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Okay, most of these beaches you can see… but you can’t touch! Seeing them is only a tease since they are off-limits to the general public. Some of these beaches are seen by only a lucky few because they are not visible from a nearby road or the bluff above them. The old saying is “out of sight, out of mind” but the team at California Beaches can’t stop thinking about how cool it would be to take off our shoes and run around on these beaches. See the map above or the complete list of 15 beaches at the bottom of this page.

CojoBayNearPtConception Cojo Bay Beach

Several of the beaches are blocked by private property and have obvious “No Trespassing” and “Keep Out” signs. We have spoken with the California Coastal Commission about some of these beaches and even though the CCC has done a lot to open up beaches for the general public, their hands are tied with these beaches.

The two largest sections of the coast that are privately held and gated to keep the general public out are the Hollister Ranch and the Cojo-Jalama Ranch. These huge properties are adjacent to each other so they block out a huge chunk of land between Gaviota State Beach north of Santa Barbara and Jalama Beach near Lompoc. This is unfortunate as there are many great beaches and surf spots in this 20 mile long shoreline.

Another large ranch called the El Sur Ranch blocks access to three of the best beaches in the Big Sur area. No Trespassing signs and high fences line the perimeter of the ranch and keep everyone from walking on the sand at these amazing beaches. The first is Point Sur Beach, a long sandy beach which is located below and to the north north of Point Sur Lighthouse. Next is Little Sur River Beach, a huge beach at the mouth of the river that comes complete with a rock arch that you can’t see up close. And the third, Swiss Canyon Beach, has just been added to this list after we were contacted by lawyers for El Sur Ranch regarding people using the beach. This last one had a direct access that didn’t even cross their land and they still made a big stink about it.

IMG_5578 (Large) Little Sur River Beach taken through the El Sur Ranch Barbed-Wire Fence

Big Sur has several other beaches including Gamboa Point Beach that are closed to the public. The owners of another beach in the area have asked us not to draw attention to it, but we’ll tell you that it is a beautiful beach and you’ll never see it.

IMG_2271 (Large) Gamboa Point Beach

One famous beach called Red White and Blue near Santa Cruz used to be a popular clothing-optional spot that the private owners charged a small fee to access. The current owners have locked the gate and do not allow anyone in for any reason.

redwhiteblue-2d Red, White & Blue Beach

This is a similar story to that of Martins Beach near Half Moon Bay, but in that case the Coastal Commission was able to win a legal battle to force the billionaire owner to open up the gates to the public. We have been to Martin’s since then and were kicked out after stepping over the gate and walking down to the beach in the middle of the day. It’s unclear how well the Commission’s victory has truly “opened” this beach like it was in the past. Instead it appears to be closed while the legal battle rages on.

martins-beach-88 (6) Martin’s Beach

Two of the “never see” beaches on this list are state park beaches. They rank high on our list of the best beaches in California – if only you were allowed to visit them. Wilder Beach is a large beach below the old Wilder Ranch property. It is permanently closed to protect bird habitat. The other beach is one of the most photographed spots along the Big Sur Coast. It’s the beach were McWay Falls hits the sand at Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park. Oh how we wish we could walk on this beach and stand under that waterfall!

Mcway Falls, Big Sur, California Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park

Let’s hope this list doesn’t continue to grow. We all need to support the California Coastal Commission’s fight to keep beaches open as developers and private land owners fight to keep them closed.

See Related: Best California Beaches of 2016

Beaches on this map

  • IMG_8747 (Large)2

    Hollister Ranch Beaches

    Hollister Ranch is a large active farming and cattle ranch and private housing community located west of Gaviota State Park. The Hollister Ranch road and the long string of south-facing […]

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  • 20160224_181607 (Custom)

    Cojo Bay Beach

    Cojo Bay Beach is a long sandy beach near Point Conception in Santa Barbara County. The beach is completely surrounded by private property in the Cojo-Jalama Ranch (the old Bixby […]

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  • Nikkis Beach Harmony Bryce Mar2015 (1)

    Nikki’s Beach

    Nikki’s Beach is a privately-owned sandy beach near the town of Harmony in San Luis Obispo County. A private residence above the beach has the only access as steep bluffs […]

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  • IMG_2271 (Large)

    Gamboa Point Beach

    Gamboa Point Beach is a stunning sandy beach along the Big Sur coast that is unfortunately privately-owned. Gamboa Beach sits in a cove far below Highway 1. Several palm trees line […]

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  • IMG_5583 (Large)

    Point Sur State Historic Park and Lighthouse

    The Point Sur Lighthouse on the Big Sur coast sits high up on a large volcanic rock dome looking down on a long sandy beach. The beach at Point Sur is […]

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  • IMG_5598 (Large)

    Swiss Canyon Beach

    When viewing Google Maps anyone can see this lovely beach. It is the long sandy beach that’s visible when looking north from Andrew Molera State Park. The name comes from […]

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  • IMG_2035 (Large)

    Little Sur River Beach

    Little Sur River Beach is a picturesque beach on the rugged coast between Big Sur and Carmel-by-the-Sea. This is a sandy beach with dunes, drift logs, and steep mountains behind […]

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  • IMG_2446 (Large)

    Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park

    Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park on the Big Sur Coast is home to iconic McWay Falls. It’s just a short walk out on a trail to an overlook where many […]

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  • Screenshot 2014-10-30 14.09.04 (Large)

    Bixby Creek Bridge Beach

    The beach below Bixby Bridge south of Carmel, California is on private property. This sandy beach is at the mouth of Bixby Creek below a picturesque and frequently photographed arched […]

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  • Screenshot 2014-10-30 14.09.16 (Large)

    Rocky Creek Bridge Beach

    Rocky Creek Beach is below the Rocky Creek Bridge along a steep section of Highway 1 south of Carmel, CA. The creek flows down through Las Piedras Canyon and hits […]

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  • IMG_7520 (Large)

    Wilder Beach at Wilder Ranch State Park

    Wilder Beach at Wilder Ranch State Park is a natural reserve that is unfortunately off-limits to public visitation. Snowy Plover birds have made Wilder Beach a preferred nesting spot so […]

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  • IMG_7430 (Large)

    Red White and Blue Beach

    Red White and Blue Beach was once a popular clothing-optional beach and campground north of Santa Cruz, but it was closed down by the property owners in 2008. Unfortunately until […]

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  • rockport-3

    Rockport Bay Beach

    Rockport Bay Beach is on privately-owned property at the mouth of Cottaneva Creek just south of Sinkyone Wilderness State Park. The owner of the land has decided not to allow […]

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  • Elk Creek Beach Mendocino Bryce Sept2015 (6)

    Elk Creek Beach

    Elk Creek Beach is at the bottom of Elk Creek Gulch south of the small Mendocino County town of Elk, CA. This picturesque spot is a deep cove with a […]

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  • Big Salmon Creek Beach Albion Bryce Sept2015 (5)

    Big Salmon Creek Beach

    Big Salmon Creek Beach is at the mouth of Big Salmon Creek in a canyon below a Highway 1 bridge in Albion, CA. The beach is visible from the bridge, […]

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