Point Cabrillo Lighthouse was built after the 1906 San Francisco earthquake to help warn ships carrying lumber to the city away from the coastal shoals. It lit the rocky coastline of Mendocino County. Many of the buildings from that time are still standing today.
The Point Cabrillo Lighthouse boasts a third order, British-built Fresnel lens by Chance Bros., that can be seen for 13 to 15 miles. It is still an active duty navigational aid.
What You Can Do at Point Cabrillo Lighthouse
You can tour the restored lighthouse, the Lightkeeper's Home and Museum and the grounds, as well as the surrounding nature preserve. The Farmhouse Visitor Center at the parking area has an exhibit about the native Pomo Indians.
A few times a year, the Point Cabrillo Lightkeepers Association offers tours of the lens. You can find a schedule on their website.
Point Cabrillo is also a good place to watch the annual Gray Whale migration which happens from December through April.
Before the lighthouse was built, a ship called the Frolic wrecked off Point Cabrillo. You can see artifacts from the shipwreck at the lighthouse.
While you are in the area, you may also want to see the Point Arena Lighthouse, which is about 40 miles south.
Spend the Night at Point Cabrillo Light Station
At Point Cabrillo, you can be a lightkeeper for a night. You can stay in the main lightkeeper's house, an assistant lightkeeper's house or one of the two nearby cottages.
All the details for spending the night are on the Point Cabrillo website.
Point Cabrillo Lighthouse's Fascinating History
The U.S. Lighthouse Service surveyed Cabrillo Point in 1873, but it wasn't until 1908 that a light station was built. Its lens was illuminated for the first time on June 10,1909, under head keeper Wilhelm Baumgartner.
The original station included a combined light and fog-signal building, three keeper’s dwellings, a barn, pump house, and a carpenter/blacksmith shop.
Baumgartner married a local woman Lena Seman in 1911 and worked at the light station until he died in 1923.
Originally, a kerosene lamp lit the lens, which turned on a clockwork mechanism. To produce a flash of light every ten seconds, the four-sided lens revolved three times every two minutes. In 1935, the lamp and clockworks were replaced by an electric light and motor.
The U. S Coast Guard took over from the U. S. Lighthouse Service in 1939. Keeper Bill Owens (who also served at the Point Arena Lighthouse) arrived in 1952 and worked there until 1963 when he retired. he was the last civilian lightkeeper on the West Coast.
In 1973, the Coast Guard stopped manning the station and a modern rotating beacon was placed on the roof west of the lantern room. Beginning in the late 1980s, a series of organizations took on the task of restoring the old lighthouse. Today, it is part of a state park.
Point Cabrillo is also a film star, used in the 2001 Warner Bros. film The Majestic.
Visiting Point Cabrillo Lighthouse
Point Cabrillo Light Station is a California state park.
Check the Point Cabrillo Light Station Website for hours and other information. There is no admission fee.
The main lightkeeper's house was renovated and is now available for rental. It and two nearby cottages offer six rooms total. Call (800) 262-7801 or 707-937-6122 or reserve online.
You may also want to find more California lighthouses to tour on our California Lighthouse Map
Getting to the Point Cabrillo Lighthouse
45300 Lighthouse Rd
Mendocino, CA 95468
Point Cabrillo Lighthouse is located on the Mendocino coast, two miles north of the town of Mendocino and six miles south of Fort Bragg on Point Cabrillo Drive off California Highway 1. Follow the signs from the highway.
After parking in the lot, you can get to the lighthouse two ways. Either walk down path that takes you out and along the cliffs or for a shorter and easier path, face the ocean, take the left path out of the lot and follow the paved road.
More California Lighthouses
The Point Arena Lighthouse is also in the Mendocino area and is open to the public.
If you're a lighthouse geek, you will enjoy our Guide to Visiting the Lighthouses of California.