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Best Beaches Near San Francisco

Jeff Howard January 7, 2020

San Francisco isn’t necessarily known for its surf, sand, or sun, but moderate winter temperatures make for an excellent beach day this time of year. Recently, we focused on the most peaceful places in SF and some of these lovely beaches offer a similar experience while others attract hoards of daily visitors. Let’s visit all the best beaches near San Francisco to see where you should plan your next seaside outing!

Ocean Beach


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San Francisco’s largest and most well-known beach is certainly the 3.5 mile long Ocean Beach on the city’s western edge. While the coastline typically receives plenty of fog rolling in from the Pacific Ocean, winter days tend to be clearest, driest, and most picturesque. Although dangerous for casual swimmers, the cold water is one of the Bay Area’s top surfing spots and the beach is excellent for bonfires, games, or dog-walking. Near the famed Cliff House and Sutro Baths, this beach is one of multiple we will mention that is part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area.

Mile Rock + Seal Rocks Beaches


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If you’re interested in taking the scenic hike to the Lands End Labyrinth from the Sutro Baths visitor center, each of these quaint beaches is also just over a mile hike. While the lengthy trail includes a 243-stair descent, the sunset views at each of these beaches are worth the effort.

China Beach


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Sea Cliff‘s China Beach presents a clear glimpse at the Golden Gate Bridge from one of San Francisco’s most swanky neighborhoods. While small, this intimate setting is known for its immaculate sand, clear water, and rich history. In Gold Rush times, China Beach got its name from the Chinese fisherman who lived and worked around the area and helped to establish the practice as one of the city’s most important industries.

Baker Beach + Marshall’s Beach


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Two more popular and accessible beaches located southwest of the Golden Gate Bridge include the clothing-optional Baker Beach and Marshall’s Beach. Wildly popular with photographers, each of these beaches attracts amateurs and professionals from all around the world looking to get their dream picture of the most famous bridge on the planet. Although always crowded on clear days, each of these spots should be seen by all tourists and residents of San Francisco.

Crissy Field


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The best place to enjoy soft sand east of the Golden Gate is the East Beach at Crissy Field. This iconic Marina District gem was only restored about 20 years ago and played a pivotal role in WWI and WWII as a military airfield. Since its 2001 transformation, Crissy Field has become a popular destination for locals and visitors alike to bike, walk, swim, play, or hang with your four-legged friend. Residents of the nearby Marina Cove Apartments live just steps away from all the action!

Aquatic Park & Cove


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The safest spot to take a dip in the San Francisco Bay is likely within the waters of the manmade protected cove at Russian Hill‘s Aquatic Park. This landmark is part of the San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park and was originally built to give San Francisco residents a place to safely swim in calm water. If you’re looking to get wet… or watch others swim, there are still large bleachers along the water for spectating. The available apartments at 1000 Chestnut also provide quite an impressive glimpse of Aquatic Cove.

Perles Beach


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While some fantastic beaches are located within the city limits of San Francisco, you’ll need a boat to visit all the best beaches nearby. Angel Island has a few beaches to choose from, but the best view is absolutely from Perles Beach. Although you will need to catch a ferry and make a 1.5-mile hike or bike ride, Perles Beach provides a unique spectacle of the Bay Bridge, city skyline, Golden Gate, and everything in between.

Schoonmaker Beach


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If you want to test the waters on the other side of the bay, try Schoonmaker Beach in Sausalito. This sandy beach with few waves is perfect for kids and pets and kayak and paddleboard rentals are available nearby. Take the ferry or make the trip across the bridge to this awesome beach!

Kirby Cove + Beach


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Arguably one of the most scenic locations in the entire Bay Area, Kirby Cove offers an unbelievable view of the Golden Gate Bridge and city skyline. Wildly popular with photographers, this location is a top pick for engagement, prom, and graduation photoshoots. Keep in mind that the trek to the cove is about a mile long and is steep!

Black Sands Beach


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Another unique and scenic Sausalito beach in the Marin Headlands is Black Sands Beach. Aptly named for its dark sand, this beach can be found down a steep path not too far from Point Bonita Lighthouse. There is not much parking and the trail is steep so this beach is rarely crowded.

Rodeo Beach


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Just down the road lies another fantastic spot in Rodeo Beach. This windswept lagoon was once guarded by Fort Barry and Fort Cronkhite but now offers a wonderful spot to have a picnic or fly kites. The nearby headlands provide a wonderful glimpse of the beach with the Golden Gate and Sutro Tower in the background

Tennessee Valley Beach


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If hiking is something you enjoy, the Tennessee Valley trail is a must-do experience. Located deep within the Golden Gate National Recreation Area in the Marin Headlands, this beach requires a 3-mile scenic hike. However, if you’re an even more experienced hiker there are plenty of fantastic trails up and around the nearby hills. Once you reach Tennessee Valley Beach, you may not want to leave as this enclosed beach paradise is like no other.

Muir Beach


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Our last Marin Country beach is the furthest from San Francisco on our list. Located in a town of the same name, Muir Beach is a wonderful spot to enjoy the Pacific Ocean waves crashing to shore. A quiet cove and lagoon, the historic beach is connected to a parking lot by a 450-foot long pedestrian bridge. The Muir Beach Overlook also provides unbelievable views of the Point Reyes Peninsula and the Pacific Ocean as it was originally used as a vantage point for invading warships.

Clipper Cove + Port of Trade Winds Beach


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Maybe the most hidden beach within San Francisco’s city limits, Port of Trade Winds Beach in Clipper Cove is great for boating, swimming, and playing in the sand. This dog-friendly beach is certainly hard to find as it is tucked behind the road connecting Yerba Buena Island to Treasure Island just off the Bay Bridge. While San Francisco may not be known as a beach town, each of these wonderful locations is open and available to all!

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