Point Pinos Lighthouse in Monterey: Oldest Lighthouse on the West Coast

While spending time in either Carmel or Monterey, be sure to add a visit to Point Pinos Lighthouse to your list. This lighthouse is the oldest of all of the lighthouses on the West Coast, is well preserved, and has excellent docents that tell you about its history and help you learn about how lighthouses work. While it is not tall like many of the others, it is still a fantastic historical lighthouse to visit, here is all the info.

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  • Open Fri – Mon: 1 PM – 4 PM
  • Location: 80 Asilomar Ave, Pacific Grove, CA 93950
  • This information is from my visit in 2016


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Point Pinos Lighthouse was built and lit in 1855 to help guide ships along the rocky coastline. The original lens is still sitting in the lighthouse to this day. When the lighthouse began, it used whale oil to keep the light lit. The light was eventually converted to electricity in 1919. The lighthouse was added to the National Historic Registry in 1977 and is still open to visitors to this day.

The Lighthouse

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When I arrived at about 1:30 PM on a Saturday, there were only three other cars in the parking lot. During my time there, I ran into a half dozen or so people, but overall, it was not a very busy attraction on the weekend.

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After entering the lighthouse and paying my $2 fee, I spent 10 minutes talking about the area and its history with the docent who was operating the front desk. Every docent I spoke to here was fantastic and knowledgeable; I highly recommend you sit and talk with them as they provide a lot of great info.

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Next, I headed up the staircase to make my way up to the top of the lighthouse. Along the way, there are a few rooms that were used for watching the sea, or for living, when someone stayed at the lighthouse.

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As you get to the top, you will enter a small room with a ladder; this is as far as you can go. Since the lighthouse still runs to this day and has the original lens, you can only look up at it through the plexiglass but can’t actually go in.

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I took a few pictures then headed back down to the ground floor.

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The ground floor has a living area, bathroom, and kitchen. Each of which has been preserved well and are fun to explore.

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In the back of the ground floor, there is a set of steps that leads you down to the basement.

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In the basement, there were a bunch of different instruments and interactive exhibits that showed how a lighthouse worked. There was a docent down here who was happy to show me all around and explain how the lens worked.

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After spending some time down in the cellar, I headed back up and out the backdoor to the small shop behind the lighthouse. The shop sold lots of little trinkets, including a passport where you could get stamps as you visited different lighthouses along the coast. I imagine this being a super cool thing to do if you have a family with young kids.

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This was a great little lighthouse that is fun for the whole family and helps you understand how lighthouses work. I enjoyed my time here, and I highly recommend you visit if you are in the area. Let me know what you think in the comments.

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