Point Reyes California Day Trip to Lighthouse – Beaches and MORE

The Point Reyes Lighthouse (Point Reyes Light or the Point Reyes Light Station) is a lighthouse in Marin County California at Point Reyes National Seashore. It’s one of the few lighthouses that you can go inside and look around. But there’s more to Point Reyes than a lighthouse. From beaches to wildlife to scenic drives – a visit to Point Reyes is a perfect day trip from San Francisco.

 

Point Reyes Lighthouse California

 

Besides the lighthouse there are lots of other fun things to do at Point Reyes National Seashore:

  • Wildlife viewing
  • Beaches
  • Camping
  • Biking
  • Kayaking
  • Hiking
  • Cypress tree tunnel
  • Marconi RCA building
  • Scenic drives

 

Point Reyes National Seashore Visitor Center

 

And you can stop at some cute California coastal towns along the way. I suggest visiting Sausalito or Corte Madera. But you can go to one of the visitor centers at Point Reyes Seashore for more info on cool places to see in Marin County.

  • Bear Valley Visitors Center – on Bear Valley Road
  • Lighthouse Visitor Center – at Point Reyes Light Station (closed until January 2020)
  • Kenneth C Patrick Visitor Center – at Drakes Beach

 

 

Point Reyes Lighthouse

Point Reyes Lighthouse opened in 1870 and was automated in 1975

 

Point Reyes Lighthouse Info

  • Opened in 1870
  • Automated 1975
  • Height: 35 feet

The short hike to Point Reyes from the parking lot is less than a half mile but it includes a steep set of stairs – 308 in total. Although that could change after the renovation is complete at Point Reyes – see important info below.

 

Inside Point Reyes Light Station

View the exhibits at the lighthouse building and take a look inside the lighthouse

 

Whale bones at Point Reyes Lighthouse

Whale bones at Point Reyes Lighthouse

 

Weather at Point Reyes Lighthouse

Summer is the nicest time to visit Point Reyes because there is little chance of rain, but mornings are often foggy.

According to the National Park Service the location of Point Reyes Lighthouse is the second foggiest place in North America. Grand Banks of Newfoundland in eastern Canada is the number one foggiest place in North America.

Summertime is especially foggy around Point Reyes so check the weather first. Mornings are typically foggier, but it often disperses by midday.

 

Getting to Point Reyes Lighthouse includes a lot of stairs

 

Point Reyes often gets extremely windy! Be prepared with a light windbreaker jacket and maybe bring something to tie your hair back. And hang on to your hat :)

Winter is the rainiest season at Point Reyes so bring your rain jacket and appropriate footwear.

Check the National Park Service webcam for a view of Point Reyes Beach to see the current weather conditions.

 

308 steps to Point Reyes Lighthouse

You can count the steps – all 308 to Point Reyes Lighthouse

 

Point Reyes Lighthouse Closure 2019

During 2019 the Point Reyes Lighthouse is closed for renovations. What started as a short 3-month project in August 2018 is now extended to the end of 2019.

In 2019 Point Reyes Lighthouse is closed to foot traffic and all public visitors. Estimated reopening of Point Reyes Lighthouse is after December 31, 2019.

 

Beachgoers enjoying the waves at Point Reyes South Beach

Enjoying the waves and sand at Point Reyes South Beach

 

The good news is you can still use the parking lot and visit the South Beach Overlook as well as the Sea Lion Overlook at Point Reyes.

NOTE: Point Reyes Lighthouse is NOT visible from the parking lot.

Have a look at the map of the Point Reyes closure area.

Remember there’s lots of stuff to do at Point Reyes, keep reading for more info.

 

San Francisco to Point Reyes Lighthouse

You have a couple of options when driving from San Francisco to Point Reyes.

Driving Option 1

Take California Hwy 1 and drive along the coast part of the way. You can stop at Muir Beach and Stinson Beach.

  • From San Francisco take Hwy US-101 North and cross the Golden Gate Bridge
  • Take exit 445B for CA-1 North (signs for Mill Valley/Stinson Beach) for 26 miles
  • Turn left onto Bear Valley Road (turns into Sir Francis Drake Blvd) and continue for 21 miles
  • Point Reyes parking lot is on the right

Total driving time: about 2 hours

 

Driving Option 2

Take US-101 and pass by Sausalito and Corte Madera – or stop for a visit! Both are beautiful places to visit in California.

  • From San Francisco take Hwy US-101 North and cross the Golden Gate Bridge
  • Take exit 456 and turn left on Lukas Valley Road and continue for 10 miles
  • Turn right on Nicasio Valley Road and continue for 4 miles
  • Turn left on to Point Reyes Petaluma Road and continue for 3 miles
  • Take a left onto Hwy CA-1 and drive .8 miles
  • Turn right on Sir Francis Drake Blvd and continue 19.5 miles to the parking lot

Total driving time: about 2 hours

 

Things to do at Point Reyes Seashore

Even though Point Reyes Lighthouse is closed there is still lots to do in the Point Reyes Seashore area. And remember Point Reyes Lighthouse reopens in January 2020 so best to plan your trip now!

For sure you should check out the beaches near Point Reyes. But take note of beach closures on weekends and holidays.

