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The beaches of California provide a world-class landscape for taking photos. Both professional and hobby photographers love capturing the Golden State’s crashing waves, sandy shores, seaside cliffs, piers, and palm trees on camera. You don’t even need an expensive Nikon DSLR – you can get albums of stunning photos by just using your trusty old iPhone.

Whether you’re looking to fill your portfolio or just to capture the perfect shot for Instagram, these shorelines across the state are especially picture perfect. They’re photogenic on camera, but of course nothing ever really compares to getting to see them in person.

Bowling Ball Beach

photography John Fowler on Flickr

photography Bob Dass on Flickr

On the north end of Schooner Gulch Beach near Point Arena, Bowling Ball Beach has massive round rocks across the shore that look like – you guessed it – giant bowling balls. When the tides are low, you can get surreal pics of these enormous rocks, and also explore the tide pools.

Shark Fin Cove

Santa Cruz Shark Fin Cove

When California’s oceanside beauty meets Jaws, you get this striking beach with a rock formation off-shore that looks exactly like a shark fin. It’s just off Highway 1, south of Davenport, and relatively easy to reach by way of a .3-mile walk.

Flat Rock Beach


Flat Rock Beach, a sandy stretch of shoreline below the bluffs of La Jolla’s Torrey Pines, has plenty of natural beauty you’ll want to get photos of. There’s dramatic seaside bluffs, a huge sandstone fin, a flat rock you can sit on at low tide, and of course, mesmerizing ocean views.

Pfieffer Beach


Pfeiffer Beach is a prime example of Big Sur’s wild beauty, with lots of great photo ops all day and evening. A giant rock sits off-shore with an arch through its base, known as “Keyhole Arch”, that you can capture both light and waves crashing through. The radiant colors at sunset here will just add all the more color to your shots.

Heisler Park, Laguna Beach

Spanning along oceanside bluffs, Heisler Park provides a dream landscape for both photography and cozy beach picnics. The park also has walking trails, gardens, tide pools, creative benches, and palm-tree lined beaches with Pacific views that are all just as beautiful behind the lens.

Natural Bridges State Beach

Read more about Natural Bridges State Beach

As you can probably tell from the name, Natural Bridges State Beach has endless photo ops with this massive natural rock arch that sits off-shore. You can snap pretty shots of the waves crashing through, or come in the evening to capture the vivid shades of pink, purple, and blue by sunset.

El Matador Beach

Read more about El Matador

Near Malibu, El Matador shows off some of California’s most stunning oceanside beauty with sea stacks, sea caves, and by evening, the most radiant sunset hues. Visitors can find bluff-top parking available, along with a trail & stairs (pictured above) that leads you down to the beach.

Related: The Hidden Beaches of Malibu

Huntington Beach

Read more about Huntington City Beach

With a brilliantly-designed pier, up-front ocean views, and fiery red and orange colors by evening, Huntington Beach is without doubt one of Southern California’s most breathtaking landscapes to photograph. The pier marks the middle of the sandy, three-and-a-half-mile beach, but you can go for a long walk in both directions to get away from the crowds.

To be fair, you can’t go wrong with photographing any beach in the beautiful state of California. What do you think – where are some of your favorite places to take photos?

Beaches on this list

  • Bowling Ball Beach

    Bowling Ball Beach is located at the northern end of Schooner Gulch State Beach. If the tide is out it’s hard not to notice the large round rocks that resemble […]

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  • Schooner Gulch State Beach

    Schooner Gulch Beach is the southern beach in Schooner Gulch State Beach State Park. This beach is in a sandy cove where Schooner Gulch Creek pours into the Pacific and […]

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  • Davenport Beach

    Davenport Beach, a.k.a. San Vicente Beach, is the southern beach of two beaches right in the little town of Davenport, California. This beach is easily accessible and the other one […]

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  • Davenport Cove & Shark Fin Beach

    This is a sandy beach in a small but deep cove south of the town of Davenport. Davenport Cove is locally known by several different names including Shark Fin Cove […]

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  • Flat Rock Beach at Torrey Pines

    Flat Rock Beach at Torrey Pines State Beach requires a long walk to get to, but it’s worth the effort. This is a sandy beach below steep bluffs in the […]

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  • Torrey Pines State Beach – North Beach

    North Beach at Torrey Pines State Beach is on the north side of the lagoon entrance at Los Penasquitos Marsh Natural Preserve. The lagoon and wetlands are excellent for bird-watching. […]

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  • Torrey Pines State Beach – South Beach

    South Beach at Torrey Pines State Beach is just south of the creek mouth that flows from Los Penasquitos Marsh Natural Preserve in north La Jolla. There is a large […]

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  • Pfeiffer Beach

    Pfeiffer Beach in the Big Sur area is definitely off the beaten path, but well worth the drive. Just south of Big Sur Station on Highway 1 there is unsigned […]

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  • 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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  • Picnic Beach at Heisler Park

    Picnic Beach is the northern beach of Heisler Park in Laguna Beach, CA. The park above the beach offers grassy areas to spread out on and many picnic tables as […]

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  • Natural Bridges State Beach

    Natural Bridges State Beach is named for the natural arch in the huge rock located in the shore break here. This is one of the most photographed beach icons in […]

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  • El Matador State Beach

    El Matador Beach is one of three beaches within Robert H. Meyer Memorial State Beach. El Matador is the most popular of the three and the closest to Malibu. The […]

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  • Huntington City Beach

    Huntington City Beach is the center of a long stretch of sandy waterfront for the city of Huntington Beach, CA. This huge asset and the fact that surf’s up regularly […]

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