Oakland and the East Bay area has a handful of shoreline parks with beaches and water access. These urban parks that stretch from Richmond to Alameda are modest at best and will do little to satisfy your urge for coastal beaches. If you want a true Northern California beach experience, then it is best to seek out the area’s ocean beaches. Here are our suggested beaches near the Oakland and Berkeley area (see the complete list at the bottom).
San Francisco has bayside beaches and some ocean beaches too. In the big city, we suggest heading to the western shore to find Ocean Beach and Fort Funston Beach (one of our favorites). From Oakland you’ll cross the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge to visit the San Francisco beaches.
Fort Funston Beach
Pacifica has a couple of wonderful beaches that are close together – Rockaway Beach and Pacifica State Beach. Rockaway is the smaller of the two but is good fun if not too crowded. Farther south you’ll find even better beaches but they are a longer drive from Oakland.
Pacifica State Beach
Half Moon Bay is not hard to get to from Oakland. It’s about the same distance via the Bay Bridge or the San Mateo Bridge (less than an hour without traffic) and worth the slightly longer drive to get to here. Half Moon Bay State Beach is massive and has several parking lots to choose from, but the other beaches near town are excellent too (and have free parking). At low tide you can find tide pools in HMB if you know where to look.
Half Moon Bay State Beach
Marin County has beaches of all types to choose from and they are all less than an hour away from Oakland via the Richmond San Rafael Bridge unless you hit bad traffic. Rodeo Beach is a stunning place and has other attractions nearby including Point Bonita Lighthouse and the historic military structures of the Marin Headlands in Golden Gate National Recreation Area. The small towns of Muir Beach and Stinson Beach each have sandy beaches, but Stinson’s is much larger. If you don’t mind a mild hike to get away from the crowds, then consider walking down a wide path to Tennessee Beach on the west side of Marin or hike down to Kirby Cove and a unique view of the Golden Gate Bridge.