Point Piedra Blancas forms a rugged outcropping of white rocks (hence the name) that thrust out in to the Pacific Ocean about five miles north of the San Simeon/Hearst Castle area. Though not an area of significance for mariners in the sense of providing marine facilities, the lighthouse does serve the very important purpose of keeping mariners a safe distance offshore from the dangerous rock shoals extending west of the point.
The lighthouse itself is a white and black stone and mortar structure with a decapitated top, which is where the old lens room used to exist. A storm in 1949 damaged the room so badly that the United States Coast Guard decided to cap off the top of the lighthouse and replace the beacon with a modern electric optic.
The original structure was completed here in 1875 as a solution to the gap in navigational coverage on the coast between Conception and Pinos points. In its original form, the structure was 115 feet tall with a first-order Fresnel lens.
After the 1949 storm, a modern electric optic replaced the old lens room during automation of the light by the Coast Guard.
Use NOAA Chart 18700.
Characteristics: Flashing white very ten seconds, with a 142-foot-high privately maintained focal plane.
Shallow, rocky areas with depths of 10 to 20 feet extend about a half-mile offshore from the point, but depths increase quickly from this point farther out into the Pacific. The primary purpose of this light is to aid recreational and large commercial vessels in their passages north and south along the coast.
The lighthouse is visible from the Pacific Coast Highway (1), but is not open for tours. The original Fresnel lens has been restored and is available for viewing in Cambria, a 13-mile drive south of the lighthouse.