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Where the Warning Beacons Shine on the Pacific Coast

February 06, 1988|CHRIS CHRISTENSEN

Pigeon Point--A classical 115-foot 1872 brick structure. The tower, which is south of the San Francisco Bay, is open for tours by appointment on Sundays from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. The quarters are available for dormitory-style overnight accommodations through the American Youth Hostel organization. Tours are $1.50 for adults and 75 cents for children. Lodging is $7.50. Call (415)879-0633 between 5 and 9 p.m. for more information, or write: Pigeon Point Road, Pescadero, Calif. 94060.

Point Montara--This 1875 lighthouse started out as a fog signal station on the foggy approach to the Golden Gate, South of Pacifica, and became a lighthouse around the turn of the century. It is still working, though automated. The wooden Victorian keepers quarters are now occupied by the American Youth Hostel organization and are undergoing restoration. The adjacent modern housing unit is available for overnight guests. Lodging is in bunk beds and inexpensive ($7.50 a night; you help with small chores in the morning.) Call (415) 728-7177, or write: AYH, 16 St. Cabrillo Highway, Montara, Calif. 94037.

East Brother Light Station--A beautifully restored 1873 redwood Victorian lighthouse situated on a small island in San Francisco Bay. This complete 19th-Century light station is operated by a local nonprofit group as a bed-and-breakfast inn. The overnight accommodations include a 10-minute boat ride to the island and a five-course dinner for four couples; breakfast, too, of course. The keepers may fire up the diesels and blow the old diaphone fog horns. Day use is also available. The bed and breakfast, at $250 per couple, is usually booked months in advance, so call early for reservations: (415) 233-2385, or write: 117 Park Place, Point Richmond, Calif. 94801.

Point Bonita--Constructed in 1877, this working lighthouse is dramatically situated on a spine of land that guards the north side of the Golden Gate. The trail to the lighthouse is 3/4 of a mile and very scenic. You must cross a 180-foot suspension bridge to get there. The station is under the jurisdiction of the National Park Service, Golden Gate National Recreation Area. Tours are available from 1 to 3 p.m. weekends by appointment. Because of trail conditions, children under 12 are not permitted. For reservations and directions, call (415) 331-1540.

Point Reyes--A beautiful 16-sided cast-iron tower dramatically perched on the cliffs of Point Reyes, north of San Francisco. It is under the jurisdiction of the National Park Service and is open to the public at no charge Thursdays through Mondays from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. More than 300 steps lead down to the structure. Call (415) 669-1534 for further information, or write: Point Reyes National Seashore, Point Reyes, Calif. 94956.

Point Arena--This 115-foot tower was constructed in 1908 replacing the original (1872) tower destroyed in the 1906 earthquake. The current tower was constructed by a San Francisco chimney company and is believed to be one of the first lighthouse towers made of reinforced concrete. It is a vital navigation aid for ships approaching the picturesque but dangerous Mendocino Coast. There is a modest museum in the fog signal building. The station is operated by the nonprofit Point Arena Lighthouse Keepers organization and is open to the public year-round from 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.; summer weekends and holidays, 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Admission is $2 for adults and 50 cents for children. Call (707) 882-2777 or write: P.O. Box 11, Point Arena, Calif. 95468.

Crescent City (Battery Point)--This 1856 structure at the northern tip of the state was one of the first lighthouse on the West Coast. It is cared for by the Del Norte County Historical Society and is nicely renovated. There is a museum featuring a Fresnel lens, along with many lighthouse artifacts. The lighthouse is open April through September at low tide (you must cross a low isthmus). Admission is $1.50. For access information, call (707) 464-3089, or write: Box 1149, Crescent City, Calif. 95531.

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