7 Best Beaches Near San Francisco

50 state stickers blog series

Written by guest blogger: Caitlyn Lunsford

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The San Francisco Bay Area has been my “home” my entire life, whether I actually lived there or not.  My family moved around a lot when I was young but I remember even as a little girl, we would visit my grandparents and I would get so excited once we reached the streets that were lined with palm trees.  They swayed back and forth in the breeze as if they were welcoming me back.

When I was seventeen, I moved out of my parents’ house in Ohio to California with big dreams of going to college for marine biology and I felt that same sense of home that I felt all those years ago, as if nothing had ever changed.  Ultimately, I decided not to pursue marine biology and became a photographer, but I still have a passion for the ocean and I visit the beach as often as possible.

Sometimes the beach was a hangout spot with a group of friends from college.  Sometimes it was a place for my husband and I to explore the world around us. Other times, it was a place for me to relax alone, while I breathed in that salty ocean air.

Today, I am going to describe a few of my favorite beaches in the bay area that stretch from San Francisco to Carmel-by-the-Sea.  All of them are located in close proximity to California’s coastal Highway 1 and will be discussed in order from North to South.

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Ocean Beach

The first beach I’m going to talk about is one that is dear to my heart. Ocean Beach is the first beach that I went to with my husband and it is where we kissed for the first time.  Three miles of sand stretches across the western coast of San Francisco, which is great for those long walks so many people claim to enjoy. It is across the street from Golden Gate Park and only about an hour walk until you can view the Golden Gate Bridge. The sunsets are gorgeous and there are always surfers out trying to catch some waves.  The only downside is, it’s in San Francisco and the weather can change quickly! Don’t forget to wear layers to stay warm in the cold wind! At night, the bonfires in the fire pits light up this beach.

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Rockaway Beach

This is my favorite secret beach, secluded behind restaurants and hotels and would be a great weekend getaway destination!  The beach itself is pretty small, but it features great rocky views and sunsets that never disappoint! There is a small lot where you can park for free and you don’t even have to leave your car to enjoy the beauty that Rockaway Beach has to offer!

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Pacifica State Beach

If you are a fan of fast food, specifically Taco Bell, this is the beach for you!  There is a Taco Bell restaurant right on the beach with a walk up window for you to place your order.  I usually opt for a crunchwrap supreme! This beach tends to be very windy, so it can be cold, but it is also a great place to fly kites.  Unfortunately, parking isn’t free, but I would say the visit is definitely worth the price!

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Wilder Ranch State Park

This state park features a historical dairy farm with live animals and hiking trails along the coast.  The Old Cove Landing Trail is a fairly easy walk that starts near the ranch and loops along the coast back to the parking lot. This is a great place to have a picnic and enjoy the ocean breeze.  There are secluded beaches along the trail, but they are a little bit of a climb down to get to the sand.

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Seabright State Beach

This is a very popular beach, but not nearly as crowded as the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk down the street.  You could easily walk over to the amusement park or to the nearby shops and restaurants. The parking is free along the street or you can pay for a spot at the harbor.  There is also a lighthouse at the end of Seabright State Beach and I saw two dolphins playing in the waves near it the last time I was there!

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Seacliff State Beach

A concrete shipwreck at the end of a long pier makes Seacliff State Beach unique.  It was built as a tanker for WWI, but the war ended before they finished construction.  The parking is $10 and if the lower lot is full, you can park in the large overflow lot at the top of the hill with beach access via a long wooden staircase.  Also, if you enjoy camping, they have a lot for RVs and trailers.

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Carmel Beach

Carmel-by-the-Sea is a cute beach town with tons of shops in the downtown area.   Every time I have gone, there have been fancy cars parked along the streets and by fancy; I mean Lamborghini, Porsche, and Ferrari. This is a great beach to relax with a good book or explore the tide pools.  After a long day by the water, I recommend getting a pizza at Allegro Gourmet Pizzeria or taking a drive down the scenic 17-Mile Drive. If you have an extra day in the area, you should definitely check out the Monterey Bay Aquarium just north in Monterey.

Fun fact: Clint Eastwood was the mayor of Carmel-by-the-Sea between the years of 1986 and 1988.

Each of these beaches hold so many of my memories and I hope that you will get a chance to make your own memories at one of them someday!  If you do, I would love to see pictures from your own beach trip! Be sure to follow along with Rachel Alvarez to read posts from some other really fun guest bloggers from all 50 states!

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Caitlyn Lunsford freezes memories like it’s her superpower in Seattle and San Francisco. She enjoys spending time with family and is always craving chocolate, adventure and a trip to the beach! You can follow along with her on her website:  www.caitlynlunsford.com or on facebook, and instagram.

 

 

This blog series will feature fine artists, makers and photographers from all 50 states as part of a #50statestickers project by Rachel Alvarez Art. You can see the inspiration for this series here: www.rachelalvarezart.com
Thank you so much for following along!

 

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