There are a few key places in Northern California that deserve a spot on your beach bucket list. From secluded beaches to picture-perfect spots, these spots will help you plan your next trip.
Attractions To Visit In Northern California Beaches
Secluded Bay Area Beaches
The west side of San Francisco is home to a few great beaches that will give you a different perspective on the city. You can surf, walk along the water, and even bring your dog (off-leash).
To watch the web story on this article click here
La Selva Beach in Watsonville is another one of the top beach getaways in Northern California. It is a beautiful, secluded beach with a great view. However, be warned that the currents can be very powerful here.
Pfeiffer Beach near Carmel is another picture-perfect beach in the region that has been attracting photographers for years. This spot boasts purple-hued sand, clear turquoise water, and a waterfall plummeting into the ocean.
Fort Bragg Glass Beach is another unique beach in Northern California that is worth a visit! This beach is famous for the colorful sea glass that washed up onto it. Piedras Blancas Rookery in San Simeon is a great spot to see elephant seals. You can also spot harbor seals and sea lions here.
The best time to visit this beach is between September and November. It is less crowded than other beaches in the area. The beach also has a clean campground and a great waterfall hike.
Northern California is known for its stunning beaches. It’s the perfect place for relaxing by the ocean, swimming, or just hanging out with friends and family.
Santa Cruz #1
Located on the northern tip of Monterey Bay, Santa Cruz is known for its Mediterranean climate, miles of scenic beaches and the University of California, Santa Cruz. It’s also the center of an incredibly vibrant food culture, with organic agriculture, specialty products and world-renowned wineries.
In addition to its beachy vibe, Santa Cruz offers a wealth of historic attractions and activities for visitors to explore. Take a ride on the classic Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, hike through old-growth redwood forests or discover a variety of wildlife at nearby state parks and natural preserves.
One of the best things to do in Santa Cruz is drive along West Cliff Drive to enjoy gorgeous views of the Pacific. Another favorite lookout point is Pleasure Point, which has a popular surf spot called The Hook.
There’s also the Catalyst, a grungy live music venue that has hosted many memorable shows. You can also visit the Santa Cruz Museum of Art and History or spend a day hiking in the Big Basin Redwoods State Park.
The Great Beach #2
If you’re a beach lover looking for vast, raw, and unspoiled beaches that beckon exploration within an hour of San Francisco, look no further than the 11-mile The Great Beach in Point Reyes National Seashore. It’s a prime spot for exploring and hiking because of the huge sand dunes and pounding surf.
It’s also a great place to photograph the Golden Gate Bridge. Beware though: The waves can be harsh here and it’s not recommended to wade. But if you’re a photographer and a lover of surreal sights, Bowling Ball Beach in Fort Bragg is worth checking out.
This beach features massive round rocks that look exactly like a shark fin when the tide is low. The town is a little touristy, so it can get busy during the summer, but it’s still a great spot for a picnic and an ocean view. The beach is also a great place to explore tide pools and take in the natural beauty of the region.
It’s a little further north than the rest of the beaches on this list, but it’s well worth a visit for its uniqueness. The Glass Beach in Fort Bragg is coved in little bits of colourful glass pebbles from a former dump site, which has eroded away.
Three Rocks Beach #3
A trip to Northern California is not complete without a visit to the beach. Luckily for us, this state boasts some of the most picturesque and interesting coastlines in the world. From the ritzy beaches of San Francisco to the quaint and charming shores of the Monterey Bay area, there is something for everyone in this corner of the world.
Whether you’re in the market for a day of tan or just looking for an exciting new adventure, a visit to one of these destinations will have your spirits up and your feet firmly planted on the beach.
As the name suggests, Three Rocks Beach is a gem tucked away in Half Moon Bay. Featuring wide, flat sandy sections and tall cliffs that are a cinch to climb, this is a good beach for kids of all ages.
Fortunately, there are several hotels nearby, so you can pop in for the afternoon or stay overnight and snag the best of both worlds. A visit to this illustrious locale will surely be the highlight of your upcoming holiday trip.
Baker Beach #4
Baker Beach, part of the Presidio district in San Francisco, is a mile long strip of sandy beach with panoramic views of the Golden Gate Bridge and Marin Headlands. It’s also a place where you can learn about its military history and see a 50-ton gun that was installed here in 1904.
It’s also one of the best places to take a walk or hike, because the rugged cliffs that surround it offer spectacular vistas. You can even spot porpoises frolicking in the surf. The beach is a popular spot for fishing, sunbathing and sightseeing.
It’s not a safe place for swimming, however, because it has large waves, undertow and rip currents. You can reach Baker Beach by car or with ride-share services like Lyft and Uber, but parking can be a pain on sunny weekends. The 29-Sunset bus stops here; see its route and schedule for more info.
Baker Beach is part of the Golden Gate National Recreational Area, administered by the U.S. Park Service, so public nudity isn’t illegal here, but people generally follow the practice of only swimming at the clothing-optional northern end (towards the Golden Gate Bridge).
