If you want to see the best of California, then the coastal highway is the route you want to travel, and along that route, you can enjoy central coast lighthouse tours at four famous lighthouses. The California coastline has thirty lighthouses altogether, and six of them are located in the central coast area. The two most southern, Point Conception and Point Arguello aren't open for tours, but the rest give visitors a chance to enjoy amazing scenery and learn about the history of the lights and the people who lived at them, with a wide variety of interesting exhibits.
If you like Victorian architecture, then you will love this lighthouse. The only surviving Prairie Victorian lighthouse, San Luis was built in 1890.When modern lights were put in place; the original lighthouse was left to decay. After 65,000 hours of volunteer labor and over 1 million dollars, you can enjoy a truly unique lighthouse. Pacific Gas and Electric owns the land the light is on, and they offer trolley tours on Saturdays and occasional Sundays, by reservation. If you like hiking, you can also schedule a hike up to the light, a 400-foot climb. Once you arrive, the view is breathtaking. The original handcrafted lamp is on display as well, and is a true work of art. For tours, you can visit http://www.sanluislighthouse.org/lighthouse_tours.html.
Down the road from San Simeon, on Highway 1, you'll find Piedras Blancas. This lighthouse is run by the U.S. government's Bureau of Land Management, and they offer a two-hour interpretive tour that includes the lighthouse and support buildings and wildlife viewing. The tours are held at 10 a.m., but they also offer special twilight tours and whale watching tours at certain times of the year. From September 1-June 14, tours are on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and from June 15 to August 31, they run Monday through Saturday, no reservations needed for groups under ten people. The BLM website has more information available.
Point Sur Historic Park is the home of another unique lighthouse. All of the buildings are included in the tour, which covers a few miles and has two flights of stairs. Because it's located on a volcanic rock over 300 feet high and off the coast, it's remote, stunning, and very windy. Parking is a little scarce, as are restrooms, but this is still one of the central coast lighthouse tours worth taking. Even on sunny days, it can be chilly, so you'll want to wear layers. Because of the remote location, people with disabilities need to make advance arrangements for the tour. They also offer full moon tours, and ghost tours in October. For more tour information, you can check out their website at http://www.pointsur.org/page3.php. Of all the lighthouses on the coast, this one is one you shouldn't miss.
The last of the central coast lighthouse tours is Point Pinos, near Pacific Grove. This lighthouse has operated continually since it was built, and it's listed on the National Registry of Historic places. All of the lenses and equipment are original and still used for navigation. This lighthouse also had two female lighthouse keepers in the past, and was the social center of Pacific Grove. They operate tours 1-4 p.m., Thursday through Monday, and offer special tours with costumed volunteers at times. You can get more information at http://pointpinos.org/.
Once named the most romantic city in America by Life magazine, Pacific Grove has a small town atmosphere, stunning views, and is a migration spot for monarch butterflies. This is a great place to spend a day or two. The Victorian influence really shows, with several beautiful bed and breakfast inns, including the Green Gables, the Centrella Inn, and the Gosby House Inn. Most of the lodgings in Pacific Grove are themed to fit the main street U.S.A. image of the town, and are a welcome change from chain hotels and motels. Pacific Grove has over 60 restaurants, serving everything from standard food to fine cuisine, organic to ethnic, so you can take your pick.
Central coast lighthouse tours, and all the great places to stay, make exploring this part of the California coast a great way to spend a day or two, or even longer.