Beaches / Pacific Coast, San Francisco
Running the entire west side of San Francisco, ocean beach is the city's largest beach. There are lots of things to do at ocean beach beside watching the waves. One can walk unimpeded all the way to San Mateo County to Daly City and Pacifica. The water at Ocean Beach is noteworthy for its strong currents and fierce waves, which makes it popular among many serious surfers. The rapid rip currents and cold water make the ocean dangerous for casual swimmers or even for those who simply want to set foot in it, and many swimmers have been swept away and drowned as a result so Swimming is not allowed at the Beach. Ocean Beach runs from the famous Cliff House restaurant to Fort Funston at the southern border of the city and the Great Highway Bisects it. It's part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area.
Address: Great Hwy and Fulton St, San Francisco, CA 94121
Directions: Take Geary Blvd west until it curves left and downhill onto Great Highway via car or take Muni Bus 23.
yes northern california is not know for it's beach culture due to the frigid nature of it's waters and strong currents in northern california as compared to southerb california but still there are those who still do typical beach activities here especially during the rare warn weather in San Francisco where lots of babes indulge in sun bathing and tanning and are in various stage of undress (no swimming ok since swimming is not allowed in the beaches here due to dtrong currents! but surfing is allowed) hence while in baker beach, the babes become feasts for the senses for any red blooded males like me hehehe. There is a nude section north of the Hazardous surf sign but beware as there are park rangers on prowl there to arrest you hehehe.
Address of Baker Beach is: Battery Chamberlin Road, Presidio of San Francisco, CA 94129
Originally a cemetery, in 1908 most of the bodies were moved to make room for a new 18 hole golf course. Lincoln park has grown to its current 193 acres by absorbing such military facilities as Fort Miley. Today Lincoln Park contains large tourist attractions such as the museum at the Legion of Honor, alongside small monuments like the USS San Francisco Memorial and the Monument for the first Japanese ship to visit the United States. From the beautiful public golf course there are views of the Bay, the Pacific Ocean, and the Golden Gate Bridge. You can also see the ruins of the Mile Rocks Lighthouse about a half mile offshore, and the Sutro Baths and Fort Miley ruins can be explored on foot. Various trails wind through the park taking you past cliffs, overlooks, and even a few unofficialy clothing-optional sun bathing areas.
Ocean Beach is very cleverly named as it is indeed a beach along the ocean. Known for its cold water, strong undertow, and big waves Ocean Beach is a favorite for local surfers, but is best avoided by swimmers. Part of the Golden Gate National Recreation, Area Ocean Beach also borders the city's Golden Gate Park.
Famous landmarks at Ocean Beach include the Cliff House & Sutro Baths and Seal Rock. The first Cliff House was built in 1858, but has been rebuilt numerous time to its present state as a popular restaurant. The Sutro Baths were built in 1986 at the base of the cliffs north of the Cliff House but burned in 1966; the ruins remain along the rocky coast. Seal Rock is also at the northern end of the beach and is known for the sea lions that frequent the area.
Ocean Beach stretches about 4.5 miles from Cliff House to Fort Funston along the Great Highway.
When I left California, my home state, in 2001 I had no way of knowing what - besides my family - I might miss as the years passed. As it turns out, the things I enjoyed then are what I really miss now, which shouldn't come as a surprise. And no one on that list is the Pacific Coast.
Wander virtually any beach in California and you're in for a treat. In San Francisco, stop at Baker beach if you are one of the brave types who's ready to shed your trunks (though I never did) - although as I understand it only a part of the beach is for nudists.
I love the view of the Golden Gate Bridge from this spot, which is just a few meters from the Presidio, another great spot for sweepingly delicious views of this city-by-the-bay.
Wander then towards the Cliff House and you've gone from a bay view to a truly Pacific View: ocean beach stretches for many miles, starting at the turn-of-the-last-century architectural wonder that is the Cliff House and its lego-like-shops and restaurants out to a rocky bit of shore near my alma mater, San Francisco State.
Here's where you'll see the great surfing in San francisco. While the guys and gals in the water here wear wet suits year round -- I've never touched my toe in warm water in Northern California -- it's a great time watching them gear up for the challenge. There are rows and rows of cars lined up with surfers year-round.
