The best beaches in Northern California are diverse and offer something for everyone. Whether you’re looking for a small family beach with easy access to the water or want to take your kids on an adventure exploring tide pools – there’s a beach here that’s perfect for you!
Check out our list of the six best family beaches in northern California and see which one is best suited for your family.
Fort Funston Beach
Fort Funston Beach is great for families with small children. There are multiple access points and the beach is dog-friendly. You can take the whole family, furry kids included.
Funstons beach is located in the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, just southwest of San Francisco. It is a popular beach for hang gliders, which means that it gets a fair amount of wind. We have had some beautiful days on this beach, but we usually go somewhere else if it’s going to be an especially windy day.
Funston beach is also known for its sand dollars, so be on the lookout while walking along the coast and enjoying the views. Dogs can be walked on the beach, as long as they are on a leash.
Virtual Tour of Fort Funston Beach
Montara State Beach
Montara beach is located in San Mateo County Coast with multiple access points off of scenic Highway 1 that runs along the whole coast of California. The beach has gorgeous sandstone bluffs, making it an excellent place for pictures and those who want to relax and enjoy the views.
There are nearby hiking trails that take you up to Montara Mountain and multiple trails that scramble across the hillside. You can even make your way up to Gray Whale Cove Beach. This
Parking is free, and can well-behaved dogs are welcomed with a leash. The beach is also popular for surfing, windsurfing, boogie boarding, and fishing.
Greenwood State Beach
Greenwood State Beach is located just outside the town of Elk, CA. The Greenwood Creek flows into the ocean here and provides an excellent picture point. The town of Elk has only 208 residents but is a cute little town off of Highway 1.
The beach access is right across from the Elk store and has a well-groomed trail that takes you from the parking lot down to the beach. Once you arrive at the beach, this is a perfect photo opportunity to catch the gorgeous dunes and surrounding hills.
One of the significant features of Greenwood State Beach is just offshore, where Gunderson Rock sits above the ocean waves. This is an excellent place to venture to during low tide and makes a great picture opportunity in a kayak. Other great kayaking opportunities in the area include Wharf Rock, Casket Rock, and the nearby Elk Creek Beach, which can only be accessed from the ocean.
Glass Beach, California
One of the hidden gems in Northern California is the Glass Beach in Fort Bragg. Fort Bragg is a cute little town of 7,000 people. The glass beach is famous because the sea glass is mixed into the beach.
The beach got to this point because it was once a trash location, and the broken bottles have been smoothed and transformed into something beautiful now. The Glass Beach makes for great pictures, but it is illegal to take any glass from the beach. Despite this being against the law, glass has drastically decreased from previous years, leaving the beach with far less glass.
The glass beach is an excellent alternative for families that want a little different beach experience. Kids love exploring the beach and finding all the other glass and shapes.
You can also hike up to the surrounding bluffs; another trail heads south to other similar glassy beaches.
Seaside Beach California
Another great beach near Fort Bragg in Northern California is Seaside Beach. This is a great beach with many unique rock features that are fun to crawl on and a perfect backdrop for any picture.
The beach has plenty of sand and has the classic slow progression out to the waves.
At the south end of the beach, the Ten Mile River flows through the beach and acts as a cut-off for dogs. No Dogs are allowed south of Ten Mile River.
No trip to Seaside beach would be complete without sneaking over to Hidden Beach. During low tide, at the north end of Seaside Beach is a tunnel in the rock that leads to a gorgeous beach on the other side.
Parking at Seaside Beach can be tricky. There are only about 10 parking spaces, and on busy weekends these can fill up fast.
Ross Cove Beach
The final beach for Northern California is Ross Cove Beach. This is located south of San Francisco and just south of Half Moon Bay airport. The beach is inside the Fitzgerald Marine Reserve.
Ross Cove beach is on the north side of Pillar Point, while just on the other side is Maverick’s Beach, which is famous for big waves and is a favorite for professional surfers. Each year Maverick’s Beach has an annual surf competition.
Ross Cove is famous for dramatic bluffs that come right up to the sand and ocean. These bluffs have excellent views for hikers and are a great place to bring the dog and get out to smell the sea.
Be sure to check the weather and tide report before going to Ross Cove, as changes can make the beach unsafe in certain situations. However, if you do go, be sure to bring the camera as the views from the bluffs are gorgeous.
One of the best places to take your family for a beach vacation is in Northern California. This area has plenty of great beaches that will keep you and your family entertained all day long!
This region offers something for everyone from the historic Fort Bragg, glassy seaside beaches with dramatic bluffs, and hidden coves. So grab those flip-flops, sunscreen, and a camera best to enjoy your family’s northern California beach vacation!
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