Another of our favorite stops is Point Arena, a sleepy town with a population of 449. A drive through town reveals many interesting-looking shops, which, I have to confess, we really have not explored. We are told that the bakery there is to die for, but we have not tried it. That’s because we are more driven by beer-lust than bread-lust, and we repeatedly end up in the same spot: The Chowder House at the Point Arena Pier.
The pier is small, as is the cove in which the pier is located. It does not appear to be heavily visited but there are generally a number of surfers out in the water and a few travelers who, like ourselves, stumbled on to this locale which requires a left turn off Highway 1 just as one is entering the town of Point Arena, followed by a drive of about a mile to the Pier Chowder House and Tap Room. This restaurant is on the second floor and has big windows with beautiful views of the ocean, great service, decent food, and a nice variety of beers on tap. We like to browse through the book they have on the history of the area while we sample their wares.
Our other repeat stop in this area is the Point Arena Lighthouse. This is the tallest lighthouse on the West Coast that you can walk up into. It costs $7 and is totally worth it for the views from the very edge of the continent. There is always a docent at the top to tell you about the lighthouse itself and, with luck, about the history of the area (we’ve heard different spiels from different docents). We learned that this is the closest spot on the coast to Hawaii, that many ships have sunk on this rocky shore, that the ocean is eating away this point of land, that you can see the San Andreas Fault (it’s right over there!) and that the original lighthouse was destroyed by the 1906 earthquake.
From the lighthouse you can walk across the adjoining pasture to the bluffs overlooking the mouth of the Garcia River just to the north. For more information on this historic lighthouse I’m going to direct you to another blog by a photographer who gives a nice overview of this attraction. http://californiathroughmylens.com/point-arena-lighthouse
As we turn around and head back we can’t resist the opportunity to take a walk on the Point Arena-Stornetta Public Lands, which was declared a part of the California Coastal National Monument, and thus protected for future generations, by President Obama in March of 2014. This spectacular piece of the coastline is accessed by a humble portal just a half-mile or so up the road from the lighthouse, consisting of a wide spot in the road for parking, a port-a-potty, and a small gate. Through the gate one is greeted by sweeping vistas of coastline and trails along the bluffs. It’s a flat walk and doesn’t require a lot of time but is not to be missed.
Sated by another day of beauty on the Northern California coast, we return to our lodgings in Gualala to put our feet up and observe the rituals of day’s end where the Gualala River meets the sea as we enjoy a glass of wine. We spot many whale spouts as the migration of the California gray whales is in full swing, and watch the river otters have a final frolic on the beach as the sun set over the Pacific.
You know what blows my mind about this area, besides the amazing beauty? There’s nobody here! I suppose it’s just remote enough to discourage people from making the drive, which is not something I’m going to complain about. It’s not that one doesn’t see other hikers or tourists but crowds are non-existent for the most part on this stretch of coastline. No matter how long our stay at the ocean, starting the drive inland and saying goodbye to the sea is always sad.