Tripping the Lighthouse Fantastic
October 3, 2021 9:33 PM   Subscribe

I would like to visit a lighthouse (or at least see one in person). My spouse and I plan to take a train trip next year. Please help me combine these.

The most relevant part of the trip is the Coast Starlight route through the U.S. West Coast, from Seattle to Los Angeles. Stations served on that leg are listed toward the bottom of this page. We could consider making a detour slightly north or south.

We also expect to spend a day in Chicago.

Can you recommend any lighthouses relatively convenient for this trip?
posted by NotLost to Travel & Transportation around New Zealand (16 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
There's a lighthouse just at the end of the Purple Line in Evanston, just outside Chicago. It doesn't look like they're doing tours now because of covid, but maybe by next year they will be again--I've taken it and it's fun.
posted by carrienation at 10:18 PM on October 3, 2021 [2 favorites]

East Brother Lighthouse is in the San Francisco Bay. We stayed there about 10 years ago - it was really cool. They were having some problems between COVID and a damaged power cable, but it looks to be up and running.
posted by chbrooks at 10:53 PM on October 3, 2021 [3 favorites]

Do you have any ability to pause and take a day trip to a lighthouse along the Oregon Coast? Or maybe up in Washington? There are apparently some near Seattle.
posted by stormyteal at 11:30 PM on October 3, 2021

If you are going to get off the train at San Francisco, a quick swing up to the Pt. Reyes Lighthouse is highly recommended!
posted by rockindata at 4:08 AM on October 4, 2021 [3 favorites]

Point Bonita Lighthouse on the Marin Headlands should be another stop in your Bay Area lighthouse tour.
posted by rockindata at 6:15 AM on October 4, 2021

There are many easily accessible lighthouses on the Oregon coast. HIghway 101 is one of the most beautiful drives in the world. There are also several accessible lighthouses in the metropolitan Seattle area. A web search for Oregon or Washington lighthouses will give you lots of resources.
posted by lhauser at 6:44 AM on October 4, 2021

Best answer: If you make an extended stop at Seattle, you can go to the lighthouse at Sequim, on the Olympic Peninsula. It is particularly atmospheric because to get to it, you walk 5 miles along Dungeness Spit at low tide.
posted by dum spiro spero at 7:18 AM on October 4, 2021 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Pigeon Point Lighthouse I found this link when searching for a picture of Pigeon Point, and thought I would give you the whole list. Pigeon Point is close to Ano Nuevo Point, which is a marine reserve with a lot of Elephant Seals crashed out or fighting on a gorgeous uncollected beach. There's a great little bed and breakfast in Bonny Doon with quilts on the brass beds and cinnamon rolls that are out of this world. Anyway, you can take a look from this list and find one that appeals to you.
posted by effluvia at 7:26 AM on October 4, 2021 [2 favorites]

The Oregon stretch doesn't follow the coast but rather I-5. If you want a train accessible lighthouse it's probably going to be in California or Washington.
There's a dinky one in Tacoma that looks like it's right in town. And apparently Seattle has two of its own. How did I not know this?
posted by fiercekitten at 8:01 AM on October 4, 2021

Best answer: there is a hostel at the Pigeon Point lighthouse itself, and as I recall it has a private room (but the bath is not private.) There is an outdoor hot tub (for guests only) set in the cliffs over the ocean which is a really extraordinary experience esp if you snag a sunset time slot.
posted by fingersandtoes at 8:34 AM on October 4, 2021 [1 favorite]

Best answer: The Point Loma Lighthouse is a pleasant walk. There might be seals in the bay.
posted by SPrintF at 9:20 AM on October 4, 2021

Best answer: As you can see from your map, a huge portion of the Coast Starlight route is not at all on the Coast. NorCal has many good and famous lighthouses (Point Arena comes to mind - it's very tall and you can climb to the top) but your train trip is not going very close to most of them.

The Emeryville Station and Oakland station are both about an hour from Point Bonita and Point Reyes and a little less than than to Montara. All of these are fairly dreamy lighthouses.

Salina is 1.5 hours from Pigeon Point, which is a gorgeous windswept spot. It's only 30 minutes from the much less impressive Point Pinos in Pacific Grove and an hour from Lighthouse Field State Beach in Santa Cruz. These are less impressive but both have a lot in the area to recommend them. (That said, Point Pinos is oldest lighthouse in use on the West Coast.)

You don't really get close to the Coast again until San Luis Obispo. There's a lesser-known lighthouse in Avila Beach, which is only 20 minutes away. Southern CA has fewer famous lighthouses.

The LA adjacent stops (Van Nuys, Union Station; Simi Valley and Oxnard are farther away) are nearish Point Fermin lighthouse in San Pedro depending on traffic. I haven't been to Point Fermin but it's unusual in that it's square rather than round.

Of the ones I have been to above, Point Arena is probably the best, but Montara and Pigeon Point are quite good and get you out on the windswept Pacific Coast without too much additional effort (I think Point Reyes is a lot of additional effort).

Could you do something like get off at Emeryville or Oakland, rent a car, drive to see Point Bonita, down to Montara, then to Pigeon Point, then to Santa Cruz and/or Pacific Grove, return the car at a second location and then get on the train in Salinas? You're not missing much that is scenic on the train ride down the Peninsula.
posted by vunder at 9:33 AM on October 4, 2021 [4 favorites]

vunder's idea is excellent. The drive down Hwy 1 from Pacifica to ~Santa Cruz is without a doubt one of the Top 5 most beautiful in the world.

There is also a hostel at the Pt Montara lighthouse, but I don't think they have a hot tub.
posted by fingersandtoes at 10:47 AM on October 4, 2021 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Seconding the lighthouse at Avila!! It’s a rare wooden Victorian lighthouse and can be accessed either by trolley on a tour or-my preferred method-by yourself via a short, and amazing, kayak paddle-you can rent one for cheap from Avila Beach Paddlesports and get to see sea otters on your way across the bay. You’ll need to time it for early in the morning when the wind is low and the waves on the bay are barely there. I think there is a bus that serves Port San Luis from San Luis Obispo which is one of the Coast Starlight’s stops.
posted by sparringnarwhal at 2:28 PM on October 4, 2021 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Thank you for the suggestions. I am looking forward to studying them all.
posted by NotLost at 8:23 PM on October 4, 2021

Point Bonita Light has very limited hours because of Covid, and while you can see it from a distance, you can't get a good look without close access. (There is a locked tunnel in the way.)

Lights I would recommend for their scenic beauty: Pigeon Point, which is State-owned and on a park, between SF and Santa Cruz; Point Fermin, which belongs to the city of LA and has quite a nice little historic exhibit inside (including the original lens). Angel's Gate lighthouse is on a pier in the middle of LA Harbor, but you can get a nice view from some of the ferries. Alcatraz Lighthouse isn't open to the public, but the island is, so you can get a good look at it. If you get far enough up the coast, Point Arena in Mendocino County is a nice tall lighthouse; it might be open for tours?
posted by suelac at 9:40 PM on October 4, 2021

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