When most California visitors think of beach trips, they think of the popular surfing spots and boardwalks of Southern California's hottest beach spots, but San Francisco visitors need not go any further than their own backyard to enjoy the natural wonders of the Pacific Ocean coastline. The 82,000-acre Golden Gate National Recreation Area preserves a wide variety of beach spots throughout the city's greater metropolitan region. CDC information for travelers. Hours/availability may have changed.


1.Stinson Beach

Stinson Beach
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Stinson Beach is a stunning pristine beach near San Francisco, located within the Golden Gate National Recreation Area in Marin County. The National Park Service-operated beach, which is located approximately half an hour from the Golden Gate Bridge, is accessible from Marin City via daily beach bus service and is known as one of the Bay Area's top day-trip getaway spots. Gorgeous swimming beaches are among the most pristine beachfronts in the Bay Area, with ample opportunities also offered for surfing fishing, beach volleyball, and hiking. Cold waters create foggy atmosphere year-round, making for beautiful scenery against the backdrop of the nearby Muir Woods National Monument and Mount Tamalpais.

3785 Shoreline Hwy, Stinson Beach, CA 94970, Phone: 415-561-4700

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2.Agate Beach Park

Agate Beach Park
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Agate Beach Park is a stunning 6.6-acre beach located near the ciy of Bolinas, located within the jointly-operated federal and state Duxbury Reef State Marine Reserve, which protects significant marine life habitats and resources. Nearly two miles of expansive Pacific Ocean shoreline are offered for visitors to explore at low tide, with swimming opportunities offered during the summer months. Beachgoers can also explore the beach's beautiful tide pools at low tide, which are often filled with marine life. On clear days, views extend as far away as the Farallon Islands. Other activities at the beach include shoreline fishing and wildflower observation, though visitors should note that disturbing natural habitats via collecting or other activities is prohibited by law.

350 Ocean Pkwy, Bolinas, CA 94924

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3.Marshall's Beach

Marshall's Beach
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Marshall's Beach is one of San Francisco's hidden shoreline gems, accessible via the Batteries to Bluffs Trail in the Presidio north of Baker Beach. The extremely photogenic beach is one of the city's best spots to view the Golden Gate Bridge, the Marin Headlands, and the Pacific Ocean, giving the illusion of remote wilderness despite its location minutes from the city's downtown area. Though the small beach extends for less than 1,000 feet, its secluded location make it a prime spot for escaping the hustle and bustle of the city for a waterfront day trip. Great opportunities for birdwatching are offered, along with occasional chances to view whales from the shoreline. The beach is also clothing-optional due to its isolated location, offering opportunities for natural sunbathing.

San Francisco, CA 94129, Phone: 415-561-4374

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4.Baker Beach

Baker Beach
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Baker Beach is a gorgeous section of the expansive Golden Gate National Recreation Area, which preserves over 82,000 acres of shoreline park and beachfront areas within the San Francisco Bay Area. The beach is located less than two miles from the Golden Gate Bridge, providing photographers with great opportunities for snagging shots of the famed landmark. Portions of the beach are clothing-optional. Beachgoers can also fish in the waters of the bay or explore the historic Battery Chamberlain, which preserves the final six-inch disappearing gun on the American West Coast. Portions of the beach near Lobos Creek allow beachgoers to frolic with their four-legged friends off leash under voice control.

1775 Gibson Rd, San Francisco, CA, 94129, Phone: 415-831-2700

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5.Ocean Beach

Ocean Beach
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Ocean Beach is San Francisco's most-visited public beach, stretching for more than 1.5 miles within the Golden Gate National Recreation Area. The foggy, atmospheric beach's waters rarely get warmer than 60 degrees Fahrenheit, making the beach difficult for swimming, though some adventurous surfers, kitesurfers, and skimboarders still brave the chilly conditions. However, fishing is popular at the beach's rocky areas near the historic Cliff House restaurant, which has been in operation since the late 19th century. Below the Cliff House, the 1949 Camera Obscura lets visitors view the surrounding oceanfront via rotating lens. Bonfires are also common at the beach, as is kite flying and wind-powered kite buggying. Visitors should note that picnicking is difficult at the beach due to its windy conditions and that alcohol and glass containers are not permitted on the beachfront.

