The San Luis Obispo Lighthouse

Port San Luis lighthouse

The San Luis Obispo Lighthouse

Port San Luis Lighthouse

Years of restoration work following even more years of neglect have made the San Luis Obispo lighthouse one of the nicest places to visit in Central California.

It is the only surviving Victorian lighthouse remaining on the West Coast. There were two other light stations built from the same plans, but they haven’t survived.

The Port San Luis light nearly didn’t make it either. After modern light and fog signal systems were installed, the house sat derelict for 20 years.

But 65,000 volunteer hours later, the results are wonderful. The renovation team even located some of the original fixtures and re-installed them.

Port San Luis Lighthouse Quick Facts:

  • Year built: 1890
  • GPS coordinates: 35.16023 / -120.76049
  • Height: 116 ft.
  • Light signature: Flashing – white – 5sec (new light structure)
  • Range: 20 miles
  • Open to the public?: Yes – see details below

The original fresnel lens at the Point San Luis lighthouse.

Most of the lenses used in lighthouses of the 19th century were made in France. They are masterful works of art and science as each segment was hand-ground, polished and then placed precisely within a framework.

This allowed the oblique light to be focused and made visible at further distances.

The concept is still used today in headlights and some forms of projectors, but the lenses are made with plastic or computer milled glass.

These are my favorite things to see at lighthouses, though the entire experience is great, especially at a place so well restored as at Point San Luis.

Getting to the San Luis Obispo Lighthouse

The thirty acres surrounding the lighthouse is now a public park, but it resides within land owned by the Pacific Gas and Electric Company. PG&E operates the Diablo Canyon Nuclear Generating facility just to the north of the lighthouse.

Access to the light station was previously available only by a docent-led hike up some rather rough terrain.

The hike is still available for those who prefer it (follow this PG&E link for details), but there is now a trolley that runs on a new road to the lighthouse.

It climbs to nearly 400 feet above Port San Luis and reveals some magnificent views miles down the coast.

Seaward view of the Point San Luis lighthouse

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