Visit the 10 Best Beaches in Northern California
Although it is Southern California that is known for its fantastic sunshine and beaches, there are some truly incredible beaches up north. The best beaches in Northern California offer seclusion, incredible views, and unique experiences. If you’re heading up to the top part of the state, be sure to check out some of these beaches.
Best Beaches in Northern California
Baker Beach makes our list as it is a beach super close to the hub of San Francisco. Located on the northwest side of the city, this stunning Northern California beach offers incredible views of the famed Golden Gate Bridge and surrounding Marin headlands. The beach is about a half mile long, with the northern end known as a clothing-optional beach. If you’re here, you can also check out the Legion of Honor, a beautiful museum at the south end of the beach (and up on the cliffs).
Rodeo Beach is another beach close to San Francisco. Located across the bridge in the Marin Headlands area of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, Rodeo Beach is a bit more secluded than Baker Beach. Driving out through the Headlands, you will have multiple opportunities to stop and take in some incredible views of the Pacific, San Francisco, and the Golden Gate Bridge. If bird-watching is a passion of yours, this is a great beach. There’s a spot called Bird Rock just offshore where you can see the local wildlife. You also can find some tidepools on the ends of this beach!
Gualala Point Regional Park rests at the north end of Sonoma County. It is south of the town Gualala, resting next to the Gualala River. This beach offers an ideal place for whale watching, kayaking, and hiking. There are trails for hikers and mountain bikers, as well as some barbecues to have a meal. With almost two hundred acres of land, this park and beach offer beautiful views and activities for a family. It’s one of our favorite beaches in the area, and is often quiet.
Bodega Dunes is a beach and campground run by the state park service. It’s a huge beach with Mussel Point at the south and Salmon Creek Beach to the north. The dunes offer something different and a place to have some fun. There are trails that run throughout the dunes, and you may find hikers and horseback riders during the summer time. Just north of Bodega Bay, the dunes are a great place to camp with friends or family!
Glass Beach is hard to describe. Basically, it is a beach made of sea glass, and the pictures do not even come close to doing it justice. Located in Fort Bragg, Glass Beach was made from the dumping of glass bottles in the early 20th century. If you go, be sure to know what you’re doing. The main beach has very little glass left. But if you go just south (about 300 feet), you will find the beaches depicted in many photos. Remember not to take any glass so others can enjoy the experience!
Enderts Beach is really in Northern California. Located up in Crescent City, Enderts is a secluded beach that requires a short hike. There’s driftwood, beautiful rocks, breathtaking scenery, and peace and quiet. You may see people flying kites, investigating the multiple tidepools, and perhaps choosing to go without clothing. This is not the warmest water in the world for swimming, but does offer one of the most beautiful beaches in the state.
Shell Beach is another one located on the Sonoma Coast just south of the small town of Jenner. It’s rather rocky, and requires a short hike down the cliffs. Shell Beach has some incredible tidepools, tons of mussels on the rocks, and incredible views. Because it is completely surrounded by bluffs, you have a real feeling of isolation and peace while spending time here. It’s a great getaway, the water may be warm enough to swim in, and you don’t need to go too far out of your way to get here!
Fort Funston is an old fort with a beach resting a few hundred feet below some amazing bluffs. It’s one of the quietest beaches in San Francisco, and takes a little hike down a steep path to get to. You may see dolphins, seals, and whales here. You also will likely see hang gliders, as the wind and cliffs make it an ideal spot. In addition, you can visit the fort up above to get some history on the area!
Heart’s Desire is a little beach in the Tomales Bay, just inside the Pacific Ocean. Located in Pt. Reyes National Seashore, Heart’s Desire is one of my favorite places to go. There are barbecues, hiking trails, and always tons of families out there. The water is warmer in the bay than the ocean, so swimming is a perfect activity here. The nearby park and scenery offer a great day of activities whether you’re alone or with the whole family.
Moonstone Beach is up near Trinidad (the city in California, not the small island nation). Just north of Little River, this is a popular surfing spot. The delta of the river has a slow current, providing a fun little play area for children. There are tons of rocks jutting out, making it an ideal place to take some photos. Off the coast is Camel Rock, a famous double-humped rock island. You can go kayaying, swimming, visit tide pools, and rock climbing. There are also some fun hidden caves just to north of the beach.
Russian Gulch is just north of Mendocino below the bridge. The State Park is super family friendly. There are little creeks, SCUBA divers, kayaks, fishing, mountain biking, and campgrounds. There are some awesome trails going to a waterfall, and the famous Devil’s Punchbowl, a natural feature in which waves flood a bowl through an arch. It’s really incredible and worth seeing!