Visiting the Historic Light Station
Lighting the Way on the Pacific coast for 153 years!
Hours of Operation*
Fall - Spring Hours
10 a.m. - 3:30 p.m.
Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day
10 a.m. - 4:30 p.m.
Closed Thanksgiving day and Christmas day
* For a full list of special events, holidays, and rules for children's admission visit our Admissions Policies here.
Site Visit Fees
Indoor Museum, Outdoor Museum & Light Station Store
12 and over - $5.00 per person
Members & children under 12 - Free
4 years and older - $5.00
(in addition to site visit fee)
Calendar of Events
|Event||Date & Time|
Free Admission for Locals
(Timber Cove to Elk) and 5% off all Light Station Store Purchases (sale items excluded)!
10 a.m. – 3:30 p.m. Fall - Spring
10 a.m. - 4:30 Summer
Whale Watch Room Gallery Exhibit
Angelina Wilson, paintings & Ling-Yen Jones, jewelry
November 1, 2023 through January 29, 2024
Big holiday sale in the Light Station Store
10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.
Lighthouse Lecture Series - Scott Mercer
Sea Otters and Kelp Forest Ecology
Lighthouse Lecture Series - Robin Joy Wellman
Russia and Our Continued Cultural Ties
February 17, 2024
About the Light Station
The first Point Arena Lighthouse was constructed in 1870. Its brick and mortar tower featured ornate iron balcony supports and a large Keepers' residence with enough space to house four Light Keeper families. In April of 1906, a devastating earthquake struck the tower. Damage from the trembler occurred all along the San Andreas Fault, which runs 4 miles away from the Light Station. In Point Arena itself many buildings were reduced to rubble and at the Light Station the Keepers' residence and Lighthouse were damaged so severely that they were rendered condemned, and ultimately torn down.
The United States Lighthouse Service contracted with a San Francisco based company to build a new Lighthouse that could withstand any future earthquakes. The company built factory smokestacks, which accounts for the final design for the current Point Arena Lighthouse Tower. The new design featured steel reinforcement rods encased in concrete, and was the first lighthouse in the U. S. to be built in this manner.
The new Lighthouse began operation on September 15, 1908, nearly 29 months after the quake. It stands 115 feet tall, and featured a 1st Order Fresnel Lens seven feet in diameter, nine feet tall and weighing 4,700 pounds. The lens is made up of 258 hand-ground glass prisms all focused toward three sets of double bulls eyes. It is these bulls eyes that gave the Point Arena Lighthouse its unique “light signature” of two flashes every six seconds. This incredible optic, that holds an appraised value of over $3.5 million, is set in solid bronze framework and was built in France.
Prior to the introduction of electricity, the lens was rotated by a clockwork mechanism. The Keepers, or “wickies” as they were called, had to hand crank a 160 pound weight up the center shaft of the Lighthouse every 75 minutes to keep the lens turning. Light was produced by a “Funks” hydraulic kerosene lamp that needed to be refueled every four hours, and whose wicks would have to be trimmed regularly. Later, a 1,000 watt electric lamp was installed to replace the kerosene lamp and a 1/8 horsepower electric motor was installed to turn the gearset that rotated the lens.
In 1975 the fog signal at the station was silenced and replaced with a radio beacon with a 50 mile signal that originates from the Tower to assist mariners in navigating the Mendocino coast. June of 1977 brought the installation of an automated aircraft-type beacon on the Tower balcony, and use of the historic 1st Order Fresnel Lens was discontinued. At this time the signature of the Point Arena Lighthouse became a single white flash every 15 seconds. The 400 pound aircraft beacon was later replaced by a 40 pound modern rotating light (VRB-25) that incorporated the Fresnel principles for the efficient projection of light. This was replaced in 2015 by an 8 tier VLB-44 LED array. In 1975 the fog signal at the station was silenced and replaced with a radio beacon with a 50 mile signal that originates from the Tower to assist mariners in navigating the Mendocino coast.
The oil lamp in the original 1870 tower was visible for approximately 18 miles, the 1st Order Fresnel Lens in the current tower for 21.5 miles, the rotating VRB-25 light could be seen for 19 miles and the current VLB-44 is visible from up to 14 miles.
