A Visitors Guide to the Santa Cruz Lighthouses
Lighthouses have guided mariners home for hundreds of years. The city of Santa Cruz is home to two iconic lighthouses, and many others dot the region’s coastline.
While there are so many great things to do when you venture out of your vacation rental in Santa Cruz, visiting the town’s lighthouses makes for an easy outdoor adventure for you and your family.
This guide to Santa Cruz lighthouses will guide you to these scenic and historic lookouts in and around this northern California city.
About The Santa Cruz Lighthouses
Santa Cruz is a coastal city on the northern end of Monterey Bay. It was a bustling port in the mid-1800s. Ships gathered to drop off lime, redwood, and other agricultural products. As the city grew in size, a lighthouse became necessary to guide mariners safely into port.
Two lighthouses exist in Santa Cruz — the Mark Abbott Memorial Lighthouse and Walton Lighthouse. A bike path along West Cliff Drive connects the two and several other favorite Santa Cruz seaside attractions.
Mark Abbott Memorial Lighthouse
The Mark Abbott Memorial Lighthouse now stands near the original location of the Santa Cruz Lighthouse. Its namesake, Mark Abbott, drowned while body surfing near Pleasure Point. Abbott’s parents used the money from his life insurance policy to donate a lighthouse to the city of Santa Cruz.
The Mark Abbott Memorial Lighthouse became a Santa Cruz staple in 1967. Mark’s ashes are buried at the bottom. Now, the lighthouse is the home of the Santa Cruz Surfing Museum, which overlooks the iconic Steamer Lane surf spot. The museum houses artifacts, photos, surfboards, and other pieces showcasing Santa Cruz’s vibrant surf history.
Visiting Lighthouse Point Santa Cruz
The Mark Abbott Memorial Lighthouse and Santa Cruz Surfing Museum are on Lighthouse Point and part of the Lighthouse Field State Beach area. It’s a popular place for weddings, other outdoor ceremonies, and enjoying an afternoon of watching the multitude of surfers enjoying Steamer Lane’s perfect waves.
Lighthouse Field State Beach is part of California’s state park system. It is one of only a few California State Parks that does not accept the state’s annual day use pass. The beach area is also known as “Its Beach” or “Dog Beach,” as dogs are welcome to run and play freely. The pristine Pacific Ocean beach, natural bridges, trails, and tide pools attract visitors at all times of the year.
The Walton Lighthouse is known among locals as the Santa Cruz Breakwater Lighthouse. It serves as a signal for the Santa Cruz Small Craft Harbor. Locals and visitors alike can enjoy the bike loop to visit the Walton Lighthouse and the Santa Cruz Lighthouse within minutes of each other. The Lorenzo River Railroad Bridge, another worthy Santa Cruz attraction, is right nearby too.
The Walton Lighthouse is at the north end of Monterey Bay in Santa Cruz Harbor. It is a hotspot for fishing boats, which makes light essential. A harbor light was placed on the west jetty and served as the bay’s light for roughly four deceased from the 1960s to 1996. However, the Santa Cruz community found the harbor light unsightly and wanted a more classic lighthouse design with added character.
Fundraising began, and a large donation from Charles Walton resulted in the building of a new, more aesthetically pleasing lighthouse in 2001. The Walton Lighthouse was not named for Charles, but for his late brother, Derek, lost at sea during World War II.
Santa Cruz’s First Lighthouse: The Santa Cruz Lighthouse
The port’s first lighthouse, the Santa Cruz Lighthouse, began construction in 1852, but the building process slowed due to the Civil War. Construction resumed again in 1869, and the lighthouse was first lit on January 1, 1870.
Sea cliffs later jeopardized the safety of the lighthouse, so it was lifted off its foundation and relocated north several years later. Numerous individuals and families serviced the lighthouse’s lantern room until it was deactivated in the 1940s. The City of Santa Cruz then turned the deactivated lighthouse into a park for community members and visitors from around the globe to enjoy. However, the lighthouse was dismantled in 1948 after a local carpenter purchased it at auction.
Other Must-Visit Santa Cruz Waterfront Sites
This seaside city is known for its legendary surfing waves and unforgettable ocean views. The waters are bustling with sea life, including an abundance of fish, sea lions, and more. The following are a few additional sites to see when you’re exploring the Santa Cruz coastline.
Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk
Visitors won’t want to miss the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk Amusement Park. This is a hot spot for entertainment stretching from the warm sand to the adrenaline-pumping rides. Admission is free, but visitors purchase individual ride tickets on-site.
Santa Cruz Wharf
The Santa Cruz Wharf is a 2,701-foot-long wooden pier in Santa Cruz. It’s a favorite location for shopping, dining, watching sea lions, fishing, or embarking on boat tours.
Now the only thing left for you to decide is which of the 2 Santa Cruz lighthouses will you visit first?