Saturday Outing: Cabrillo National Monument

March 31, 2007 @ 5:14 pm | Filed under: , , , ,

Or like stout Cortez when with eagle eyes

    He star’d at the Pacific—and all his men
  Look’d at each other with a wild surmise—
    Silent, upon a peak in Darien.

                   —John Keats, "On First Looking into Chapman’s Homer"


Gorgeous sunny day yesterday, perfect for an outing we’d been planning. We drove out to Cabrillo National Monument, a Southern California landmark perched on a craggy hill on the tip of the San Diego peninsula. The views are spectacular: to your east, San Diego Bay cradling Coronado Island, and on the far side of the bay, the small cluster of skyscrapers that mark downtown San Diego, and the green hills beyond. To your west, the wide-open Pacific.

The peninsula, a long narrow finger of land, is called Point Loma. You reach it by following Harbor Drive past the airport and winding first west, then south through Fort Rosecranz National Cemetery. The rows and rows of white grave markers extending on both sides of the road reminded me of Arlington.

After we entered the Cabrillo site, we parked in a lot at the base of a stubby hill. The western view drew us to the wall for a long look.



That lower road on the left leads to a beach with tidepools. It was chilly and windy on the point, and a few of us were missing jackets, so we decided to save tidepooling for another day.

A path leads up the little hill to an old lighthouse.


The Old Point Loma Lighthouse guided sailors from 1855 through 1891. Unfortunately, the site proved to be too far from the tip of the peninsula, and fog often obscured the light.

Inside, rooms have been preserved just as the lighthouse keeper’s family might have left them. The main sitting room enchanted my girls; we imagined the lighthouse keeper’s daughters collecting the shells carefully arranged on a shelf or writing letters at the old flip-top desk with all the enticing cubbyholes. It’s the kind of place that sends book ideas charging into one’s mind…

We squeezed up the winding staircase to the bedroom level, but the tower level wasn’t open to the public.

Back down the stairs and through the gate, we found ourselves facing the Bay.


Unfortunately the camera battery died before I got pictures of the Bay. The kids loved seeing the gleaming curves of Coronado Bridge, which we’d driven over on a previous outing. (Veronica Mars viewers will remember the bridge as the setting for some significant scenes involving Logan Echolls’s mother and, later, Logan himself.)


A goodish walk or a short drive from the lighthouse is the Cabrillo Visitor’s Center and a large statue of Juan Cabrillo himself. This picture is from his Wikipedia entry; there is a close-up of his face at the monument’s official website, where you can read all about Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo, the sixteenth-century Spanish explorer who "discovered" San Diego Bay.

"Cabrillo departed from the port of Navidad, Mexico, on June 27, 1542.
Three months later he arrived at "a very good enclosed port," which is
known today as San Diego Bay. Historians believe he anchored his
flagship, the San Salvador, on Point Loma’s east shore near Cabrillo
National Monument.  Cabrillo later died during the expedition, but his
crew pushed on, possibly as far north as Oregon, before thrashing
winter storms forced them to back to Mexico."

We drove by the Visitor’s Center but tummies were rumbling, and we decided to save that too for the next visit.

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9 Reponses | Comments Feed
  1. NYCTeacher says:

    Wonderful pictures! The narrative was interesting too.

    Thanks for sharing!

  2. Jennifer says:

    My brother just called from San Diego. He is complaining about the traffic right now. Great photos!!!

  3. matilda says:

    I loved your pictures. Just gorgeous…and the scenery was nice too! Thank you for sharing your lovely family’s outing.

    BTW…thanks for the tie in. Veronica Mars is one of my guilty pleasures! I could blame it on the fact that Rob Thomas taught journalism at my high school, but I never took his class. Really like the show though.

  4. Suzanne Temple says:

    Such airy blue pictures! Beautiful.

  5. xixi says:

    I love that you guys are exploring SoCal!

    the only disappointing part of this entry was not knowing what you had for lunch. But for some reason, I crave data like this… 😉

  6. Alice Gunther says:

    Wow, what a field trip!

    That scenery is breathtaking, but not half as beautiful as your gorgeous kids!

  7. MamaTod says:

    Be still my heart…the little white-blonde-headed boy…I had one of those. He grew up though and we visited Cabrillo National Monument on our trip west to watch him graduate from Marine boot camp. It was a lovely place to visit, although the lighthouse was under renovation and we couldn’t go in. I enjoyed your description of how it looks inside now. Supposedly migrating whales can be seen from this spot if the season is right. It wasn’t for us, but we were able to enjoy the tidepools. Very cool! Maybe next time we’ll see the whales. 😉 THANKS for sharing and for reminding me of a special trip for our family.

  8. Cheryl M. says:

    Wonderful photos and precious kids!

  9. LeeAnn says:

    Wonderful photos! Brings back a lot of memories. I grew up in San Diego and remember climbing that lighthouse tower and seeing the little living spaces when I was a girl. I really wanted to live there! Point Loma is one of my favorite spots in San Diego. We always at lunch afterward at the fish n’ chips place down there…Harbor Seafoods? I think.