The Northern California coastline has some of the most photogenic beaches and wonderful spots to wander anywhere in the world. From the Oregon border to San Francisco Bay Area, there are over 300 beaches that range from the wild and remote beaches of Del Norte County to the wide and sandy beaches of San Mateo County. Before making your next trip to NorCal, make sure to take a look at these 15 gorgeous Northern California beaches.
Ross Cove Beach is on the north side of Pillar Point between Half Moon Bay and the city of Moss Beach. The cove is inside the boundary of the San Mateo County-operated Fitzgerald Marine Reserve. On the south side of Pillar Point is Maverick’s Beach, the site of the annual Maverick’s Surf Competition. Above Ross Cove Beach is the Pillar Point Bluff Park with trails for jogging and dog-walking.
Photo by Richard Imes
Rodeo Beach is a wide sandy beach on the sand spit that separates Rodeo Lagoon from Rodeo Cove on the west side of the Marin Headlands in Golden Gate National Recreation Area. The beach is dark colored and made up of small pebbly stones in brown, red, green, and blue. It’s a popular spot as it is close to San Francisco and easy access for both locals and tourists.
Gualala Point Regional Park Beach marks the northernmost point along the Sonoma County Coast. Despite the name, the park is not in the nearby town of Gualala which lies across the river mouth in Mendocino County. It is adjacent to the housing community of Sea Ranch which has five stunning beaches of it’s own. The beach here is a long wide sand spit between the ocean and the Gualala River which doesn’t always breach the beach. Hiking trails meander along the estuary to the river shoreline and also out to the sandy driftwood-covered ocean beach.
Caspar State Beach is in a deep cove called Caspar Anchorage in the small Mendocino Coast town of Caspar. The beach itself is a sandy spot sandwiched by the drainage of two different creeks, Doyle Creek and Caspar Creek. In the land between the creeks is an RV campground that is across the street from the beach.
Greenwood State Beach is located in the tiny town of Elk where Greenwood Creek flows into the ocean. A well-graded trail leads from the parking area down to the driftwood-laden beach where Greenwood Creek pools at the base of Bonee Gulch. This is a picturesque spot to say the least.
Glass Beach is the well-known southern beach of MacKerricher State Park in Fort Bragg. Glass Beach gets its name from the smooth colorful glass pieces that you can find in the pebbly beach. The site was once a trash dump so broken bottles from garbage cans of local residents are now little treasures to be found and photographed (and left behind). This is a great place to take kids who can explore around but watch them near the water which can be dangerous.
Seaside Beach is just north of MacKerricher State Park where Seaside Creek sometimes flows through the sand to the ocean. A rock sticks up out of the sand at the back of the beach and can be climbed for a unique vantage point. If you are here at lower tides and want to discover a Hidden Beach, just walk to the north end of Seaside Beach and look for natural rock tunnel leading to a stunning beach on the other side.
Russian Gulch State Park, north of Mendocino, has a sandy beach below the Highway 1 bridge where Russian Gulch Creek flows into a narrow cove. Kids can play in the safe waters of the creek, but be careful in the water on the bay. Hikers will find trails that explore the headlands north and south of the beach and also the Russian Gulch Valley. Don’t miss the Devil’s Punchbowl, a unique natural feature that has it’s own parking area and trails.
Centerville Beach County Park is located in Humboldt County near the small town of Ferndale. The long sandy beach stretches from the parking area north all the way to the mouth of the Eel River. Behind the beach is a mixture of farmlands, meandering sloughs, and marshy wetlands. This is a great place to go beachcombing and bird-watching.
Moonstone Beach County Park is at the north side of the Little River mouth near Trinidad. The beach is popular with surfers and also with families that can play safely in the slow river current. It’s a picturesque beach with rocks and larger sea stacks poking up out of the surf. The large two-humped rock island known as Camel Rock is visible to the north.
San Gregorio State Beach is a stunning beach in a valley about 10 miles south of Half Moon Bay and a short drive from Silicon Valley in the south Bay Area. It has a big parking lot and a popular picnic area on the bluff above the beach. San Gregorio Creek flows down to the beach and pools before creating an exit route through the sand. This beach also has the distinction of being our top pick in our 2016 Best Beaches of California list.
These are just a few of the amazing beaches in Northern California. Share your favorite beach in the comments below.