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 Lighthouse Database » North America » USA » California

Point Reyes Light Station
Inverness, California

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Recommended By: 100% of reviewers

General Information
Date Established: 1870
Date Present Tower Built: 1870
Date Automated: 1975
Height of Tower: 35 ft.
Height of Focal Plane: 294 ft.


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Open to Public?: Yes

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*Photos on this page are the property of Dabjr35, unless otherwise noted, and may not be downloaded or used without permission from the copyright owner.

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Located in Point Reyes National Seashore. There are 308 steps "down" to this Light Station. The lantern room houses a 1st order Fresnel Lens that is not active, but is lit on the first and third Saturday evenings, April - December. Point Reyes is known as the windiest and foggiest station on the west coast.

Submitted by: Dabjr35 Date of last review: Tue Mar 9, 2010 Views: 4422

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Joined: 6 Mar 2008
Posts: 16
Review Date: Tue Mar 9, 2010 Would you recommend the lighthouse? Yes | | Rating: 0 

Cons: No direct access in winter; shuttle bus required

NOTE that during winter hours you must arrive before 3pm to purchase tickets for a SHUTTLE BUS to the lighthouse. You cannot drive directly to the lighthouse as the road is closed unitl 5:30 PM.

Unfortunately, this meant I was UNABLE to visit the lighthouse when I visited in March 2010 after visiting Point Bonita. The park service makes it rather difficult to visit both Point Bonita and Point Reyes in the same day (with a San Francisco start). It can be done, and I almost succeeded, but there are a lot of obstacles to such a trip.

Point Bonita is only open three days a week: Sat, Sun, Mon from 12:30-3:30. You can't access the lighthouse outside those hours, as there is a tunnel which is sealed during off-hours. There is also a foot bridge to the lighthouse, which at this time (it's scheduled to be rebuilt next year) only 2 people are allowed to cross at a time, so there is a long wait to get to the lighthouse itself, and another wait to get off. I spent about an hour and fifteen minutes at Point Bonita, from when it opened at 12:30 to roughly 1:45.

From Point Bonita, the drive to Point Reyes is something around 2 hours. I made the big mistake of taking Route 1, which is exceptionally windy, curvy, and slow. I should have taken Route 101, which is longer in distance but a faster drive. Being ignorant of these details, I decided to follow the advice of my GPS unit and take Route 1. If I had taken Route 101, it's possible I might have made it to Point Reyes sooner, but I'm not sure of that.

As it was, I arrived at Point Reyes around 3:20, which should have been just enough time to visit the light (the lantern room is open till 4, and the grounds till 4:30). But there was a catch: during the winter (Dec to April), you have to park away from the lighthouse at the Kenneth C. Patrick visitor Center and take a shuttle bus to visit the lighthouse. Tickets for the bus stop selling at around 3pm. So, even though there was a nearly empty shuttle bus sitting at the Patrick visitor center when I arrived at 3:20, I was not allowed to board it to visit the Point Reyes lighthouse.

There was an alternative available: I could have waited until 5:30 for the road to the lighthouse to open. However, since I was traveling with two exhausted, nauseous children, I decided to forgo waiting so late. My kids were feeling ill due to the windy drive up Route 1, and tired from a cross-country flight the previous day, and waiting till 5:30 would have meant a late drive back to San Francisco. The family had put up with a lot just to get me to Point Reyes. So I decided not to wait it out.

It does seem to me that the timings could be tweaked a bit to allow for families to visit both lighthouses in one day. The timing here is so tight, I'm not sure I would have made it, even if I had known about the 3pm cutoff for the shuttle (it's on the web site, but I didn't understand that the wording "Sir Francis Drake Boulevard is CLOSED" meant "You can't get to the lighthouse"). In retrospect, I would have had a much better day if I had spent my afternoon at Point Bonita and the Marin headlands, and given up on Point Reyes altogether.

Anyhow, I post this information for future lighthouse visitors who may try to follow in the future.
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