Point Sur Light Station1 stands on a 350 foot tall rock on the California coast about 25 miles south of Monterey.
Michelle and I were lucky enough to be passing by the light station in time for one of their rare moonrise tours (okay, I’ll admit, we planned our trip up the coast around the tour …). These tours happen once or twice a month at (you guessed it) the full moon. The tours start shortly before sunset, and end with the moon rising over the lighthouse.
The tour starts with everyone waiting at the entrance sign to the State Historic Park & Lighthouse. I was advised to arrive early to ensure a spot in the tour, and while arriving early turned out to not be necessary, it did help me realize just how windy it was going to be. The wind was constant, strong, and cold. I bundled up for the night, and was glad I did. Once the docents arrived everyone was let through the gate and drove to the base of the rock the lighthouse stands on (where one of only two bathrooms on the tour are found).
We soon started walking up the road that leads to the lighthouse. The road is not for the acrophobic: it’s a steep paved road about one car wide that’s chiseled into the edge of the steep rock face with no fence or barrier between the edge and a long drop to the ocean. The road by itself would be fine, but the constant seemingly gale-force winds made people stay far from the edge (and parents hold onto their children rather tightly). Here’s what it looks like:
The road was a bit of a climb, but persevering paid off with our first view of the lighthouse peeking over the hillside.
Any acrophobia I might have had disappeared entirely with this view 🙂
Even without the lighthouse peeking into view, the walk to the top was filled with entertainment: blooming plants lined the hillside, and the ocean was a beautiful seafoam green.
The lighthouse itself was built in 1889, and is still a functioning navigational aid. The building and its interior are built in the classic lighthouse style of elegant functional simplicity.
Some of the most intriguing structures were pieces of cut glass embedded in the floor of the lantern room’s upper level. These were designed to capture the light from the primary source and diffuse it down to the lower levels of the lighthouse building, allowing the lighthouse’s main tower to be lit solely by the primary light. They’re miniature sunroofs if you will.
In addition to being able to walk around in the lantern room and look at everything up close, we even got to climb out onto the walkway surrounding the lantern room and enjoy the view:
The view was great (the sun was setting behind the coastal clouds), but even more amazing was how WINDY it was. The door to the walkway was on the leeward side of the building, and so there was virtually no wind there. But walk even a few feet from the door and you suddenly get slammed with a wall of wind. Walking through this wall took tremendous effort (as you can see if you look closely at this picture).
After the tour of the inside of the lantern room we got to climb above the lighthouse, and from there I think I was able to capture a bit of the feel of the night: the slowly rotating dual beams of the lighthouse sweeping over the broad expanse of the ocean while coastal clouds roll in at dusk.
A few minutes later we headed to the southern end of the station and watched the moon rise, with the Pacific Ocean, Highway 1, and the California coast as background.
I could have stayed in that spot a long, long time (assuming I had a heater with me).
If you’re ever in the area, check and see if there’s a tour. As the moon rises the docents break out hot chocolate (available for a suggested donation of $1!2), and life is good.
2 Sadly, I missed the hot chocolate. The entire tour was difficult to photograph, as the tour was not aimed at photographers. The only time I could break out a tripod was as the moon rose, and since we only had about 10 or 15 minutes it was either hot cocoa or pictures, and you know which I’ll choose every time.
To see more pictures from the light station, head to my Point Sur Light Station – Highlights Gallery or, if you’re really a glutton for punishment, head to my Point Sur Light Station – Entire Set Gallery.
Point Sur State Historic Park & Lighthouse: Located along California Highway 1 about 25 miles south of Monterey, the entrance to the park is at a small gate along the west side of the highway. The GPS coordinates for the entrance to the park are N 36 18.578 W 121 53.165; it’s just north of the Point Sur Naval Station and near the California Sea Otter Game Refuge. See the park’s website for more information on location and schedules of tours.
The station is a state park run entirely by volunteers; it’s only open during guided tours, and there is no access at other times. You do need to plan ahead: if you stop by at a random time, you’ll get a picture much like the first one of this post and then drive on your way, never knowing what you missed. Parking is free (stop by the gate at first, and then drive into a small lot at the base of the rock once a docent opens the gate), and bathrooms are limited (there’s one at the interior parking lot, and one in the last building the tour goes through). There are no public facilities on the highway near the lighthouse.
The moonrise tour occurs only during full moons. As you gathered from the post, it can be EXTREMELY windy: I highly recommend a hat, gloves, windproof jacket, and warm layers underneath. I wore all that, and was cold; many people on the trip reported being very, very cold. Docents report that it’s less windy in the fall. The park runs other tours that meet during the day; these apparently go through more of the buildings.