Playing Lighthouse Keeper: A Night at East Brother

For someone who is wholly stressed out by planning surprises, it seems I do plan quite a lot of them – case in point: This year, I decided to do a “surprise” trip for the Boy’s birthday. Hey, if there’s one thing that makes the stress of a surprise worth it, it’s doing it for someone you love. Now, I say “surprise” because the Boy knew we were going somewhere – I had to get his frequent flyer number, after all – and he know it was somewhere not far away. Eventually, he figured out it was the Bay Area, but not until we got within sight of the East Brother Light Station did he realize that the true surprise was our hotel – which was, in fact, a Victorian-lighthouse-slash-B-&-B located in between the San Francisco and San Pablo Bays.

Lighthouse Panorama

Now, we had a great time on the gorgeous little windy island with our wonderful B&B hosts, but I still have a few warnings for you should you choose to undertake this journey yourself – and oh, it is a JOURNEY.

First off: The boat to the lighthouse leaves from the San Pablo Yacht Harbor, which is ridiculously difficult to get to – we ended up catching a rather expensive taxi from the nearest rail station (Richmond), which we then had to pay for in cash because there isn’t exactly service at the Harbor (or really at the lighthouse). This lack of service made it even more difficult to get OUT of the Harbor – we managed an Uber, but it took some time and our driver/savior was quite dismayed by the pickup location. The other guests all had cars, so that seemed like the way to go, but failing that setting up transportation in advance would be highly encouraged.

Waiting Area

Once you make it to the harbor, Bryan, who is Innkeeper of East Brother along with his partner Stephanie, takes you over the water to the Island – a fun and windy boat trip (thrilling!) that kicks off the series of gorgeous views that define a stay at East Brother. Case in point – this was the view from our cozy room on the second floor (do note that not all the rooms have private bathrooms – the Marin Room did, and it was an excellent room).

View from East Brother
East Brother Guest Room

We were welcomed with cocktails, followed by some time to explore before Stephanie and Bryan served us a delicious dinner that included salad, a tomato flatbread, and an incredible salmon followed by a tender plum cake. It would be good to note here that all the guests (there were ten of us, I think) dine together, and we were the youngest by probably at least 25 years – no problem for us, as everyone was super sweet and it’s always interesting to meet new people, but I imagine not everyone’s cup of tea.


After dinner, it was time for the main entertainment on the Island – the incredible sunset. It didn’t hurt that the wine was flowing, though not enough to make me totally immune to the chilly winds whipping about.

We may or may not have then taken the rest of an open bottle of wine up to our room for Rummikub, which I may or may not have lost miserably. Ah, well, only history can say…

The next morning, there was a breakfast big enough to give dinner a run for its money, a demonstration of the old-fashioned fog signal (they have a whole sort of mini-museum including an old fashioned lighthouse lens that you can touch and examine), and some more time to wander the Island taking in the views before we were returned by boat to the Harbor.

In the end, it was a lovely little mini-vacation – Bryan and Stephanie were so lovely, and when else do you get to stay in a LIGHTHOUSE? (And even get to climb the tower to look at the light in the nighttime – but not directly at it, that ish is BRIGHT.) I’d probably say one night is the perfect amount of time to stay, because there isn’t exactly a ton to do on the Island (though depending on how much you enjoy relaxing and a good book, you might disagree). Anyway, you can check out their website and decide if lighthouse vacationing is for you – we, at least, can recommend it.


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