There’s nothing quite like the historic Point Bonita Lighthouse, situated on a picturesque outcropping of land in Marin. Visitors can enter the structure from 12:30-3:30pm Friday through Monday for a totally unique trip back in time.
Point Bonita Lighthouse was built in 1855 in response to the influx of people from the California Gold Rush. Several lighthouses went up in quick succession, including at Alcatraz and Fort Point. Point Bonita’s lighthouse was the 3rd lighthouse constructed on the west coast, positioned at a low elevation so as to cut through the fog.
To this day, Point Bonita continues to be an active lighthouse operated by the US Coast Guard and uses a historic Fresnel lens to refract the beam of light. Lighthouses have different light patterns so as to be more easily differentiated – Point Bonita’s is on for 3 seconds, off for 1. It also uses an electric fog horn for days with low visibility, which sends 2 blasts every 30 seconds.
There’s also a mysterious hand-carved tunnel at Point Bonita whose origins are dubious. No records were kept by the government, but a popular theory is that it was carved by Chinese immigrants who would have endured extremely dangerous conditions with low pay.
The National Park Service manages access for visitors, who can visit via the Point Bonita Lighthouse Trail. The trail is just half a mile long, but quite rocky, steep, and uneven in parts. Wheelchairs are not advised and pets and bikes are not permitted. Make sure to bring water and dress in layers as weather conditions change often — and of course, don’t stray from the trail.
Point Bonita Lighthouse is now open from 12:30-3:30pm Friday through Monday, but visitors are advised to arrive well before 3:30pm as lines can be long. The suspension bridge and tunnel are also only open during these hours. For information about guided tours, check the Golden Gate Recreation Area calendar.