San Diego, Calif., is one of the country’s most desirable destinations with fantastic beaches, challenging golf courses and an endless array of restaurants and nightspots. Then there is the world-class San Diego Zoo, Sea World, and the suite of museums at Balboa Park, to name just a few highlights.
Tucked away among all these shiny objects is the Cabrillo National Monument, a beautiful Spanish treasure just a few miles west of downtown San Diego on the end of Point Loma. Those RVers who take the time to explore it will head back home with the complete story of this region’s history.
The Point Loma Peninsula hangs southward from the mainland like an arm dangling into the Pacific Ocean; the entrance to San Diego Bay begins along its inseam. Archeological records indicate that the peninsula was inhabited as long as 7,000 years ago. The Spanish constructed Fort Guijarros on the peninsula in 1797, the United States set aside some of the land for a military reservation in 1852, and today more than 86,000 veterans and dependents are interred at Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery. The road that leads to the national monument is part of San Diego’s 59-mile Scenic Drive.
Sailing under a Spanish flag, Portuguese explorer Juan Rodriquez Cabrillo, however, could not rely on scenic drives, maps or GPS to navigate what would later become the west coast of California. Cabrillo relied instead on an astrolabe. Disembarking from the San Salvador in 1542, Cabrillo and his crew became the first Europeans to explore the region. Ranger-guided programs, films and an exhibit called the “Age of Exploration” in the Visitor Center describe the life and travels of Cabrillo.
Visitors need not be history buffs, however, to appreciate the national monument. The spectacular views of the ocean and San Diego are worth the excursion. A short walk from the Visitor Center delivers travelers to the Old Point Loma Lighthouse, built in the 1880s and restored to its original luster. Visitors should allow time enough to experience the interactive exhibits and to explore the nearby historic military building, which houses an exhibit called “They Stood the Watch.”
In January and February, visitors may spot whales from the Whale Overlook, south of the lighthouse; and the 2-mile scenic walk is best taken in spring, when wildflowers are in bloom.
Cabrillo National Monument 619-557-5450, nps.gov/cabr