Not many places in California have a continuous stretch of sand like Monterey Bay. Between Santa Cruz & Monterey lies 31 miles of sandy coastline, only interrupted by the infrequent waterway, which can easily be crossed by foot. There is one exception, the Elkhorn Slough in Moss Landing cuts this long sandy coastline in half, and requires the help of Highway 1 to make the crossing.
Below are other areas with continuous beaches that don’t quite measure up to the shores of Monterey Bay.
The Pismo Beach & Oceano area has 14 miles of continuous sandy beach, and it has no major interruptions, unlike Monterey Bay. But even if you cut Monterey Bay in half (at Moss Landing), both segments are still longer. The Monterey to Moss Landing segment is 16 miles long and the Capitola to Moss Landing segment is 15 miles long. So Pismo / Oceano is still a runner up to Monterey Bay, no matter how you slice it.
Pismo’s sandy shoreline
Santa Monica Bay is a worthy contender (especially considering that you can bike it), but it only covers 19 miles of coastline and it has two major interruptions, Marina Del Rey and Redondo Beach Harbor. However, each of the two major sections are about 8 miles long each, which is still a very respectable length.
Santa Monica Bay
In Orange County, there is a 15.5 mile stretch of sand from Surfside Beach to West Jetty View Beach on Balboa Peninsula. But there are three water crossings that require you to leave the beach for a short trek across pavement to complete this journey. Any way you look at this sandy shoreline, Monterey Bay can snub its nose at it.
A typical OC sandy beach
Up north in Humbolt County there is an extended stretch of sand between Trinidad and Ferndale that is similar in length to Monterey Bay. However, it has three major water crossings, the Mad River, the Eel River and Humboldt Bay, all of which don’t have a walkable detour around them.
Humboldt’s long shoreline starts here (Moonstone Beach)
One final challenger to the sandy trek on Monterey Bay is the legendary Lost Coast Trail from the Shelter Cove trailhead to Mattole Beach trailhead. That segment is approximately 25 miles of rugged coastline that can be traversed on the beach if you schedule the hardest sections at low tides. Though seldom done, it is possible to walk the shoreline north from Mattole Beach for another 11 miles along the Mattole Road Beaches to Cape Mendocino making a total of around 36 miles and a clear winner for longest beach walk – but this is not your average beach walk. The Lost Coast is very remote and challenging so plan ahead if you want to do that trip.
If you are looking for a long, beautiful, and safe stretch of walkable sandy coastline in California, it has to be Monterey Bay. Here is a list of the 31 beaches you’ll find along the way (listed north to south).