Surf’s up, friends! Did you know that California has over 420 (no pun intended!) public beaches? It’s impossible to cover them all, but we’ve rounded up 10 of our favorite beaches that you need to visit in Northern California.
Glass Beach – Fort Bragg
Glass Beach is one of the most unique beaches in the world, thanks to the millions of colorful glass pieces that line the shoreline.
The glass was created from years of discarded trash being washed up and eventually eroded by the sea. Now it looks like a mosaic or a stained glass window more than a beach!
Today, the beach is a protected area, and visitors can collect glass only in designated areas.
Santa Cruz – Santa Cruz
Santa Cruz has been a family-friendly favorite since its boardwalk opened in 1907- that’s over 100 years!
The boardwalk offers hops, carnival games, and amusement park rides line this old-school, mile-long wooden boardwalk, and two of the amusement park rides are even listed as National Historic Landmarks: the Giant Dipper roller coaster and the Looff Carousel.
As for the beach, its wide open sand and gentle waves make for an inviting day at the beach with the whole family. You might even spot some dolphins, otters, sea lions, or whales!
Limantour Beach – Point Reyes National Seashore
Located within the Point Reyes National Seashore, Limantour Beach is a long stretch of pristine sand that’s perfect for a day trip.
With a backdrop of rolling hills and scenic views of the Pacific Ocean, Limantour Beach is one of the most picturesque spots in Northern California.
The waves are much smaller than other beaches, making the estuary a hotspot for ducks, shorebirds, harbor seals, and mother gray whales and their calves.
Drake Beach – Point Reyes National Seashore
Another gem of the Point Reyes National Seashore, Drakes Beach is a great place to spend a day relaxing and enjoying the scenery, especially the massive sandstone cliffs.
The beach is known for its strong currents, so swimming is not recommended, but there are plenty of other activities to enjoy, such as hiking, bird-watching, and picnicking.
Pfeiffer Beach – Big Sur
Pfeiffer Beach is a hidden gem located off Highway 1 in Big Sur. The beach is known for its stunning rock formations and purple sand.
While the water can be rough and cold, the scenery is unparalleled, and the beach is perfect for a romantic picnic or watching the sunset. It looks like a scene from a movie!
Baker Beach – San Francisco
Located just below the Golden Gate Bridge, Baker Beach is a popular spot for tourists and locals alike.
With stunning views of the bridge and the city skyline, Baker Beach is a great place for a picnic or a sunset stroll.
The beach is also known for its strong currents, so swimming is not recommended. Harbor beach is another spot to see animals in the wild – harbor porpoises are spotted up and down the coast of Baker Beach.
Stinson Beach – Marin County
Stinson Beach is a classic California beach, with long stretches of gorgeous white sand, gentle waves, and plenty of sunshine.
The beach is popular with families and surfers, and there are plenty of activities to enjoy, such as kayaking, paddleboarding, and volleyball.
Don’t have a volleyball? No problem! You can borrow one from the lifeguards. In the water, you’ll find surfers and windsurfers catching waves in almost every season.
Ocean Beach – San Francisco
What Ocean Beach lacks in name originality it makes up for in experience authenticity.
Located at the western edge of San Francisco, Ocean Beach is a long stretch of white sand that’s perfect for a day trip With plenty of space for beach activities, Ocean Beach is popular with locals and visitors alike, although it’s not a very touristy spot.
However, swimming is not recommended due to strong currents and frigid temperatures.
Trinidad State Beach – Humboldt County
Trinidad State Beach is a beautiful stretch of sand located in Humboldt County. In order to get to the beach, beachgoers hike through woods, across open bluffs, and past seasonal wildflowers.
With stunning views of the Pacific Ocean and rocky cliffs, Trinidad State Beach is a great place to enjoy a picnic or a hike. The beach is also known for its tide pools, which are home to a variety of marine life.
Fort Funston – San Francisco
Fort Funston is a gorgeous beach with grassy hills that lead to the sandy shore. It is known for its scenic coastal views, scenic trails, and as a popular spot for dog owners to walk their pets in the off-leash walking area.
Fort Funston was originally a military fortification built in the early 1900s to protect the San Francisco Bay Area from enemy ships. Today, the fort is managed by the National Park Service and has been transformed into a popular park with stunning views of the Pacific Ocean.
The beach is super windy, which means you’ll see hang-gliders and paragliders floating through the sky. Not something you see every day!
So as you can see, it’s so hard to pick from the best of California beaches, but no matter where you go, you’ll have a totally tubular time.
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