“Situated along the rugged Mendocino County coastline adjacent to the town of Point Arena, is the 1,665-acre Point Arena-Stornetta unit of the California Coastal National Monument. The first shoreline unit of the Monument offers spectacular views of coastal bluffs, sea arches, the estuary of the Garcia River, and sandy beaches and dunes with eight miles of marked paths.”
(National Conservation Lands’ “Point Arena-Stornetta Unit” brochure)
Last September Carrieanna’s godmother, Vicki, and her husband Buck (and their two dogs, Jetta Mae and Millie) planned a road trip to visit national parks in Oregon and Northern California.
Their route would take them from their home on the Olympic Peninsula (western Washington) to Crater Lake (Oregon) and then south to Yosemite (California).
Because Carrieanna’s mother was Vicki’s best friend, she was aware of a special place in Mendocino County where Carrieanna’s parents had frequently gone for R&R and a spectacular ocean view. And since it was “on the way home” for Vicki and Buck we made a date to meet them there!
Our time together was brief. Much of it was spent reminiscing about past travels and future trips and talking about Vicki and Buck’s new status as retirees. We enjoyed the coastal access from the Anchor Bay Campground.
But one item on our “must do” list was to visit Point Arena Lighthouse.
History of the Lighthouse
The Fog Signal Building Museum offers a self-guided tour. This allows a close-up view of the spectacular First Order Fresnel Lens (made in Paris in 1906-1907), and sharing the chronology of the lighthouse’s history.
From it’s first lighting in 1870, the extensive damage incurred during the 1906 earthquake, and the reconstruction and updated beacon technology, the Point Arena Lighthouse Tower continues to warn vessels of the dangers along the Mendocino coastline. (Dozens of ships have been significantly damaged by Arena Rock, located 1.5 miles to the north of the lighthouse.)
There is also an interactive touch screen display with information about the sea creatures living in the area. Carrieanna was delighted to find that the screen is adjustable to wheelchair level!
Adjacent to the Museum is a native plant garden, and the nearby picnic tables offer a southerly view of the coast.
(This gazebo might look familiar; it was featured in a few scenes from the 1992 movie “Forever Young” starring Mel Gibson and Jamie Lee Curtis.)
Of course, the most spectacular views come from the top of the lighthouse which, with its 145-step spiral staircase, is not accessible. So while Carrieanna enjoyed the ground-level views, Vicki and Buck and I ascended the stairs and viewed the coastline from 115 feet above ground.
If you are able-bodied and can suspend any fear of heights, I highly recommend doing this!
The original spiral staircase, thought to have saved the lighthouse from complete collapse during the 1906 earthquake, is still in use in the renovated tower.
According to our tour guide, and verified by Wikipedia, the lighthouse is also the closest location on the mainland (excluding Alaska) to Honolulu, Hawaii at a distance of 2,353 miles (3,787 km).
Wheelchair accessibility at the Lighthouse
The museum and gift shop are wheelchair-accessible, as are the native gardens and picnic area, and the nearby restroom.
The dirt footpath to the gazebo is narrow and uneven, and would not be considered wheelchair accessible.