In 1982 a non-profit organization called the Point Arena Lighthouse Keepers, Inc. (PALKI) acquired the Light Station as part of a 25 year land lease from the Coast Guard and the Department of Transportation. In November of 2000 PALKI became the official owners of the property due to their diligent historic preservation and educational efforts. Daily visitation, Light Station Store sales, memberships and the rental of the historic Keeper’s homes on the property for visiting guests to the coast all provide desperately needed income for ongoing preservation, facility upgrades and educational endeavors.
In the mid-2000s the Lighthouse Tower faced much-needed repairs. Time and nature, two forces that will always be present on the coastal landscape, had brought the property to a point of necessary intervention. In 2007 the PALKI Board and Executive Director took steps to find funding for major repairs to the Lighthouse, efforts which yielded donations from the community as well as the largest single funding source in organization history – an initial $1.2 million grant from the California Cultural and Historic Endowment. With this money Tower cracks and infrastructure were restored and the First Order Fresnel lens and Mercury Bath & Drive System were removed from the top of the Tower and placed on display in the Fog Signal Building Museum. Additional funds were obtained to later paint the tower, thereby completing the restoration and resulting in the ongoing operation of the site.
Coincidental to the restoration were the 100th anniversary of the Lighthouse construction (current Tower) and the establishment of several hundred acres of the adjoining Stornetta dairy lands for public use. The timing couldn’t have been better for the restoration, and the success of the project was a tribute to the hard work and good stewardship of the Board, which began in 1982 and continues to this day. By the time the Point Arena/Stornetta Lands had gone public the Lighthouse was ready to present a new face to the many visitors that would arrive in the coming years.
The Lighthouse legacy lives on. In 2014 the Point Arena/Stornetta Lands became the first land based part of the California Coastal National Monument. At the same time visitation to the Lighthouse grew to record numbers. As hope became reality and the monument was signed into being in March of that year, PALKI was once again preparing the Light Station to receive this new level of attention. By tapping into a combination of small grants and savings, the Board approved funds for repairs to the historic Keeper’s Cottages in the form of new roofs, gutters and windows. Since that time PALKI has remodeled four of the six vacation cottages and studios, created a seventh studio that is ADA compliant, painted the Fog Signal Building, the Keeper's Cottages & Studios, the exterior of the Lighthouse Tower and the interior floors and walls of the Buttress Room of the Tower.
For more information on lighthouses around the world, contact The United States Lighthouse Society, located at the Point No Point Light Station in Washington.
Take a Tour
The Light Station Store, Indoor Museum and Outdoor Museum are open to the public as of April 2, 2021!
Tower Tours are available daily. Masks are optional for all guests while in Fog Signal Building or in the Tower.
All guests 12 years and older are required to pay the Site Visit Fee of $5 per person for admission to the Light Station Store, Fog Signal Building Museum and 23 acre Outdoor Museum. Tower Tours are available to guests 4 years and older for an additional fee of $5. Tours will be conducted approximately every 20 minutes, with the first Tour starting around 10:15 a.m. The last Tour will be presented around 3 p.m. (4 p.m. from Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day).
We have also resumed our Full Moon Night Tours! Night Tours are scheduled on the Saturday closest to every full moon if it doesn’t fall on a Saturday. Individual tickets are $50 each.
Our Outdoor Museum features a self-guided tour map and is open daily from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day, 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. the rest of the year. The Light Station Store features a wide range of merchandise surrounded by informative and fascinating displays of the three lighthouses that have been on the Station, shipwrecks, local history, the technology of the lens and Mercury Bath and Drive system and many other decorations. The centerpiece of the Indoor Museum is the original 1908 1st Order Fresnel lens that was relocated from the Tower during the 2008 – 2010 renovation. The Outdoor Museum offers visitors several historical, geological, artistic and unique features throughout the 23 acre Light Station grounds.
