Ever since the first time I drove Highway 1 along the Big Sur coast, I have been intrigued by the small lighthouse on the hill that you see as you head north. The lighthouse is only accessible via a guided tour on the weekends though, so it wasn’t until recently that I was finally in the area on the right day to get to take a tour of this historic spot. It takes a good half day to get to the lighthouse and go on the 3-hour tour, and it is a beautiful and memorable part of Big Sur that I highly recommend. Here is all the information.
- Cost: $15 a person
- 1.5 miles of walking with a significant uphill portion
- First come first served so get there early (at least 30 minutes before the tour), especially in the summer
- Let only 40 people on each tour
- This information is from my visit in 2018
- Read about all my favorite Big Sur spots here
Point Sur Lighthouse is located in the northern part of Big Sur, only a short drive south from Bixby Creek Bridge. You will see the large hill out near the water with the lighthouse on it when you round the bend. Watch for a small gate that has a turn out next to it and has lighthouse information on it. For the tour, you simply park along the road near the entrance and wait for them to open the gate to let you drive in at the designated tour time.
Here is a video I made on the tour.
They began construction on the lighthouse in 1887, and it was finished in 1889. The beacon was lit in August of 1889, and it has been lit since then. The lighthouse is remote and was managed by a few families until Highway 1 was built in 1935, which made the area more accessible. Even so, they still didn’t have electricity until 1948. One of the reasons why the lighthouse was so important here is because this is where the bend is along the California coast and so boats must reroute at this bend to make sure they get to their destination. Prior to the lighthouse, there were many wrecks along this part of the coast.
We got there at about 9:15 AM on a Saturday in February, and there were already three cars waiting for the tour. By about 9:45, there were ten more behind us.
The gate was opened at about 9:50, and we checked in and made our way to the parking area at the base of the hill the lighthouse sits on.
After all the cars made it, we broke into two groups and started the tour.
The tour is long at about 2.5 hours of walking and listening, so be prepared for that as you cannot leave the area until the tour is over.
We started by heading slowly up the large hill with lots of breaks to talk about history and give people a chance to catch their breath.
Honestly, this part should be accessible to most people as we stopped every 25 feet or so for a few minutes.
When you round the bend, you will see all of the structures situated on top of the hill.
The right one is the head lightkeepers house, next to that is the assistant keeper’s house, then there is a water tower, barn and carpenter’s shop to round out the buildings.
We headed to the lighthouse first, which is 38 feet tall and stands 270 feet above the sea.
The lighthouse is still running to this day, and we got a chance to go in it and take the stairs to the top.
The light that sits in there now is not the old Fresnel lens that you have seen in the past, but a more modern rotating light.
It’s still cool to be able to go pretty much all the way to the top.
We also got to walk along the outer area at the top, and it was crazy windy, so we didn’t stay out here long.
After walking down from the top of the lighthouse, you can enter the old museum.
The museum has lots of information on the history of the area and the shipwrecks.
If you come at the right time, you can see grey whales from this vantage point on their annual migration, and we were lucky enough to see a couple.
In case you are wondering, the light can be seen 23 miles away.
From here, the tour heads up the white stairs where you get another great view of the lighthouse before going to the other buildings.
Walking to these buildings is also where you get the fantastic view of the coastline below you that you have no doubt seen before.
This was probably my favorite part of the tour, as these views were mind-blowing.
The carpenter’s shop was the next we entered, and it had a bunch of tools that were original and that they used in the past.
We then walked past the barn and the old stone building, which were both closed.
The stone building is still being worked on, so it may be open in the future.
The last stop was at the lightkeepers house, where each of the rooms were designed to look the way they did when people lived here.
It was so fun to be able to walk in and see all of these rooms still done up like this.
This is the end of the tour, and you can explore the house for a few minutes or walk around the outside, but you have to stay in the area where the house is and not go back to the lighthouse.
There is a small shop here where you will pay your fee and can buy souvenirs and coffee.
From here, you will walk down as a group to your cars and be lead out to the highway again, completing your time at this awesome spot. If you are in Big Sur on a Saturday and have the time, then this is a great place to explore and one that I am sure you will enjoy, especially if you are into the area’s history. Check it out and let me know what you think in the comments.