Centerville Beach #5
If you’re looking for a bit of solitude, the 5 mile long beach at Centerville Beach County Park is an excellent choice. Located just west of the Victorian Village of Ferndale, this secluded stretch of sandy shore is framed by a bluff of impressive sandstone and offers sweeping views of the Pacific.
The area is also home to the largest sand dune in North America – an impressive sight in its own right. If you’re into bird watching, scuba diving, surfing, or just soaking in the natural beauty of the area, you won’t be disappointed.
The area is also home to an interesting landmark – the white cross on the bluff at the south end of the beach, a California Historical Landmark. The white cross is a fun way to commemorate the 38 people who lost their lives on the ship that sank off the coast in 1860. While you’re at it, make sure to stop in Ferndale, a small town with fun shops and sights. It’s a good idea to take a look at the local wineries as well.
Trinidad State Beach #6
Trinidad is a classic Northern California coastal town with redwood trees, rugged coastline and a storied history that dates back to Native Americans, logging and whaling. This small hamlet rests above a beautiful natural harbor and overlooks a spectacular coastline that attracts visitors year-round.
With easy access to the beach, you can spend your day surfing or just relaxing and taking in the sweeping ocean views. You can also go tide-pooling at nearby Indian Beach or hike to Trinidad Head for a stunning view of the town and the surrounding bluffs.
For those who aren’t interested in a day of surf, the more protected waters of College Cove offer a lovely place to swim when conditions are safe. A short walk from a parking lot off Stagecoach Road, the cove has many interesting rock formations and tide pools.
The scenic Trinidad Pier, refurbished in 2012, juts into the water and sits in the shadow of a massive rock. It’s a great spot to watch daily charter boats and whales as they come and go. It’s also a good stop for a hearty bowl of chowder and a local Humboldt County microbrew.
Monterey State Beach #7
Monterey State Beach is a popular area for swimming, kayaking, boating, and scuba diving. It also attracts kite-flying and windsurfing enthusiasts.
The southern end of the beach is also a favorite spot for sunbathing, as it provides calm and normal temperature water. Near the number 2 City Pier in Monterey, it’s a great place for families and friends to spend an afternoon on the sand.
There are several public parks on the bayfront here, including Window on the Bay Park, where sand volleyball courts and tree-shaded picnic areas can be found. It’s a lovely place to sit back and relax, and it’s close to the paved Monterey Bay Coastal Recreation Trail that runs north and south.
Carmel River State Beach is another beautiful destination that’s a great place to walk your dog. It’s a popular beach with locals, and is also one of the best spots for birding along the Monterey Bay Coast. You’ll see pelicans, western snowy plovers, and other sea and shore birds here. It’s also a stop on the Central Coast Birding Trail.
Drakes Beach #8
Known for its picturesque sandstone cliffs, Drakes Beach is one of the most popular beaches on the Point Reyes peninsula. It is also a great place for beachcombing, sunbathing, kayaking and kite flying. The dramatic sandstone cliffs were deposited in a shallow sea 10-13 million years ago, compacted and uplifted.
Erosion has revealed striations in the cliffs. In recent years, elephant seals have begun to return to the sandy beaches of the peninsula. Hunted to the brink of extinction for their oil-rich blubber, these federally protected marine mammals have been increasing in number.
Visitors are able to observe the elephant seal colony from the Elephant Seal Overlook near Chimney Rock and above beautiful Drakes Bay, or from the South Beach Overlook a short distance north of the Point Reyes Lighthouse visitors’ parking lot.
During the winter season, male elephant seals haul out on Drakes Beach adjacent to the Kenneth C. Patrick Visitor Center, and pregnant females may haul out on the beach south of that access to give birth. During these times people and dogs are not allowed on the beach.
FAQs about Northern California Beaches
What are some facts about the beaches in California?
. California has over 840 miles of coastline and hundreds of beaches.
. Some popular beaches include Venice Beach, Santa Monica Beach, and Huntington Beach.
. Many of California’s beaches are known for their excellent surfing conditions.
. The water can be cold due to the California Current, but the beaches are still popular year-round.
. Many beaches have amenities such as restrooms, showers, and lifeguards.
What is the warmest beach in Northern California?
The warmest beach in Northern California is generally considered to be Stinson Beach, which is located just north of San Francisco. The average temperature at Stinson Beach in the summer months is around 70°F, which is relatively warm compared to other beaches in the area. However, the water temperature can still be quite cold, averaging around 50°F.
Does Northern California have good beaches?
Yes, Northern California has some excellent beaches. While the water temperature is generally colder than Southern California, the region boasts stunning stretches of coastline, dramatic cliffs, and picturesque coves. Some of the most popular Northern California beaches include Stinson Beach, Half Moon Bay, and Bodega Bay. These beaches are known for their natural beauty, excellent surfing conditions, and abundant wildlife.