Fort Funston is another great place in SF to get in touch with the outdoors. This is a rugged stretch of Pacific coastal headlands, sand, and dunes south of Ocean Beach. At the bottom of the cliffs there's a windy beach for good for walking and running dogs, but nor not swimming or sunbathing.
This place is especially popular for dog owners. You will always find a lot of them here, and they are OK off-leash. If you are afraid of dogs this probably isn't the best park for you, but realize that the dog owners here are generally regulars and the dogs well behaved. I've never encountered a problem.
Fort Funston is one of the best hang-gliding spots in California. If you are into this sport, you already know this. Other visitors can enjoy watching the fun. There is even a wheelchair-accessible viewing deck.
Ocean Beach which is located on the Western tip of San Francisco along the Great highway and the coast of the outer richmond and sunset districts of the city. The cliff house and Sutro Baths are situated along the coast a little further north yet still within San Francisco Bay.
I grew up in this area and still live here. As a child I remember our family going to the beach many a weekend and either packing a lunch and playing on the beach or having lunch at the Hot House which unfortunately is no longer there. Then we would go and explore Playland at the beach which was a mini theme park type area. Unfortunately years ago the city voted to tear it down and build condos. Hey, I was too young, I didn't have a vote.
I still frequent the beach almost everyday. I'll leave my home and walk down to the beach and along the great highway path up to the cliff house and sometimes farther to Sutro Park and baths and then back home. It's a long walk but very inspiring for me.
There's nothing like that salt air massaging your skin as a light breeze cools the limbs. One day I was walking along the beach when I stumbled upon a crowd of people with what looked like a horse. I didn't have my glasses on and was at a distance so I wasn't sure what I was seeing. As I drew nearer I saw that it was a camel. I have no idea what it was doing there but it was a great photo opportunity. It's almost as though the camel were having a photo shoot with all the people taking pictures. I got close enough to pet his or her fur and it was so soft and warm. That was quite a sight. You just never know what or who you're going to run into at Ocean Beach.
It's a great place to have some time away from the bustling streets of the city and just enjoy what nature holds.
There is a photo of the camel inside.
Believe it or not, bonfires are actually allowed on Ocean Beach! Alcohol is not permitted - meaning everyone drinks heavily.
Bonfires are only allowed on the stretch of beach between Lincoln and Fulton Streets. Friday nights especially you can see several fires from the parking lot.
While beach bonfires with friends can be fun, I would not suggest that you go alone. The beach is not lit in any way and many unsavory types hang out here at night - from bikers to the local Asian street gangs. I personally know several people who have been assaulted on the beach - all of whom were alone when it happened (fortunately, nothing worse than a bump on the noggin). If you go, go in a group and don't wander too far off by yourself!
(Ocean Beach is perfectly safe during the day)
***UPDATE: New fire rings have been installed! This is great actually - makes it a lot less messy. For an article about the new fire rings and fire regulations click here.
After our misty, windy, cold trip to Point Reyes, we drove south on Highway 1 to Stinson Beach. Surprisingly we had left the fog and clouds on the point, and were blessed by a magnificent sunset. We were a little late since the park closes at sunset, but we quickly lit the charcoal and wrapped the hot dogs, and fresh corn with aluminum foil. While I was playing 'chef' Sheila took the camera to the beach and captured one of the most beautiful sunsets ever! I'm sure this would have been a nice place to spend more time, but even our brief visit was well worth the drive. Unfortunately Hwy 1 was closed for repair south of Stinson Beach, so we were detoured over Mt Tamalpais, by Muir Woods National Monument, and though Mill Valley to get back to Berkeley. But even that twisting mountain road was an awesome drive with spectacular views of the city lights.
Once you get away from the mobs of the Esplenade (the area bordered by Fulton and Judah Streets), Ocean Beach really starts to show it's beauty. And by beauty I mean absence of people.
South of the Esplenade is virtually deserted until you get to Sloat Street (down near the SF Zoo), where there is another parking lot with restrooms. This lot is smaller and quieter than the lots near GGP; most of the people here will be surfers.
