The 10 Best Beaches Near San Francisco (Because It Feels So Good to Get Out)
We never get tired of a good beach, and lucky for us, there are plenty to go around. And while we love the easy access we have to fantastic beaches within city limits—Ocean Beach, Baker Beach, Crissy Field, Fort Funston—nothing beats hopping in the car and taking a short trip up or down the coast. So, we’ve rounded up 10 of our favorite beaches near SF…including a few you might not have discovered yet.
Editor’s note: Please remember to follow all social distancing guidelines and to confirm that beaches are currently open before visiting.
1. Drakes Beach (90 minutes from SF)
When most of us think of Point Reyes, we think of oysters, Tomales Bay and the charming main street lined with cute shops and cafes. But that’s not all there is to this stunning stretch of national seashore, and the long trip out to Drakes Beach is worth the drive. There you’ll find breathtaking bluffs and a wide sandy beach perfect for long walks. Because this area is sheltered by the point at Chimney Rock, the surf is even mellow enough to go in the water. (We hear it’s great for standup paddle boarding.) And for wildlife fans, this is one of the best spots to see elephant seals year-round.
2. Stinson Beach (60 minutes from SF)
Stinson is no secret among locals and visitors alike, and it’s one of Marin County’s most popular beaches for good reason. The sandy stretch (technically a small spit of land separating the Pacific Ocean from Bolinas Lagoon) is the place to be for families on sunny weekends—with bathrooms, showers, picnic tables, barbecues and even an on-duty lifeguard. People tend to park there all day, so always plan to go on the early side (note: the drive is all narrow, winding roads and takes about an hour from SF). And don’t forget your wallet, because there are lots of cute shops and cafes on the main drag across from the beach.
3. Bolinas (70 minutes from SF)
There’s not much going on in the quiet town of Bolinas, but that’s part of what adds to its charm. It’s such a gem, in fact, that locals have been known to take down the town signs to make it harder for visitors to find! There are two beaches here: Bolinas Beach at the mouth of Bolinas Lagoon and Agate Beach on Bolinas Bay. Bolinas Beach is popular with surfers, especially beginners, because of its sheltered location and gently rolling waves. Agate Beach, tucked away on the backroads of Bolinas, is known for the vast tide pools of Duxbury Reef and is better for exploring than lying out on the sand. Be sure to check the tides before you go—at high tide, there might not be any sand at all.
4. Tennessee Cove (45 minutes from SF)
There’s no driving out to the beach here—you’ll have to hike the two miles out on the Tennessee Valley trail to get to this not-so-secret but still secluded cove. The small sandy beach is surrounded by towering greenstone rock walls that add to the dramatic beauty of this spot. At high tide, the cove fills with water, and at low tide, you might catch a glimpse of a rusting ship engine from a shipwreck in 1853. Locals might remember the signature rock arch at the north end of the beach, but sadly, it collapsed into the ocean back in 2012.
5. Rodeo Beach (30 minutes from SF)
Nestled between Rodeo Lagoon and the Pacific Ocean in the stunning Marin Headlands, Rodeo Beach is a popular spot for locals, visitors, dog owners and surfers. And it’s not hard to see why. You can spend an entire day here and check off multiple activities without moving your car. Walk over to the lagoon and look for birds, frogs and fish in the brackish waters. Then take in the sweeping views and stroll the nearly-black pebbly beach. At dusk, hop from the beach over to the network of hiking trails leading to old military batteries in the Headlands and watch the sunset from up high.
6. Robert W. Crown Memorial State Beach (25 minutes from SF)
When we think of beaches, we automatically think of the Pacific coast, but for this pick we’re going to head east to the bay instead. Alameda island’s Robert W. Crown Memorial State Beach is a special gem that reminds us a little of the East Coast. The wide, fine-sand beach seems to stretch for miles, backed by dunes on one side and calm waters on the other. It’s ideal for families (which there’s no shortage of in Alameda) or a relaxing day of sunbathing…and it’s a heck of a lot warmer than SF’s chilly coastline. Did we mention the unbeatable views of the city skyline?
7. Montara State Beach (25 minutes from SF)
If you love the drama of the Pacific’s rugged coastal bluffs but don’t want to drive the two-and-a-half hours down to Big Sur, we recommend the short trip south of the city to Montara in San Mateo County. It’s beloved among locals (and our personal favorite) for its sculpted sandstone cliffs and wide, mile-long beach. Once you’ve had your fill of sun and sand, take the stairs back up to the top of the bluffs and set out on one of the many trails that parallel the ocean for an epic sunset hike.
8. Pillar Point Harbor Beach (30 minutes from SF)
One of our absolute favorite ways to spend a weekend afternoon is taking a trip down to Half Moon Bay for lunch at Sam’s Chowder House followed by some beach time at Pillar Point Harbor. The restaurant’s primo location overlooks the calm, protected cove. Get a seat outside on the patio, order some oysters and a glass of wine and soak up the spectacular views and salty sea air. Once you’ve had your fill of seafood, take the path right outside the restaurant down to the beach and go for a barefoot stroll through the fine sand. Here you’ll find kids playing, pups frolicking and the occasional beachgoer digging for clams at low tide.
9. San Gregorio State Beach (50 minutes from SF)
Yet another stunning beach with rugged sandstone cliffs, San Gregorio State Beach is a local hotspot about 10 miles south of Half Moon Bay that’s divided by San Gregorio Creek (which flows down to the beach, creating a lagoon popular among birds). The beach stretches about a mile south of the creek below the breathtaking cliffs. North of the creek you’ll find caves and fossils in the cliffs to explore. We recommend a stop at the famous San Gregorio General Store (which just kicked off a calendar of outdoor live music again) to pick up provisions for a picnic atop the bluff before you venture down to the beach.
10. Pescadero State Beach (55 minutes from SF)
Picturesque bluffs, large dunes, rocky coves, a rock arch and a wide stretch of sand north of the Highway 1 bridge—there’s nothing Pescadero State Beach doesn’t have. South of the bridge you’ll find a series of small, circular coves that are only accessible at low tide (so be sure to know tide timing before you wander out), and at the mouth of Pescadero Creek, there’s a natural rock arch that you can walk through at low tides. Make sure you stop off at Arcangeli Grocery in the town of Pescadero on the way to pick up a loaf of the market’s famous garlic herb & artichoke bread for a perfect day at the beach.
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