6 beaches near San Francisco: Where to go for sun, sand, and surf

Published by: BouncePosted
Beaches near San Francisco

Located on the magnificent San Francisco Bay on the shores of the Pacific Ocean, San Francisco may be one of the most legendary cities in the United States, but it also has an astonishing range of beaches to visit. San Francisco may not have the stretches of golden sand you'll find further south closer to Los Angeles, but the city represents a transitional zone between sunny Southern California and the more rugged coastline you'll find further north in Oregon and Washington. As a result, the beaches around San Francisco can be stunningly beautiful, and whether you want soft sand and fun amenities or dramatic scenery and isolated rocky coves, you can find them without going far from the city itself.

Visiting San Francisco beaches can also give you a more authentic experience of the city. Beyond the tourist crowds of Fisherman's Wharf, the best beaches in San Francisco can help you to see the city more like a local. Plus, they can make for cheap days in what is widely known as an incredibly expensive city.

You can make your visit to the San Francisco Bay Area easier by dropping off your bags at a Bounce luggage storage in San Francisco. By partnering with local businesses, Bounce provides luggage storage in hundreds of cities around the world. With no restrictions on the size of items we can accommodate, you can store a surfboard, scuba gear, or anything else you need to enjoy the waters of northern California in any way you want.

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Ocean Beach in San Francisco

Ocean Beach

Located on the west side of the city where the California coast meets the crashing waves of the Pacific Ocean, Ocean Beach is one of the best-known and most popular of San Francisco's beaches. Situated next to Golden Gate Park and part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, this San Francisco beach couldn't be more convenient for the city. And while swimming is not recommended here due to the cold water and dangerous rip currents of the Pacific Ocean, it's still a beautiful place to explore while you're in the city.

Travel distance from San Francisco:

Ocean Beach occupies the entire western side of San Francisco itself, so it's really no distance at all from the city. Bordered by the Great Highway and offering views of the Golden Gate Bridge, this beach is as much a part of the city as Union Square and the iconic cable cars.

Activity recommendations:

Surfing: The crashing waves of Ocean Beach make it a great location for surfing, but you'll want to have some experience under your belt before you take on the breaks here. Still, if you are a competent surfer, this is a great place to surf, and the fact it's within one of the most popular cities in the entire US only makes it more special.

Beach Chalet: One of the most iconic structures on the six-mile length of Ocean Beach, this famous building dates back to 1925 and houses the Golden Gate Park Visitor Center. That makes it a great place to visit to get a sense of what there is to do in the area. The chalet is also home to two restaurants that offer some of the best views in the San Francisco Bay Area - which, given the competition, is saying quite a lot.

San Francisco Zoo: Not many beaches can claim to have a state-of-the-art zoo, but that's just one of the things that makes Ocean Beach exceptional. San Francisco Zoo is home to charismatic animals like polar bears, gorillas, and snow leopards, so it's a great place to visit with the family and learn more about the conservation of these magnificent animals.

Because Ocean Beach isn't really suitable for swimming, there's no pressure to visit in the summer. Yes, the warm months are ideal for stretching out on a towel and catching some rays, but the dramatic scenery of the beach also offers a raw and rugged beauty during winter storms. Plus, San Francisco itself is right there, so you can always warm up at a restaurant or bar after visiting this most iconic of San Francisco beaches.

Best beaches near San Francisco

Baker Beach

Located in the north of the city in the Presidio, Baker Beach offers a scenic vista you won't find anywhere else on earth. At the south end of the Golden Gate Bridge, Baker Beach offers phenomenal views of this famous landmark, along with a laid-back vibe that will make you feel like you're much further from the city than you really are.

Travel distance from San Francisco:

Baker Beach is located within the city of San Francisco itself. Part of the much-loved Presidio, this beach is about as central to the city as beaches get.

Activity recommendations:

Photography: The golden sand of Baker Beach sits almost directly underneath the Golden Gate Bridge. The famous red bridge is one of the most recognized landmarks in the world, and Baker Beach is an ideal place to photograph the bridge from, especially at sunset when the red towers are lit up by the fading sun. If you're lucky, you may also spot marine wildlife from here, like dolphins and thresher sharks, so bring a long-distance lens if you have one.

Hiking: With the Presidio right behind it, Baker Beach is easily one of the best beaches near San Francisco for hiking. Once you've walked the beach itself, it's easy to embark on one of the many trails through the Presidio and enjoy more incredible views, along with the rich history of this former military outpost.

Like Ocean Beach, Baker Beach is a great place to visit at any time of year. It's not a good place for swimming, but the gorgeous views and great nearby attractions mean there's really no bad time to enjoy the San Francisco Bay from here. Wrap up warm in the winter, and you'll have one of the best beaches in San Francisco, if not all to yourself, then at least a lot less crowded than it is in the summer.

