Romanticized and treasured, lighthouses today have become as popular
as they once were lonely. This month-as gray whales migrate down our
coast-is a fine time to visit. We lost some lighthouses after the US.
Coast Guard began automating them in the '60s. Ones deemed beyond
repair were razed; others, without their keepers, were prey to vandals.
But a tide of public interest and new Coast Guard regulations allowed
many to be saved as museums, hostels, and inns. South of San Francisco,
the 1928 Point Montara Lighthouse, above, exemplifies these changes. Its
30-foot cast-iron tower still supports a working light; the old
fog-signal building behind houses Elderhostel classes. To stay in the
keeper's quarters ($10 a night), call (415) 728-7177. One of the
best lighthouses for whale-spotting is on San Diego's Point Loma in
Cabrillo National Monument; call (619) 557-5450 for details on whale
talks. The West Coast has 27 lighthouses you can visit. Another, south
of Mendocino at Point Cabrillo, is now part of the Coastal Conservancy
and will open within the year, For a free California list, call the US.
Lighthouse Society at (415) 362-7255; membership is $25.