

The first Point Arena Lighthouse was constructed in 1870. Its brick and mortar tower featured ornate iron balcony supports and a large Keeper residence with enough space to house several families. In April of 1906, a devastating earthquake struck the tower. Damage from the trembler occurred all along the San Andreas Fault, which runs very close to Point Arena. In the town itself, many buildings were reduced to rubble, and at the Light Station, the Keeper's residence and Lighthouse were damaged so severely that they were rendered condemned, and ultimately torn down.

The United States Lighthouse Service contracted with a San Francisco based company to build a new lighthouse here to withstand any future earthquakes. The company built factory smokestacks, which accounts for the final design for the new Point Arena Lighthouse. The new design featured steel reinforcement rods encased in concrete, and was the first lighthouse to be built in this manner.

The new Lighthouse began operation in 1908, nearly 18 months after the quake. It stands 115 feet tall, and features a 1st Order Fresnel Lens, over six feet in diameter and weighing more than six tons. The lens is made up of 666 hand-ground glass prisms all focused toward three sets of double bulls eyes. It is these bulls eyes that gave the Point Arena Lighthouse its unique "light signature" of two flashes every six seconds. This incredible optic, that holds an appraised value of over $3.5 million, is set in solid brass framework, built in France.

Prior to the introduction of electricity, the lens was rotated by a clockwork mechanism. The Keepers, or "wickies" as they were called, had to hand crank a 160 pound weight up the center shaft of the lighthouse every 75 minutes to keep the lens turning. Light was produced by a "Funks" hydraulic oil lamp, that needed to be refueled every four hours, and whose wicks would have to be trimmed regularly. Later, two 1,000 watt electric lamps were installed to replace the oil lamp, and a 1/8 horsepower electric motor was installed to replace the clockworks.

In 1978, the fog signal at the station was silenced, and a bell buoy was placed nearby. June of 1977 brought the installation of an automated aircraft-type beacon on the balcony tower, and the historic 1st Order Fresnel Lens was discontinued. The 400 pound aircraft beacon has recently been replaced by a 40 pound modern rotating light that incorporates the Fresnel principles for the efficient projection of light. There is a battery powered emergency system installed as a back-up in the event of a power failure. In addition, a radio beacon, with a 50 mile signal that originates from the station, also assists mariners. The original oil lamp was visible for approximately 18 miles, the 1st Order Fresnel Lens for 20 miles and the current modern rotating light can be seen for 16 miles.

In 1984, a nonprofit organization called the Point Arena Lighthouse Keepers acquired the light station as part of a 25 year land lease from the Coast Guard and the Department of Transportation. In November of 2000, the nonprofit group became the official owners of the property due to their diligent historic preservation and educational efforts. Daily visitation, gift store sales, memberships and the rental of the historic Keeper's homes on the property as vacation houses, all provide desperately needed income for ongoing preservation, facility upgrades and educational endeavors.

For more information on lighthouses around the world, contact The United States Lighthouse Society, located in San Francisco, California.
Our Point Arena road trip website makes visiting Point Arena Lighthouse & Museum and other Point Arena attractions simple, and helps you make a travel plan personal to you.
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Point Arena Lighthouse & Museum reviews

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TripAdvisor traveler rating 4.5
434 reviews
Google
4.7
TripAdvisor
  • It was great! Kids had fun. Lots to explore. Good food. Good weather. Good friends and good scenery.  more »
  • Such a wonderful lighthouse. Easy access for all ages and for anyone with disabilities. We were there on a beautiful clear day so the view was spectacular. If you are on the coast this is a spot to...  more »
Google
  • Sheila gave a wonderful presentation and tour of the light house. Great displays and gifts in the museum and store on the history of Point Arena. Would recommend this State park to everyone. Nice point of interest stop. Seeing humpback whales from the top of the lighthouse was a pleasant surprise. I guess rare also.
  • Highest climb-able lighthouse on the WC. Surrounded by colorful wildflowers in the summer and a flocks of pelicans constantly swirling around it. The Devils Punch Bowl is quite the site along with the Fresnel lens in the visitor center. Staff is young but friendly and there is also a viewing tower with many available binoculars in the small museum. They did a fantastic job with this place. Great for a sunny or foggy day!

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