Aquatic Park Cove in San Francisco

Aquatic Park Cove

Beaches and history don't always go together, but at Aquatic Park Cove, they definitely do. One of the best beaches in San Francisco for history buffs, you can enjoy the beauty of the Pacific Ocean and also learn more about the past at one of the most unique San Francisco beaches.

Travel distance from San Francisco:

Located at Fisherman's Wharf just a few blocks from the famous Pier 39, Aquatic Park Cove is practically located in downtown San Francisco. You can easily walk here from many of the city's top tourist attractions. You can even reach it on the Hyde Street cable car line, which is about as San Francisco as it can possibly get.

Activity recommendations:

Hyde Street Pier: Many historic ships are moored at this pier, so if you want a break from the narrow beach, you can travel back in time by visiting some of these vessels. Check out the Eureka Steamboat, the 1886 square-rigger Balclutha, and a paddlewheel tugboat to learn more about the history of shipping in this area.

San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park: This historical park features a museum that explains the history of shipping in the area. Ocean navigation has been central to life in San Francisco from its very beginnings as a city, so learning about this history is, in many ways, learning more about the entire city, too.

This historic beach, with its views of Alcatraz prison, is a great place to visit at any time of year. You won't want to swim in the winter, and perhaps not even in the summer, but there are enough attractions in Aquatic Park Cove to keep you happy whenever you visit.

Mile Rock Beach in San Francisco

Mile Rock Beach

Another of the extraordinarily beautiful beaches in San Francisco, Mile Rock Beach is the perfect place to soak in the view and enjoy beach life without traveling far from the city. Sitting at the foot of dramatic cliffs and offering stunning views across San Francisco Bay, Mile Rock Beach is indisputably part of the city, but it feels like a long way away.

Travel distance from San Francisco:

Located at the northern end of Lincoln Park, Mile Rock Beach is easily accessible by car or by public transit. You could even take a walk through the park with the beach as your final destination, making this one of the most accessible San Francisco beaches despite its remote feel.

Activity recommendations:

Hike the Coastal Trail: The half-mile-long coastal trail leads from Mile Rock Beach to Lands End. As it makes its way along the coast, it winds through cypress trees and provides incredible views of the Golden Gate Bridge and nearby San Francisco beaches. There's even a stone labyrinth on the cliffs above the beach, which provides exceptional views and an almost mystical environment to enjoy.

Explore the shipwrecks: The rocky coast of San Francisco isn't always kind to ships, and there are no fewer than three shipwrecks just off Mile Rock Beach. The wrecks are exposed at low tide, making this already atmospheric place even more haunting.

China Beach: Another great San Francisco beach that's within easy walking distance of Mile Rock, China Beach gives incredible views of the Marin Headlands from its sandy shore.

Half Moon Bay State Beach

Half Moon Bay State Beach

Just to the south of the city, this beautiful beach backed by a California redwood forest makes an incredible place to visit. Easily one of the best beaches in San Francisco, this is one not to miss.

Travel distance from San Francisco:

It's just 27 miles from downtown San Francisco to Half Moon Bay State Beach. The drive will take around 35 minutes.

Activity recommendations:

Dunes Beach: Half Moon Bay comprises several different beaches, with Dunes Beach forming one of the northern ones. It can be a difficult climb through the dunes to access this beach, but that helps keep the tourist crowds away.

California Coastal Trail: Winding along the coastal bluffs, this trail is the perfect way to see many of the beaches of this area and enjoy some incredible scenery. You'll also get plenty of fresh air straight from the ocean.

McClures Beach at Point Reyes National Seashore

McClures Beach

This idyllic beach lies outside the city but is undeniably one of the most scenic beaches near San Francisco. Part of the celebrated Point Reyes National Seashore, this beautiful beach makes a phenomenal place to explore from the city.

Travel distance from San Francisco:

Found 60 miles north of San Francisco, McClures Beach takes about an hour and a half to reach by car. If possible, take the scenic route by driving over the Golden Gate Bridge as you leave the city.

Activity recommendations:

Hiking: Surrounded by the National Seashore, the beach is great for exploring hiking trails. Wherever you go here, you'll be treated to another beautiful vista.

Explore the tide pools: The rugged rocks and cliffs of this beach make it a great place for tide pools. When the tide's out, encounter the fascinating creatures that live in this unique environment.


Whether you're looking for a day trip or the best weekend trips from San Francisco, these beaches can give you a fantastic time. There are many beautiful beaches in San Francisco itself and even more in the surrounding countryside, so don't be afraid to go exploring. Plus, it's free to visit these beaches, which can really help your dollars stretch further when visiting San Francisco on a budget.

Leave your bags behind at a convenient luggage storage and explore some of the San Francisco beaches for yourself. The natural environment is part of what makes the city so incredible, so don't neglect it on your next California trip.

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