 

Waves roll in from the Pacific Ocean at South Beach Point Reyes California

South Beach is a wonderful place to watch the waves and enjoy a beach walk at Point Reyes

 

Point Reyes Beach North

Enjoy 10 miles of sandy beach and watch the waves roll in from the Pacific Ocean. You’ll pass by the North Beach at Point Reyes on the way to the lighthouse. There is a paved parking lot located about 8 miles north of the lighthouse.

 

Point Reyes Beach South

The South Beach at Point Reyes is the one closest to the lighthouse – just over 5 miles north. You can enjoy a beautiful view of the South Beach from the hilltop – South Beach Overlook is open during the renovation of the lighthouse.

 

Beautiful Drakes Beach northern California

Drakes Beach is beautiful for a long beach walk

 

Drakes Beach

I liked Drakes Beach a lot. The sand is lovely and there is some variance in the landscape, it’s not all flat. I took a long walk at Drakes Beach, watching the waves and listening to them break near the shore.

I also saw an interesting creature washed up on the shore. It looks like it may be a jellyfish, but I didn’t see any tentacles. But it looks jellyfish-like. Although not quite like the Portuguese Man of War that I saw in Texas!

 

Drakes Beach sea creature

What is it?! I don’t know! Some sort of jellyfish perhaps? Washed up on the sand at Drakes Beach

 

Limantour Beach

If you’re looking for a beautiful beach that’s not crowded check out Limantour Beach in Marin County. There is a dog friendly section – the southeast side of the beach.

From Hwy CA-1 turn left onto Bear Valley Road then left again onto Limantour Road and continue 7.5 miles to the parking lot. The beach is about a 5 minute walk from the parking area. There are bathrooms, outdoor shower, and picnic tables close to the parking area.

 

Marconi RCA Wireless Station – KPH Radio Station

On the way to Point Reyes Lighthouse watch for the sign for North District Operations Center – turn right and you’ll pass through the Cypress Tree Tunnel. Park in the parking lot on the left, do not park by the tree tunnel.

Address:

17400 Sir Francis Drake Blvd
Inverness, CA 94937

Get more info about the history of the Marconi RCA Wireless Station here.

 

Point Reyes Cypress Tree Tunnel

The cypress tree tunnel at the Marconi RCA Wireless Station at Point Reyes Seashore

 

Whale Watching Elephant Seals and Sea Lions

Whale watching from December through spring, marine birds throughout the year, elephant seals are around throughout the year, with the best viewing during the mating and pupping season from December through March.

The males are much larger than the female elephant seals and only the males have the characteristic bulbous snout. Adult males weigh as much as 4,500 pounds (2,000 kg) and adult females weigh around 1,500 pounds (600 kg).

 

Sea Lions on the rocky coast as seen from Point Reyes Sea Lion Overlook

Sea Lion Overlook did not disappoint – sea lions sunning on the rocks

 

Elephant seals returned to the Point Reyes area in the 1970’s. Back in the early 1900’s the elephant seals were hunted to near extinction. Mexico banned hunting of the seals in 1922 and the United States followed a few years later. The Point Reyes elephant sea population is now estimated at 3,000.

 

Sea Lion Overlook Point Reyes National Seashore

The views are gorgeous at Point Reyes National Seashore

 

Bring binocular or use a telephoto lens on your camera to view the whales, sea lions, and elephant seals. During pupping season from January through March you’ll have a chance to see the baby elephant seals.

In January 2019 several elephant seals made their home at Drakes Beach. A large portion of the beach was closed to the public to give the elephant seals some space.

 

Point Reyes Pacific Ocean Overlook

Enjoy stunning coastal views

 

Point Reyes Elk

In the late 1800’s Henry Miller, a cattle rancher at Point Reyes, preserved the last herd of Tule Elk in the area. Now there are several thousand Tule Elk in California thanks to his efforts.

You can see the elk at Point Reyes by luck – there is a free ranging herd. Or visit the Tomales Elk Preserve at the northern end of Point Reyes National Seashore – 40 minute drive from the lighthouse parking lot.

 

Point Reyes elk

You may see elk at Point Reyes Seashore – they are T

 

Point Reyes Camping

Options for camping at Point Reyes are limited to backcountry camping. There are four hike-in or boat-in campgrounds at Point Reyes. Visit the NPS website for campground locations and descriptions and to reserve your campsite. Reservations strongly recommended.

 

Tips for Visiting Point Reyes

  • Prepare for windy weather, foggy summer mornings, rain in winter
  • Visit during weekdays when it’s less crowded
  • Check the weather conditions and have a look at the NPS webcam before you leave
  • Bring a picnic lunch to enjoy on the beach
  • Remember to pack appropriate outdoor gear for the weather
  • Wear comfortable walking shoes

 

More info to plan your trip to California

Carpinteria California Beaches 7 Fabulous Spots for a Beach Day
Palm Springs Travel Guide (2019 Edition)
Mount San Jacinto Park – Desert to Mountain Palm Springs Day Trip
Muir Woods Hike the Redwood Forest Marin County California Coast

 

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About the Author

Susan Moore spent 7 months traveling around Southeast Asia back in the 90's. Returning to Canada she found a job working on rotation in Siberia Russia. She later moved to Austin Texas where she started a bookkeeping business, allowing her to work remotely. Currently Susan is in year 4 of living a nomadic life, roadtripping around the USA and Canada and writing about her experiences with a focus on hiking and cultural encounters. Read all about Susan » You can reach Susan Moore at Facebook or Twitter or Instagram

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