Staycations: Destination East Brother Island

September 1, 2009 7:19:46 PM PDT
How does an overnight stay on an island sound to you right now? You won't have to travel far to do it. 7 On Your Side profiles a location that is just minutes away from most cities in the Bay Area, and it comes with a lighthouse, too. The East Brother Light Station is the latest stop in our staycation series.

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Just off the shore of the city of Richmond sits an island oasis. Opened in 1874, East Brother Light Station is a beacon of light for ships traveling the waters of San Francisco Bay.

Today it's also a bed and breakfast for overnight guests and day visitors.

"You come out here and you can be completely quiet -- no cell phones and all that kind of stuff ? and relax in a beautiful setting and have a great meal and great views," says author James Martin.

Lighthouse keeper Ed Witts picks up visitors on shore for the short boat ride to the island. Visitors pass a fortress-like abandoned winery from pre-prohibition days. Once on the island, guests can look forward to a champagne toast.

Hor d'ourves are prepared to complement the bubbly.

"We really cater to a kind of romantic atmosphere," says Witts. "Mostly couples come out here."

Room prices range from $285 to $415. That includes breakfast and a four-course dinner usually featuring salmon or chicken that is topped off with a creme brulee or other dessert.

All proceeds go to a non-profit which uses the money to maintain both the lighthouse and the island.

"There's 48 islands in the bay itself between the Golden Gate Bridge and the Carquinez Bridge," says Martin. "Some have ghost towns on them. There's only one privately owned."

All those islands are featured in Martin's book, "The Islands of San Francisco Bay."

Many are in view of East Brother, including Red Rock Island -- the only privately-owned island in the Bay Area and it's currently on sale for $6.5 million.

Also within view is the bird sanctuary, West Brother Island. It's also home to many mammals, and it's the darling of East Brother's innkeeper Anne Witts.

"We have the seals, the 35 seals," she says. "We had five babies this year and I like them very much."

Visitors to East Brother will want to walk up the small staircase into the lighthouse. The lighthouse fell into disrepair shortly after the Coast Guard decided to no longer staff the station in the late 60s and use an automated system instead. A non-profit group took it over in 1979.

Also not to be missed is the Fog Signal Room, but be sure to cover your ears.

Day tours are also available of the island on weekends, including an optional lunch.

LINK: East Brother Light Station

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