Sweetheart Al had a big birthday last weekend, one that ends in a zero.
Because I wanted to do something really special to celebrate it, I researched interesting and unusual places.
And I found what I was looking for in East Brother Island.
This three-quarter acre island with its historic lighthouse stands in San Pablo Strait – the two-mile wide waterway connecting San Francisco Bay with San Pablo Bay.
Just a half-hour from downtown San Francisco, the place seems peacefully afloat, encircled by a white picket fence with the music of waves washing up all around. Sailboat’s white triangles mix with bustling ferries and tugs on the deep blue waters, while gulls, cormorants and pelicans glide from the nearby West Brother Island.
The other guests and we were picked up by boat from Point San Pablo Yacht Harbor. When we got to East Brother Island, we climbed up a metal ladder about 10 feet to the island receiving raft. From there we hiked a long, steep set of stairs to the island proper.
What we discovered was a living museum that we got to explore, photograph and enjoy. Not only the lighthouse, but the entire island is maintained in working condition.
Not far from the 1870s Victorian lighthouse, stood the fog signal building and workshop, the water tank, cistern and rain catchment basin. And for 360-degrees we were treated to breath-taking views: San Francisco’s skyline, Mount Tamalpais, the Marin coastline and the Richmond Bay Bridge.
The East Brother Island Lighthouse has been active for more than 130 years.
And we got to climb to the top anytime we wanted. How cool is that!
Eight other people shared the island and lighthouse with us. Another couple was also celebrating a birthday. One couple was celebrating a first anniversary. Two women, who had been friends since elementary school in Michigan, were at the lighthouse as part of their yearly reunion. And a couple from Half Moon Bay was just taking a special weekend away from home.
Innkeepers Ed and Anne Witts welcomed our group with a generous champagne and hors d’oeuvre spread. They also served a lavish four-course gourmet dinner and an equally elegant breakfast the next morning.
During the dinner, we all took a break to go outside and watch the sun set. The evening was unusually clear and cameras clicked repeatedly as the sun sank, spraying its golden light like confetti across the waters.
The next morning, before breakfast, we delighted in a sea lion that had climbed onto the rocks on the north side of our island.
And after breakfast, Ed took us all into the fog signal building, fired up the generator, which powered the air compressors, and set the mighty diaphone fog signal roaring back to life. Thrilling!
If you didn’t love the lighthouse with its gingerbread design, then you loved the still-working historical equipment in the fog signal building. Everyone basked in the peace and beauty of this historical hideaway.