We also offer special group rates for tours of the Indoor Museum and Outdoor Museum if you want to include a stop at the Light Station as part of a visit to the spectacular Mendocino coast. For more information on our group rates, please contact us at 877-725-4448, ext. 1 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org
Explore the Outdoor Museum
The Outdoor Museum encompasses the entire 23 acres of the Light Station grounds. The newest feature is a unique new stone installation called “Shiprock,” designed by noted stone mason John Shaw-Rimmington and constructed by John and Mark Ricard. This one of a kind piece of art is intended to represent a ship crashing against the shore. It is located between the stone Labyrinth installed in 2020 and the Druids Circle/Stonehenge Homage installed in 2018. This installation is intended to demonstrate what can happen when you DON’T have a Lighthouse! The Light Station’s stone mentor and friend Peter Mullins donated the materials and funded the construction as his gift to the Lighthouse. Peter is the guiding force behind the Mendocino Stone Zone, which the Lighthouse is proud to be a part of.
The Shiprock installation consists of a coastline made of Mendo blue shale and the ship has a hull and gunwales made of mica schist. An “ocean” of clocophane schist pebbles surrounds the ship and these will ultimately be permanently installed by Kevin Carman to mimic the waves pushing the ship onto the shore. John and Mark are the Toronto based master stone masons that constructed the Light Station’s unique entry fence in 2018, and Carman added his trademark pebble waves against the base of the three Mendo blue shale boulders that define the Light Station’s entry gates.
South of Shiprock is the Light Station Labyrinth, completed in 2020. This stone labyrinth offers visitors a meditative and contemplative avenue to enjoy the Light Station grounds and views. Envisioned and funded by PALKI Board Vice President Laura Franklin, the labyrinth was installed by noted stone masons Julien Carmellino of France and Kevin Carman of Riverside, CA. It is an unusual five circuit pattern designed by Marilyn Larson, a founding member of the Labyrinth Society and Educational Chair of its Board. It is also the westernmost installation in the “Art Line,” a series of walkable, interactive outdoor artworks across the heart of America along a 28 mile-wide band, centered on the 39th Latitude. The Labyrinth has some beautiful new features that were added in February 2022. Julien Carmellino added new carvings to the entry pillars and the pillar in the center of the Labyrinth. The Labyrinth was purposely oriented to face north from its entry to its center. Julian carved “Alpha Ursae Minoris” – the North Star – on the entry pillar and engraved the center pillar with a bear with the Little Dipper carved inside its body. A stone marker has also been installed at the entry on which will be carved the story of the Labyrinth at some point in the future.
The Outdoor Museum also introduces visitors to the Druid’s Circle/Stonehenge Homage made from 5 locally sourced Mendo blue shale pillars, the gazebo from the film “Forever Young” which was left after the 1992 filming was completed, Native Plant Garden, Whale Trail interpretive panel, several historical plaques and markers around the property, the unique stone entry fence designed and installed by master stonemasons John Shaw-Rimmington and Mark Ricard, various trails and memorial and view benches and more.
Gualala artist Bruce Jones created the original watercolor of the Light Station grounds Outdoor Museum for the map that is available to visitors. Our thanks to Bruce for his ongoing and creative support of the Light Station!|
The Outdoor Museum is open daily 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day, 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. the rest of the year. We are closed on Thanksgiving and Christmas days. We ask for a site visit fee of $5 for guests 12 and over, which provides you access to the Outdoor Museum, the Light Station Store and the Fog Signal Building Indoor Museum. Children under 12 years are free. Admission is always free to Lighthouse members. Tower Tours are available to guests 6 and over for an additional $5 per person. Site Visit and Tower Tour admissions are always free to Lighthouse members.
The Lighthouse Indoor Museum
The Point Arena Light Station Indoor Museum is housed in the historic Fog Signal Building. Built in 1896, the Fog Signal Building is the oldest structure on the Lighthouse property and also contains the Light Station Store. Restored as part of the major renovation project in 2008 to 2010, the Museum was completely redesigned so that its centerpiece, the original 1908 1st Order Fresnel lens that was removed from the Tower in 2008, would be surrounded by an informative display of Lighthouse history, technology and artifacts. The Museum includes a fascinating array of well researched and informative displays that inform guests of a wide variety of both Lighthouse and area facts, including:
- The 1st Order Fresnel lens
- Operating VRB-25 Lens
- The mercury bath and drive
- The original Lighthouse
- Point Arena area history, including the 1906 earthquake and its affect on both Point Arena and the Lighthouse
- Construction of the current Lighthouse
- Maritime history and shipwrecks of the coast
- Foghorn history and equipment display
- The Lighthouse Keepers and their families
- Renovation of the Fog Signal Building and Lighthouse Tower 2008 – 2010
- Ongoing video show about the Lighthouse
- Historic Friendship Quilt
- Hollywood at the Lighthouse
Shop at the Light Station Store
The Point Arena Light Station Store is not your typical tourist attraction collection of merchandise. This beautifully decorated store, housed in the historic 1896 Fog Signal Building along with the Indoor Museum, surrounds the wide variety of merchandise with displays of the history, technology and lore of the Light Station with the original 1st Order Fresnel lens taken from the current Tower as the centerpiece of the store. You will find an impressive collection of high quality T-shirts, sweatshirts, pullovers, jackets and outerwear as you would expect, but the store will also delight you with its jewelry, books, postcards, decorative housewares, children’s items, clocks and wall art, posters, glassware and more. Lovingly arranged, decorated and stocked by the talented and creative Light Station Store team of Manager/Buyer Ann Birdsell, Kadence Beattie and Kadynce Swartz. Please come visit the Light Station Store as part of your trip to the Light Station!
