Point Bonita and Point Reyes from San Francisco

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Postby kickstand » Fri Mar 05, 2010 9:07 am

I visited San Francisco this week with my family. It was not primarily a lighthouse trip, but I got my family to agree to rent a car for a day and try to make it to both Point Bonita and Point Reyes. The day was Sunday, Feb 28.

Point Bonita is a beautiful and exquisite lighthouse, and well worth a visit. It's in a grand location, and it's a beautiful, exquisite little structure. You can't climb to the tower, but you can visit the building and chat with several park rangers at the station and see some small exhibits.

I was extremely disappointed, however, that I was unable to make it to Point Reyes Light on the same day. The park service makes it rather difficult to visit both Point Bonita and Point Reyes in the same day (with a san Francisco start). It can be done, and I almost succeeded, but there are a lot of obstacles to such a trip.

Point Bonita is only open three days a week: Sat, Sun, Mon from 12:30-3:30. You can't access the lighthouse outside those hours, as there is a tunnel which is sealed during off-hours. There is also a foot bridge to the lighthouse, which at this time (it's scheduled to be rebuilt next year) only 2 people are allowed to cross at a time, so there is a long wait to get to the lighthouse itself, and another wait to get off. I spent about an hour and fifteen minutes at Point Bonita, from when it opened at 12:30 to roughly 1:45.

From Point Bonita, the drive to Point Reyes is something around 2 hours. I made the big mistake of taking Route 1, which is exceptionally windy, curvy, and slow. I should have taken Route 101, which is longer in distance but a faster drive. Being ignorant of these details, I decided to follow the advice of my GPS unit and take Route 1. If I had taken Route 101, it's possible I might have made it to Point Reyes sooner, but I'm not sure of that.

As it was, I arrived at Point Reyes around 3:20, which should have been just enough time to visit the light (the lantern room is open till 4, and the grounds till 4:30). But there was a catch: during the winter (Dec to April), you have to park away from the lighthouse at the Kenneth C. Patrick visitor Center and take a shuttle bus to visit the lighthouse. Tickets for the bus stop selling at around 3pm. So, even though there was a nearly empty shuttle bus sitting at the Patrick visitor center when I arrived at 3:20, I was not allowed to board it to visit the Point Reyes lighthouse.

There was an alternative available: I could have waited until 5:30 for the road to the lighthouse to open. However, since I was traveling with two exhausted, nauseous children, I decided to forgo waiting so late. My kids were feeling ill due to the windy drive up Route 1, and tired from a cross-country flight the previous day, and waiting till 5:30 would have meant a late drive back to San Francisco. The family had put up with a lot just to get me to Point Reyes. So I decided not to wait it out.

It does seem to me that the timings could be tweaked a bit to allow for families to visit both lighthouses in one day. The timing here is so tight, I'm not sure I would have made it, even if I had known about the 3pm cutoff for the shuttle (it's on the web site, but I didn't understand that the wording "Sir Francis Drake Boulevard is CLOSED" meant "You can't get to the lighthouse"). In retrospect, I would have had a much better day if I had spent my afternoon at Point Bonita and the Marin headlands, and given up on Point Reyes altogether.


Anyhow, I post this information for future lighthouse visitors who may try to follow in the future.
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Postby Weasel58 » Fri Mar 05, 2010 5:11 pm

Yeah, you fell victim to the Park service's weird schedules. The first time I went to San Fran we had to wait 2 days to get out to Pt Reyes. The park service would not open the light for a tour group of 50, believe it or not.

The only time I visited Pts Bonita and Reyes on the same day was when we had a rep from the Coast Guard meet us at Pt. Bonita at 8 AM to let us in. (It helps to know an admiral or two) :D
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