Located just west of the city of San Diego, California's Cabrillo National Monument sits at the tip of the Point Loma Peninsula. Forming a protective barrier at the entrance to the San Diego Bay, the peninsula was once home to a military base known as Fort Rosencrans as well as a number of gun batteries, thanks to its strategic location.
No longer a military reserve, the Point Loma Peninsula is now home to a variety of other attractions, including the Cabrillo National Monument, named for European explorer Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo, thought to be the first European to set foot on what later became the west coast of the United States. The memorial was established in 1913 and is situated in a location on the peninsula that provides an excellent view of the bay, the Pacific Ocean, downtown San Diego, and even neighboring Mexico.
The Old Point Loma Lighthouse, first lit in 1855, is also part of the Cabrillo National Monument. Extinguished in 1891 in favor of a new lighthouse, it has been remodeled to resemble its original appearance and can be enjoyed on a self-guided tour or via one led by an onsite park ranger. Displays about the lighthouse's history are also on hand.
Though Cabrillo National Monument is near a busy urban area, there are still plenty of outdoor activities to enjoy on this attractive stretch of land. Hiking on the 2-mile scenic Bayside Trail allows visitors to explore the coastal sage scrub habitat, an endangered ecosystem. An easy trail that can be enjoyed by all, it also provides great views of the area. Bicycling can also be enjoyed along Cabrillo Memorial Drive, which is not generally heavily traveled.
During the winter months, specifically December through February, the Point Loma area is a wonderful place for whale watching. This is migration season for gray whales and it's not unusual to catch a glimpse of huge schools of these majestic marine animals. Whale watching boat tours are available on the mainland but it's often possible to see the whales from land near the Cabrillo National Monument.
The park has a rocky intertidal area where kids and adults can explore tidepools during certain times of the year, generally the winter months. With an average temperature of 70 degrees year round, exploring here is always a treat and it's rarely too cold to splash in the water.
Birdwatching is popular here as well and a number of avid photographers come to the Cabrillo National Monument area and Point Loma to take pictures of the many varieties of birds that make their home here or make a stop on their way elsewhere. The sunsets are also spectacular, so photographers should make it a point to arrive around dusk for some excellent pictures.