Crashing waves, unspoiled coastline, and a towering historical monument and museum make this is an absolute must-see on the Mendocino Coast for both lighthouse enthusiasts and casual visitors alike. Located just a few miles north of Mendocino, the Point Cabrillo Lighthouse sits on more than 300 acres of pristine coastal bluffs, making it one of the best places to walk the edge of the Pacific.
Construction for the Point Cabrillo Lighthouse began in 1908, and for more than a century it has shone out over the Pacific Ocean near Caspar. The lens that is the heart of the lighthouse is a 3rd order British-built Fresnel lens – one of only three British-built lenses currently operating in the United States. The lens was fully restored in 1999 as part of a project to restore the entire grounds.
Visitors have a surprising number of activities to choose from when visiting this historic Mendocino landmark. In addition to the lighthouse itself, many other original structures on the property were restored, and now serve as museums. The 1st Assistant Lighthouse Keeper’s residence has been restored as a period museum, open to the public to view a slice of life in this unique setting. Small touches add a feel for the regimented life these people lived – in the residence, for example, you can see that the light fixture has four bulbs, while the same fixture in the Head Lighthouse Keeper’s residence has five, and that of the 2nd Assistant has only three. In the nearby blacksmith shop you can learn more about the marine organisms that make their home in the nearby ocean and intertidal zone, including a baleen exhibit, abalone, and more.
The lower level of the lighthouse itself has been turned into a museum showcasing the maritime culture of the early Mendocino Coast, including an exhibit on the wreck of the Frolic, a ship that crashed into the point in 1950 and set off the expansion into the Mendocino Coast. Pre-history is also covered here, looking at the native Mitom Pomo, who utilized the land the lighthouse now sits on as a foraging point.
Outside of the main compound of the lighthouse, miles of hiking trails make this an exceptionally beautiful and private place to explore the Mendocino Coast. These are truly wild bluffs, with buffeting wind, crashing waves, wheeling gulls, and basking seals. Dogs are allowed here on leash, and caution is recommended for all visitors, as the bluffs are unstable, and high winds can prove dangerous.