First, a little random fact about me: I love magazines, especially travel magazines. My favorite is Sunset which is specific to life on the West Coast not necessarily traveling. Each month when it arrives, I carefully look at every page and pour over every restaurant, retail, hiking, and travel recommendation dog-earing my favorites. Then I rip out those pages and systematically file them away for future use. As we were preparing for our recent trip to Mendocino, I went into my archives and found a Sunset article that I had saved from August 2014 on spending a day in Point Arena, CA. Jackpot!!!!
That article, plus some other online research and recommendations from friends, led us to a perfect day in Point Arena!
Point Arena Lighthouse
Our first stop was the Point Arena Lighthouse. Even if lighthouses aren’t your thing, I highly recommend a stop because the scenery is just so gorgeous! The lighthouse itself was not open when we were there, but the lighthouse store with a backroom containing the history of the lighthouse, information on the area, and a huge Fresnel lens, as well as an Outdoor Museum were all open. We paid $5/person (anyone over 12 years old) to enter the grounds which I thought was quite reasonable. We also bought some Point Arena stickers and a gorgeous snow globe (as you may know, my 10-year-old is a collector!) at the store.
Unfortunately, the lighthouse itself wasn’t open due to current Health Orders to maintain social distancing. I would have loved to climb to the top or get a tour. They do however have a 360-degree lighthouse tour on their website.
There was a very thin marine layer that covered the top of the lighthouse and gave it a mystical feel. The views were absolutely mesmerizing! From this spot, you may be able to see whales, seals, dolphins! We looked, but no luck! Also, look out for the resident cat roaming the grounds. My daughter found him within about 30 seconds of being there!
Some fun facts about the Lighthouse:
- Standing 115 feet tall, this is the tallest lighthouse in California
- This point is the closest piece of land to the Hawaiian islands in the Continental US
- You can actually stay in the Keeper’s house right on the property!
Bowling Ball Beach
Bowling Ball Beach gets its name from the many perfectly round rocks exposed during low-tide. This beach is located at the Northern end of Schooner Beach State Park.
Parking is located along Highway 1 across from Schooner Gulch Road. There’s a trail that winds about half a mile to the southern end of the beach with a ton of driftwood, some of which had been formed into little huts! We walked north along the beach to get to the rocks.
The rocks are only exposed at low-tide so be sure to check the tide charts before you go! We had a hard time finding the beach and actually pulled over to check a little too far south not realizing there was a bluff blocking our view and thought we were in the wrong place. We eventually made our way back and found the correct spot, but the tide was already coming in so we didn’t get as good of a look as we had hoped for!
Besides the perfectly round rocks, there was a lot to do. We had fun balancing rocks on top of rocks, running in & out of the waves, playing in the driftwood forts and climbing all over logs & rocks. The beaches we visited in Mendocino County were like huge playgrounds!
Because we had wasted some time looking for the beach we didn’t get to spend as much time there as we had hoped!
B Bryan Preserve
Our final stop in Point Arena was B Bryan Preserve, a private preserve committed to the breeding and preservation of African hoof Stock. They have several different tour options to see the animals. We chose a Guided Tour in an open air Land Rover. They also have a private VIP tour as well as a self-guided tour in your own vehicle.
There were 4-5 other groups with us, but we were all split up into 4 different Land Rovers. Our family was assigned to our own Land Rover (named Blueberry) which was nice that we didn’t have to share. The other groups had plastic sheeting down the center of the Rover to separate the groups.
We would drive up next to the animals and then all get out of the cars and one guide would tell all of us about the animal: the species, where it lived in Africa, if it was endangered & why, and measures being taken to grow or stabilize the population.
There were several other families with children much younger than ours. At first, I was worried that this tour might feel too young for my older kids, but I think it was just right. The guide did a lot of talking and I think younger kids would be bored, not listen, or just watch the animals. Our kids were engaged and learned a lot about the animals and even asked some great questions.
We learned about the 3 species of zebra: Mountain, Plains, and Grevy’s, and how to tell them apart based on their stripes and other features, like the Grevy’s Mickey Mouse ears! The Grevy’s zebra is critically endangered with only 2000-2500 living in the wild.
This is a male Greater Kudu – you can tell him apart from a female by his horns and the fringe hair on his throat.
The last stop on the tour was the giraffes and we all got to feed them! Our kids had fed giraffes at the Living Desert in Palm Springs so they had a been-there-done-that attitude until we actually got to feed them. Every person on the tour got a huge handful of sweet potato shavings to feed the giraffes. So instead of standing in a long line, feeding one carrot and then getting rushed along, we got a lot of time with the animals and they engaged with us since there wasn’t a constant stream of people feeding them.
Did you know that giraffes are seriously endangered (only ~110,000 living in the wild) and they are not protected as a species in the United States? In the US, only the State of California protects them as a species.
- Reservations are required for all tours
- Masks are required at all times
- $35/adult; $20/child 10 & under including infants
- Tour lasted approximately 90 minutes
- There are a couple of cottages and a carriage house available to stay in – all come with a full kitchen.
- Website for more details and to make reservations
Franny’s Cup & Saucer
There are not a lot of restaurant options in Point Arena. Franny’s Cup & Saucer is an adorable spot to grab a pastry, cookie, or treat! I really talked this place up and then we arrived about 30 minutes after they had closed for the day! Check the hours before you go because they aren’t open every day and close at 2pm (12pm on Sundays!).
Also check out what to do in Mendocino and this amazing railbike adventure in Fort Bragg!