Visit Cabrillo National Monument and discover the oldest lighthouse on the Pacific coast, Old Point Loma Lighthouse.
The lighthouse is a nationally registered historic landmark. It was one of the first working lighthouses on the Pacific coast to guide ships. For 36 years, from 1855-1891 it helped ships safely into San Diego harbour. It was built 400 feet (120 meters) above sea level and was one of the the highest in the continent.
Fog and low cloud presented challenges for ships seeing the light from the Point Loma Lighthouse. To solve this problem, Pelican Point lighthouse was built at a lower elevation in 1891.
Point Loma Lighthouse became part of the Cabrillo National Monument in 1913. During World War II, the navy called it back into service to use it as a signal tower. The National Park Service restored it in 1984.
Inside Old Point Loma Lighthouse, the oldest lighthouse on the Pacific coast
Life of a lightkeeper
The lightkeeper was responsible for keeping the lantern lit and continually burning brightly from dusk to dawn. Inside the lighthouse, you will be able to learn how a lightkeeper’s family lived. See the bedrooms, kitchen, pantry and their vegetable garden. These rooms are furnished as they might appear during the 1880s, when Robert and Maria Israel lived here while tending to the lighthouse. Climb the spiral stairs to the top.
Learn about how a lighthouse works
Inside an outer secondary building there is an impressive display explaining how a lighthouse functions. Discover how the bright tower light worked together with with other navigation aids. Learn how these tools helped to keep seamen and their ships safe from the hidden dangers in the waters along the coast.
Oldest Lighthouses on the Pacific Coast
- The Fisgard National Historic Site of Canada is British Columbia’s oldest lighthouse. Its operation started in 1860 on Fisgard Island, a small island near Esquimalt Harbour, south of Victoria on Vancouver Island. This lighthouse operated until 1957. Learn more about Canada’s 750 lighthouses and discover more about heritage lighthouses from Parks Canada.
- Point No Point Lighthouse, built in 1879, is the one of the earliest lighthouses found in Washington State. It is located in the north entrance of Puget Sound near Hansville. This structure is on the National Register of Historic Places. It is also on the Washington State Heritage Register. Stay in the old keepers quarters. It is a vacation rental.
- Cape Blanco is Oregon’s oldest continually operating lighthouse. It was built in 1870.
- Cape Disappointment is the oldest lighthouse of the Pacific Northwest. It started operation in 1862 at the mouth of the Columbia River.
A great source of almost everything you ever wanted to know about lighthouses in the United States can be found on the United States Lighthouse Society website.
Discover Old Point Loma Lighthouse by taking a short 25-30 minute drive from the heart of San Diego, California.
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