Inside the Magic:
Point Cabrillo Lighthouse

Your guide to the hidden magic, from lighthouse expert Jen Lewis, who also serves as the Outreach Manager at Point Cabrillo Light Station (and an incredible booster of all things lighthouse)

It’s hard to pick the best time of day to visit Point Cabrillo Light Station, much less the best time of year. The changes from season to season create the most beautiful symphony of nature. Living on the Mendocino Coast is a lesson in adaptability, but our guests have the opportunity to choose their experience based on the season. For the full experience, I highly recommend spending seven years out here, but if you don’t have that kind of time, pick your adventure…

In the winter, Point Cabrillo gets the king tides and the crazy storms. We’ll sometimes see a week straight of pouring rain, making for the perfect days to curl up by the window in one of the lightkeepers’ vacation rentals with a cup of tea. Winter is also our off season, so when you do get a break in the clouds, you’ll have the trails to yourself. It may not be the right season for tidepooling, but it’s hard to beat the sound of ocean crashing over huge rocks, sending spray fifty feet in the air.

Springtime brings rainbows and wildflowers, misty mornings and windy afternoons. The light station landscape is dotted with purple, pink, yellow and orange, and this is when we see the first of the pups born to the harbor seals in the coves around the lighthouse.

Watching these newborns swim with their moms for the first time is something that cannot be put into words. Local school field trips head to the lighthouse, learning the history of the Mendocino Coast and the stories of the native people who came before us. Spring also tends to be one of the best whale-watching seasons, as the gray whales make their return trip north from Baja to the Bering Sea.

As summer rolls around, the marine layer lies thick over the coastline, giving a moody and mysterious vibe to every stroll along the headlands. You start to feel a little crazy, hearing the loud roar of the ocean while you walk the north trail, without seeing being able to see the surf just thirty feet away. June marks the birthday of Point Cabrillo Lighthouse and July marks the anniversary of the Frolic shipwreck, so there is always plenty to learn and see in the summertime. As temperatures hit the 3 digits just an hour to the east, we rarely see a day over 75 degrees at the lighthouse.

When autumn leaves change their colors inland, the sun comes out on the coast! The kiddos head back to school and while the park seems a little quieter, it gets a lot brighter. The long, sunny days of September and October are the perfect chance to get that last dose of vitamin D before the winter comes back around. These months are also your best chance to spot humpback whales as they feed. Along Highway One in Mendocino County, Point Cabrillo is the spot that sticks out the furthest west, making it an excellent place to watch the whales.

I’ll say it again… your best best is to spend a couple years here. But if you can only make it a weekend, book a few nights at the Point Cabrillo vacation rentals, and pick the season that calls out to you this year. Next year? Choose a new one. 

See you at the lighthouse.

Looking for more magic in Mendocino?

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