Location: Highway 1 in Big Sur, 19 miles south of Rio Road in Carmel
Hours: Access only by docent-led tours on first-come, first-served basis. Held year-round at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. on Saturdays and 10 a.m. on Sundays; 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. on Wednesdays from April through October, and 10 a.m. on Thursdays in July and August. Moonlight tours are held periodically, with a schedule posted at www.pointsur.org.
Cost: $8 adults; $4 ages 6-17; free for 5 and under
Information: 625-4419 or www.pointsur.org
Since 1889, the Point Sur Light Station has been warning ships of the hazards along its picturesque but perilous section of the Big Sur coast. For 85 years, lighthouse keepers staffed the station 24 hours a day, sounding a fog signal and shining a beacon that was visible for 23 nautical miles. In 1974, automation replaced the last human keeper at Point Sur, as part of an efficiency effort by the U.S. Coast Guard.
But visitors to the Point Sur State Historic Park and Light Station can still get a taste of those early, isolated days on this windswept outcropping. Volunteers lead tours at least three times a week year-round - and occasionally under moonlit skies - taking visitors less than a mile down a paved road, but more than a century back in time.
Mariners concerned about the point's navigational hazards spent 11 years petitioning the U.S. Lighthouse Service Board to put a station on this spot. Their efforts - and some deadly shipwrecks - finally won funding in 1886 and the station opened three years later.
The keepers and their families lived on Point Sur and were very self-sufficient in the early days, when only a long and treacherous trail connected them to the rest of the world. That isolation lessened after 1937, with the opening of Highway 1.
Restoration projects are ongoing to preserve Point Sur, which is on the National Register of Historic Places.