Only 20 miles south of Oregon, sea-faring Crescent City is home to the northernmost of California’s lighthouse stations. Overlooking the town’s harbor, the 1856 Battery Point Lighthouse, built with 22-inch/56-cm-thick slabs of granite, sits on a tiny island that can only be reached on foot at low tide. When the water recedes, visitors walk across the causeway, climb the narrow spiral staircase to the lamp room, then crawl up a ladder and through a trap door for a spectacular 360-degree view. A few miles away is Crescent City’s other lighthouse at St. George Reef, 6 miles/9.6 kilometers offshore. It was built after the 1865 shipwreck of the Brother Jonathan, which carried passengers and rumored to hold 1.5 tons/1,361 kilograms of gold coins and bullion, much of which has never been recovered. See the lighthouse from the public walking trails along the bluffs at Point St. George. Its original first-order Fresnel lens can be viewed at the Del Norte County Main Museum.
After getting your fill of lighthouses, wander the Crescent City waterfront and marvel at how this city was entirely rebuilt after a devastating tsunami in 1964 (you’ll see tsunami warning signs all over town). At Ocean World aquarium, the sea lions balance balls and play catch with visitors, while at the Northcoast Marine Mammal Center, injured elephant seals and sea lions get some TLC and healing time before being released back to the wild. Call ahead to find out the pinnipeds’ feeding time, the most interesting time to visit. On the town’s west end is oceanfront Pebble Beach Drive with easy access to Pebble Beach, a great place to search for agates and other semi-precious gemstones.