While Southern California is the home to some of California’s most popular beaches, their beaches are often crowded and commercialized. To visit some of California’s most beautiful, and less crowded beaches, head north on Highway 1, California’s scenic costal highway.
Stretching for eight miles, Pismo Beachis one of California’s largest beaches. While it is a popular destination for many central Californians spending the day at the beach, it is still relatively uncrowned. The fine grain sand is ideal for building sand castles and sand structures. The pier is a popular place for fishing and watching the surfers. Several volleyball nets are set up near the pier for sand volleyball games. For a hearty lunch, visit the nearby Splash Café for an amazing bowl of clam chowder. An eight mile stretch of sand dunes at the southern end of Pismo Beach has been set aside for off road vehicles. Pismo Beach is located about an hour north of Santa Barbara on Highway 1/Highway 101.
Just a 20 minutes north of Pismo Beach is Morro Bay Beach another wide beach. The most striking feature of Morro Bay is the 576 foot tall Morro Rock which rises out of the bay. Morro Rock is a protected bird habitat. Beachcombing is also a popular activity in Morro Bay with hundreds of seashells and sand dollars being washed up on shore every day. There is a wide parking lot to the north of Morro Rock which dozens of cars visit each evening to watch the sunset. Some popular water sports at Morro Bay include surfing, kayaking, and sailing.
The stretch of Highway 1 that passes through Big Sur south of Monterey and Carmel is one of the most gorgeous collisions of the North American continent and the Pacific Ocean and Pfeiffer Beach is one of the prettiest beaches inside of Big Sur. The beach is sheltered by the cliffs and there are a few rock formations, including an impressive arch, just off the coast, that make incredible backdrops for photographs. Stores and restaurants are scarce along the stretch of Highway 1 that passes through Big Sur, so be sure to pack everything that you will need for the day including sunscreen, food, and water.
Scotts Creek Beach is a perfect place for families. Located just a few miles north of Santa Cruz, the beach is just a beautiful and much less crowded than Santa Cruz’s popular beaches. The wide clean sands of Scotts Creek Beach make it an ideal location for family picnics and play. Small footpaths lead up the sides of the mudstone cliffs that flank the beach providing a beautiful view of the sapphire blue Pacific Ocean.
Goat Rock Beachin northwest Sonoma County, just north of Bodega Bay, is a family favorite for picnicking, wildlife watching, and beachcombing. Harbor seals and sea lions can often be seen on the beach itself. California State Law requires a 50 yard distance between seals or sea lions and observers. Goat Rock Beach is named for the unique rock outcroppings on the southern end of the beach.
A Note on Northern California Beaches
Northern California’s beaches tend to be shrouded in fog in the morning, but usually by late morning or early afternoon the fog burns off, so bring along a sweatshirt or light jacket. The Pacific Ocean also has a strong rip tide, so swimming is prohibited in many beaches. Some sheltered bays and coves do allow swimming when a lifeguard is present in the summertime. The Pacific is often cold enough to discourage swimming anyway. Even though the beaches are often overcast foggy during the early part of the day, it is still important to wear sunscreen.