Ocean Beach gets a bad rap but it really is a magical place - for walking in solitude and looking at shorebirds and contemplating nature and the vastness of stuff. It's a terrible place to do the "beach thing." If that's what you're looking for you should go up to Baker Beach, or Stinson Beach up in Marin County, or the Boardwalk down in Santa Cruz.
What comes to mind when you think of your average Californa beach? Chances are it won't look anything like SF's Ocean Beach.
An average day at "OB" is gray, cold, and breezy - if not blustery. You may see surfers, but they won't be in bikinis... full-body wetsuits is more like it. You probably won't be tempted to go in the frigid waters, but if you are, be sure and read the numerous signs posted warning of the extremely dangerous undertow and riptides (these are no joke, either... people die here every year!)
Have I scared you off? Good! Then I can enjoy the true beauty of OB - which is taking a walk along the awesome Pacific shoreline, preferably during a light rain, when the place is indescribably beautiful! Watching the freighter traffic entering the bay, looking out at the Farralon Islands, hearing the crashing of the surf. This is the soul of Ocean Beach - not the crowds of gangstas and roller-blading yuppies and people yelling into cell phones who descend here en masse on rare hot days.
Between Lincoln and Fulton Streets - or, in other words, the north/south boundaries of Golden Gate Park - is the Esplenade, the most crowded section of the beach, mostly because this is where the parking lots are. If you're looking for the beach scene - such as it is - it's here. To get away from the hordes, you can walk north towards the Cliff House or south towards emptiness.
The Beach Chalet, where you can get food, is close by, as are the windmills and tulip garden - all just across the highway.
My sister, having lived in California for 25 years, assured me there were seals on this rock...all the time. The rock is actually called "Seal Rock". So I looked and then looked closer. No seals...so her explanation was...there are sharks in the area that have perhaps scared the seals away. I wish she had thought of another explanation... :((
The drive down the coast to this "Seal Rock" is breathtaking. The sights along the way are beautiful. If you've never seen the Pacific coastline, you should definitly take Highway 1 down the coast and take it in.
Well go south on Highway 1 to Half Moon Bay which is about 20 miles south of San Francisco.
You will find a bunch of seaside communities that have lots to do.
My favorite thing to do is hangout at the Montara beach and watch the waves with a cold chardonay! Go on the weekdays to insure the secret feeling of your private beach.
When heading up to Mount Tamalpais which is a common tourist destination, which by all means has a great view of the urban landscape, I personally like the more quiet and relaxing views over looking Stinson Beach for its masterful sunsets. Along with its views it has many day trek trails that wind themselves down into the valleys below if you want to dip your toes in a little Pacific sea water.
So, you're downtown in Union Square, or someplace in Chinatown or North Beach, rubbing elbows with all the other tourists doing the northeast quadrant thing in the City, right? You vaguely suspect that less than six miles from this tiny urban jungle lies the Pacific Ocean and the splendid Golden Gate National Recreation Area. You look on your map and see that Geary St. goes all the way to ocean, so you go for broke and jump on the express bus. A half an hour later you see the ocean and suddenly realize that this little exploration was worth it.
You chose right.
Most tourists don't get out to the end of the city. True, it really doesn't compete with all the touristy stuff downtown because, well, San Franciscans live out here, not downtown with all the other New York refugees and tourists. The Richmond district, where you are at this point if your following my lead, is not a very exciting neighborhood. It's typically foggy and brisk out here, and the population is primarily Asian or Russian, but it has it's charms. The Sutro baths are a great place to begin walking along the coast trail that will lead you through some of the most scenic parts of the G.G.N.R.A... Walk along past Fort Miley and find the Coast Trail that will take you to Land's End, and then past the Palace of the Legion of Honor. On a clear day, with the bridge in the background, one can argue this area easily defeats any of San Francisco's scenic attraction. It can't be beat. Keep walking along and you will pass through Sea Cliff (the Beverly Hills of S.F.) and along past Baker Beach and you will be even closer to the Bridge. After a few turns and up Lincoln Ave., you will be in the Presdio... and then, just a little further ahead...