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Point Sur Lighthouse

By Bridget M. Rohrer

point sur lighthouse

Point Sur Lighthouse

© Betsy Malloy 2003
  • Cost: Fee charged
  • Hours: Open only for guided tours (weekends in winter, extra weekdays in summer)
  • Reservations: Not taken, tours are on a first-come first-served
  • Location: 19 miles South of Rio Road in Carmel, off of Hwy 1
  • How Long: At least 4 hours
  • Best Time to Visit: Nicer on a clear day

Visiting Point Sur Lighthouse

Unfortunately, this fascinating piece of maritime history is only open during guided tours. At other times, you can only look at it from the highway. While this is definitely a light you don’t want to miss, getting there can be challenging. You'll have to walk to the top of the secluded volcanic rock (360 feet elevation gain) and navigate two sets of stairs, the longest having 61 steps.

If you have mobility issues that are of concern, call California State Parks at 831-667-0258 well in advance to see if they can accommodate you.

Wear sturdy, comfortable walking shoes and bring an extra layer or two of clothing in case the weather turns cold. Leave your pets at home - they can't go on the tour and you won't be allowed to leave them in your car. And if you have little ones along, you'll have to leave the stroller behind.

History of the Point Sur Lighthouse

In 1974, the smallish light station at Point Sur, sited atop a large volcanic rock, was automated and no longer required the maintenance from resident light keepers.

The tower was first lit in August, 1889, and has remained in continuous operation since. Construction was no small task, costing more than $50,000 in 1889 and requiring a railroad track to be laid to carry materials to the site. Once construction was completed, the tracks were removed and the only access was by climbing 395 steps. Later, a tramway was installed and finally a roadway was cut through to the summit.

In the years since it was first manned, only four light keepers have worked in the structure that sits 361 feet above the cold Pacific Ocean. Several shipwrecks have taken place on or near this national landmark, but the most notable wreck isn't a ship at all but the US Navy Dirigible MACON, which sank in 1935. Exhibits on site tell its story.

Point Sur Lighthouse is on the National Register of Historic Places and is a California State Historic Landmark. The outbuildings are being restored to the way it looked at the turn of the 20th century.

Ghosts at Point Sur Lighthouse

In October, 2011, the Carmel Pine Cone newspaper reported that ghost hunter Julie Nantes says the Point Sur Lighthouse is haunted - by 18 or more spirits, so many that it's considered one of the 10 most-haunted lighthouses in the United States.

The lighthouse offers special Ghost Tours every October, which can be quite fun even if you don't believe in ghosts. It's a fund-raising event with a hefty fee and reservations are required. Get details at their website

Getting to the Point Sur Light House

Point Sur lighthouse is located on CA 1, 19 miles south of Rio Road in Carmel, at mile marker 54. How to read a California mile marker.
Point Sur Lighthouse
CA Hwy 1 between Carmel and Big Sur
Point Sur Light House Website
Call 831-625-4419 for info on guided tours
Visitors line up in their vehicles on the west side of the highway, north of the gated entrance and drive in a caravan to the base of the rock, where they park during the tour.

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