The first lighthouse at Point Arena was built in 1870, but was destroyed in the 1906 earthquake. The current lighthouse was completed in 1908 and was the first lighthouse in the world made of steel-reinforced concrete. The tower stands 115 feet tall, and can still be climbed by visitors today.
The lighthouse is owned by a nonprofit organization called the Point Arena Lighthouse Keepers, and they charge $5 a person to visit the historic facility. In my opinion this is a very steep entry fee, so rather than paying to go in, I parked right outside the gate and took a few photos with my morning coffee.
Point Arena has what is apparently the tallest lighthouse in California. Originally built in 1870, it was replaced after the 1906 ("San Francisco") earthquake, when the tower was almost destroyed and needed to be torn down and when the light was itself shattered. The current structure thus dates from 1907.
One can climb to the top of the tower and look out while getting information on the lighthouse.
I have several tips under local customs giving the history of this wonderful place so I won't repeat it here ;) I will say this is a must do for the region. The lighthouse has an amazing story, and is a beacon not only to the ships going by, but also to the folks who live nearby. The lighthouse is a major means of giving directions, and of finding your way along the beach. So seeing it up close and personal is imperative IMHO.
The views are fantastic. The climb to the top will give you your cardio for the day. It's age is showing, but is it still functioning and beautiful in it's own way. You can no longer climb the last few steps into the lens room as there was vandalism in recent years, but you can still see the lens through various openings. The view from the catwalk is amazing, but after the last storm and the damage it incurred, they hadn't yet reopened it for us to go out there. They did have the door open so we could look out and snap a few pics.
One the the best parts of the view is of the Devil's caldron. It's a natural bowl fed from below with each surge of the waves. This makes a bit of bubbling as the level rises and falls with each wave. Unfortunately, the recent storm caved in a large section of one side of the bowl. Though it doesn't yet interfere with the action of the caldron, it is obvious that the bowl is doomed .... nature again changes our view of long term sites.
The 100-year-old city wharf was destroyed in a spectacular 1983 winter storm. It was replaced, in 1990, by the Point Arena Public Fishing Pier. The $2.2 million structure stretches 330 feet into the cove and 25 feet above the water.
It provides public fishing facilities with no license required and serves as a major commercial fish landing. Small craft launching facilities for offshore sportfishing and whalewatching are available. Surfers gather nearby when the waves are good. There is shopping, food, and other business off the same parking lot. I enjoy the little shops there as the prices are a bit lower than elsewhere in the region :)
This unusual location is the BEST place to find whistle rocks, abalone shells, and to people watch. Whistle rocks are stones that have divots and holes that make the useful and fun as whistles! I tend to look for the rocks that don't necessarily have the greatest tone as I'm looking for rocks with small holes passing all the way through to use as incense burners. Some days, after heavy surf, you can find whole abalone shells, but usually you find bits of those treasures to take home.
Depending on the day of your visit, you might spy surfers in their wet suits trying to catch a wave, fisherfolk, or simply locals enjoying a break in their day. The next best thing about the Pier? It's basically FREE! You park, wander, window shop, whatever :) You only pay for what you eat or buy.
If you're in town for a day or at night, the theater should be experienced! It's really beautiful, with lots of artistic touches done by locals, deep red curtains, a disco ball, a balcony...It has an old art theater feel to it. The snack bar sells goodies from Rip Tides Bakery, which is right across the steeet. Two films are shown weekly -- hey, this is a small town with a beautiful small theater, not your typical 12-movie city cinema! -- or sometimes just one if it's really popular, with matinees on Sundays on Wednesdays (usually). Dance shows, comedy, concerts, and talent shows also take place here and are wonderful community events!
One of the most interesting spots for photographers, is also one of the least-known. This beach is not marked on most maps. There are no signs along the road pointing out the trailhead. And, unless you arrive at low tide, you would never know what lies just beneath the surf rolling onto this beach.Bowling Ball beach has unique rock formations ..... rows upon rows of rounded rocks (like bowling balls) litter the shore .... you'll not see anything like this anywhere else in the world .... although recent page comments lead me to believe I may need to keep looking :)
This beach is reached via the same access as that used for Schooner gulch. This beach access is about 3 miles south of Point Arena off of Hwy 1 at Schooner Gulch Rd. A small parking area with two trailheads is on the west side of the highway. The southern trail leads to Schooner Gulch Beach and the northern trail provides access to Bowling Ball Beach.
Legend has it that Schooner Gulch was named after a schooner was sited stranded on the beach in the mouth of the gulch in the evening; by morning there was no evidence of it ever being there. Historically, Schooner Gulch is within the territory of the coastal branch of the Central Pomo Indians that extends from the mouth of the Navarro River to the mouth of the Gualala River. This area was frequented by Russians, and native Alaskan hunters, as early as 1812, and by Mexican landowners in the 1840's.
This beach access is about 3 miles south of Point Arena off of Hwy 1 at Schooner Gulch Rd. A small parking area with two trailheads is on the west side of the highway. The southern trail leads to Schooner Gulch Beach and the northern trail provides access to Bowling Ball Beach.
Brush creek swells to a raging torrent in the winter as it fights to get to the ocean. During the summer there is no trace of this seasonal river. This is the spot where two techtonic plates converge, creating black sand to the south and white sand to the north. In other words, from my understanding, this is the location that the famous San Andreas fault leaves the North American continent. You find this beach by locating the Kinney Rd access - about mile marker 21.41 … there is limited parking, and a short walk down to the coastline. This is one of the easiest coast access points outside of the State Park system.
Another beach that I don’t have a picture of is Moat Creek. After getting to the parking area, 13 miles north of Gualala off State 1, leave your car and locate the trail head. Moat Creek Trail is a short (1/4-mile) hike to a pocket beach. Catch great views from the top of the trail up the bluff.
A county road a mile north of Manchester leads to Manchester State Beach. This unit of the State Park System consists of 760 acres of beach, sand dunes, and flat grasslands, with nearly 18,000 feet of ocean frontage. Manchester State Park takes its name from the weather-beaten village of Manchester, which is located in Mendocino County on Coast Highway 1 about seven miles north of Point Arena.
Mankind is definitely secondary to pounding surf, screeching gulls, and grazing animals that dominate the scene. The beach line curves gently to form a "catch basin" for sea debris, which accounts for the volume of driftwood found here.