Beaches / Pacific Coast, San Francisco
This is a picture of me taken in San Francisco's Presidio, which used to be an army base but has always been a scenic area off the 49 Mile Scenic Drive in the North western corner of San Francisco.
Behind me is the San Francisco Bay and the Marin Headlands. Marin County is the wealthiest county in the Bay Area. There are many hidden gems in Marin County. To get there, you cross the Golden Gate Bridge leaving San Francisco. For a wonderful drive, take the Coastal Highway 1 to Stinson Beach, a lovely little area to relax at. Or to Muir Woods or Hike Mt. Tam.
If you continue up the Coastal Hwy 1, you'll find yourself at Bodega Bay, where Alfred Hitchcock's "The Birds" was filmed. It's a wonderful, tranquil area with friendly people and nice cafes and restaurants. Somewhere over there is Pt. Reyes, a place discovered by Sir Francis Drake and at one point an area claimed by England.
Eastward of this is the infamous California State Prison "San Quentin" where prisoner's on California's Death row await to be executed. Yes, in California, there is the death penalty but because of the extensive legal process, fewer than 5 executions seem to occur per year.
Just recently Scott Petersen was placed in San Quentin.
Beyond San Quentin is the Napa and Sonoma Valleys. The land where some of the world's greatest wines come from. I will recommend the Rodney Strong 2001 Merlot which costs $10 in Costco. However, cheap or expensive, you will seldom make a bad choice in buying Californian wines.
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.
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.
Fort Funston is one of my favorite places to visit in San Francisco whenever I'm in a contemplative mood. It just have that calming effect on me. Perched high up a cliff overlooking the pacific ocean, I have a birds eye view of the many activities around me: big ocean liners slicing through the waters of the pacific on their way or coming out of the bay, dogwalkers trying helplessly to keep up with their tireless canine friends, lovers walking hand in hand and sneaking a few kisses on the beach below, seabirds and sea lions trying to steal a fisherman's catch (i don't know why i find this so funny), birdwatchers watching...uh...birds, :))>, hikers on their daily strolls, and if your lucky, hangliders dancing in the sky. Yes, this is a hangliding mecca, and when the wind and weather is just right, they come to this place in droves. Someday, I will join them, :))>. Go there a couple of hours before sunset to enjoy the aforementioned activities and just to soak in the vibe of the place, then find a good spot to marvel at one of the best sunsets in San Francisco, with the seemingly never ending ocean as the foreground. Do take good care of this place for me though, because it's very fragile. Do not climb over fences and step on the plants, they're there to keep the soil from plunging into the ocean. Stay on the trails. You can get there by taking the Great Highway heading south from Ocean Beach or the Cliff House. Once you past John Muir Drive (Stop Light), you will see a sign on your right, enter that narrow road that leads into a huge parking lot. Enjoy!
If you came to San Francisco expecting to surf, one of the best beach for beginner and intermediate surfers is Linda Mar Beach in Pacifica, just 20-minute drive south of San Francisco...UNDER CONSTRUCTION
Consider driving south along California Highway 1 to Monterey. It has beautiful beaches and breathtaking scenery of the ocean. The beauty of nature is definitely the most enjoyable part of this trip. See my Monterey travel page for more information.
Hire a car and take a trip down the coast to Santa Cruz.
Its a laid back coastal town completely different than what I thought it would be.
No built up arcades or hellraising is done here, not that I could see anyway and I WAS looking for it.
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
It is not really off the beaten path, but the street southbound from Carmel to Big Sur is one of the best places I have ever been to. But follow my advice! Get some traffic information when you plan that trip.
The beach isn't something you tend to think about when you think of San Francisco, but there is one and it's not at all bad. Go right to the end of the Golden Gate park and a little bit more besides, and there you have it. Don't walk because it's a long way, but the bus will take you right to it.
You don't want to miss the spectacular views of Big Sur south of San Francisco along Highway 1. You may feel more comfortable driving north along this winding road instead of south if seeing the edge makes you nervous.
I lived in Sunset area when I was in San Francisco. My friends' apartment was just a few blocks from the seashore. Whenever she was busy and had to leave me alone for a few hours, I walked to the seaside and enjoy the sea view and fresh air.
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.
These woods just past the GG bridge and north of the city are enchanting and are a world away from the rat race that is city life.