When we say ‘San Francisco’, it’s unlikely that beaches will be the first thing that comes to mind. However, the Golden City is actually home to some gorgeous beaches, even if they’re not the typical California beaches that you know. San Francisco beaches are characterized by frigid waters and staggering cliffs. It might not be a tropical holiday with the damp drizzly fog that shrouds Northern California’s coastline in the early summer mornings, but it does add a special romance to the scenery. If you want to hang out on the beach without your winter jacket, the best time to visit would be in September or October. Here are our favourite San Francisco beaches!
1. Baker Beach
With awesome views of the Golden Gate Bridge, it’s no surprise that Baker Beach is one of the most popular San Francisco beaches. You’ll find locals and tourists alike, couples shooting their wedding photos… As well as nude sunbathers on sunny days. On foggy and windy days though, you’ll definitely want to layer up. Regardless of what the weather is like, definitely don’t go in the water. There are no lifeguards here and the currents are no joke. Facilities here include a picnic area with BBQ grills that’s tucked away behind the parking lot. There is also a piece of history here: the Battery Chamberlin, a large historic military gun installation from 1904.
2. Ocean Beach
Going on for 3.5 miles, Ocean Beach is San Francisco’s widest beach, so it rarely feels crowded even if it’s very popular. But due to its open exposure, it is also the foggiest and coldest beach here. Typically, the mist gives way to the sun around midday for a short while, before prevailing gusts from the Pacific Ocean come in the afternoon or evening. On rare warm nights, you’ll find locals hanging out around bonfires. As with almost all of San Francisco’s beaches, you should not go in the water. Seriously, Ocean Beach is one of the deadliest beaches not just in San Francisco, but in all of California.
3. China Beach
On a warm weekend, Baker Beach is going to be impossibly crowded. Which is why locals in the know would head to China Beach instead, a small sheltered cove between Lands End and Baker Beach. While the views are almost as stunning as Baker Beach, China Beach is a lot smaller, so try to get there early to snag a good spot especially if it’s sunny! But even when the sun isn’t out, China Beach is still warmer than most San Francisco beaches since it is a sheltered cove.
4. Fort Funston
If you’re a dog, then Fort Funston will be your favourite San Francisco beach. As the most dog-friendly beach in the city, there are always doggos of all breeds and sizes running on the beach, playing fetch, and generally living their best lives. For hoomans, you can hang glide from the 200-feet tall cliffs, check out Battery Davis, and pet all the good boys and good girls you can. There are also lots of trails here to explore, such as the very steep hike that’s easy down to the beach, but a bit of a torture to climb back up.
5. Marshall’s Beach
Marshall’s Beach is the most secluded beach on this list, and it’s like a mini Baker Beach but without the crowds. Its seclusion means that if you’re into nude sunbathing, you’ll find similar people here. However, the reason this is the city’s quietest beach is because it is also the hardest to access. You do have to get there by foot on the Batteries to Bluffs Trail. Another thing to keep in mind is that the beach is pretty narrow and it can be almost completely submerged during high tide, so make sure to check the tide before you go.