Meet our Guest Relations Managers!
Our feline Guest Relations Manager and Rodent Control Specialist, Arena Mina, continues to excel at both 6 years after being abandoned by her previous owner at the Light Station and adopted by the Light Station staff. To go along with the original book Arena Mina, the Lighthouse Cat - a True Story Lifetime member and author Liz Redon penned a second Mina book, Mina and the Lighthouse Lockdown. Former Store Associate Dennae Silva-Timberlake took an amazing photo of Mina and the Fresnel lens and it is now a popular post card in the store. There are several Mina-ish stuffed kitties in the store, along with an Arena Mina sticker, our 2nd best selling sticker.
Arena Mina got her name from long time Lighthouse patron and supporter Pauline Zamboni. She chose Mina in honor of her granddaughter Gelsomina Zamboni, who is affectionately nicknamed Mina, and Arena since the cat is now part of the Point Arena Lighthouse. Mina got to meet Arena Mina in April 2017, and she came back to the Lighthouse this November to see her while visiting Pauline.
Tasi, our canine Guest Relations Manager, adopted Executive Director Mark Hancock and his wife Laverne in October 2018. Mark immediately added her to the Light Station staff, much to the chagrin of Arena Mina who was not initially happy sharing the role. Children in particular are drawn to her and love to give her pets and hugs. Like Mina she has a sticker (doesn’t sell as well as Mina’s though!) and a stuffed dog that looks (somewhat) like her. Liz Redon is in the process of writing the first Tasi, the Lighthouse Dog book to go along with Mina’s two books, the second of which introduces Tasi to Mina and the Lighthouse. Look for her in the "Tasi Limo," the red Mercury Montego sedan parked around the Light Station, and feel free to reach through windows and give her pets and love - she will respond in kind!
Rent the Lighthouse
Over the years the Point Arena Lighthouse has been host to many magical and special events for its guests. A popular choice for that unique wedding experience, we can work with you to help arrange the perfect wedding in the perfect location – the spectacular grounds of the Point Arena Lighthouse or even the Lantern Room at the top of the Lighthouse Tower! Whether you have a wedding party of just the two of you or one that includes hundreds of your family and closest friends, we can help make it memorable. We can help you create an Elopement Package that includes the ceremony in the Tower, two night stay in one of our vacation cottages or studios, champagne and flutes, local chocolates, flowers and/or cake. Call us at 707-882-2809, ext. 5 to discuss your needs.
We also welcome romantic proposals at the top of the Tower - see many of the wonderful photos of past proposals above. We offer a special Proposal Package that guarantees you private access to the Tower for your proposal and includes chilled champagne waiting in the Lantern Room.
Just one of our positive reviews as a wedding venue:
“One of your guests left very kind words about your services at the Point Arena Lighthouse. The bride said, ‘This was the perfect location for our wedding! It’s very affordable and they were great to work with. It was so beautiful, we rented all 4 of the lighthouse keeper homes and the honeymoon suite and made the perfect weekend out of it!!’ Continue the great work!!!” – Clifford Lau, Accounts Manager for WeddingChannel.com
Check out the Lighthouse Live!
You can see a real time image of the Lighthouse Tower from our webcam. The webcam is provided by North Coast Aviation and it refreshes its image every minute.