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6.Fort Funston Beach

Fort Funston Beach
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Fort Funston Beach is San Francisco's southernmost Pacific Coast beach, located within the Golden Gate National Recreation Area. The beach is one of the best spots in the United States for enjoying hang-gliding, with windy conditions that help gliders soar high in the air above the city's skyline. Beautiful 200-foot sand bluffs flank the beach's coastline, making for beautiful scenery for beach strolling, beachcombing, and relaxation. Other popular beachfront activities include horseback riding, fossil collecting, and shelling. Pets are permitted off-leash within most of the beach's sections and surrounding areas, making it a great spot to enjoy the scenery with four-legged friends. Nature trails at the beach connect it to nearby historic sites such as the World War II-era Battery Davis, as well as adjoining beaches such as Mussel Rock Beach.

Skyline Blvd and John Muir Dr, San Francisco, CA 94132, Phone: 415-561-4700

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7.Gray Whale Cove State Beach

Gray Whale Cove State Beach
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Gray Whale Cove State Beach is a lovely California state park located near the cities of Pacific and Montara, approximately 18 miles south of San Francisco's city center. The 3.1-acre beach, which is also commonly referred to as Devil's Slide, has long been one of California's top naturist beach spots, with no new regulations enforced for beach clothing as of the park's 2001 state takeover. Its sheltered cove is surrounded by tall cliffs that drop off directly into the Pacific Ocean, accessible via a steep beachfront trail. True to its current name, visitors can observe gray whales along the beach's shoreline, along with occasional great white shark sightings. A small day-use picnic area is also offered, along with chemical toilets at the beach's upper parking lot.

Half Moon Bay, CA 94019, Phone: 650-726-8819

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8.Montara State Beach

Montara State Beach
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Montara State Beach is a great spot for surf fishing along Half Moon Bay, located in the shadows of its namesake mountain within the beautiful Santa Cruz Mountain range. The beach is the Half Moon Bay region's only remaining undeveloped coastal mountain habitat, stretching for approximately one mile. Though shell collecting and beachcombing are prohibited by law, visitors can explore the beach's tide pool areas at low tide and observe wildlife and shoreline scenery. Four-legged friends can explore the beach with their owners on leashes up to six feet. Overnight accommodations at the beach are offered at the lighthouse on Point Montara, a restored historic facility, and at several nearby state park campgrounds.

8302 Pacific Coast Hwy, Half Moon Bay, CA, 94019, Phone: 650-726-8819

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9.Pescadero State Beach

Pescadero State Beach
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Pescadero State Beach is a mile-long state beach near San Mateo County's city of the same name, located approximately 15 miles from Half Moon Bay. The beach, which is named for the Spanish word meaning "a place to fish," is accessible via State Route 1 and serves as a popular spot for fishing and tide pooling at low tide conditions. At low tide, the beach connects to adjacent San Gregorio and Pomponio State Beaches. Visitors should note that permits are required for fishing and shoreline collecting. Across the highway, bird watchers can spot blue herons and other shorebird species at the Pescadero Marsh Natural Preserve. As the weather changes quite frequently along the shoreline, beachgoers are advised to bring jackets or other clothing layers when visiting.

Phone: 650-726-8819

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9 Best Beaches Near San Francisco



Attraction Spotlight: San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park

The San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park is dedicated to showcasing the maritime history of the Pacific Coast. Located in the Fisherman's Wharf neighborhood in San Francisco, the San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park features a fleet of historic vessels, a maritime museum, a state-of-the-art visitor center and a library/research facility. Sometimes referred to as the San Francisco Maritime Museum, the San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park also incorporates the Aquatic Park Historic District.

The San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park features a fleet of six historic vessels, which are moored at Hyde Street Pier and are open to visitors year-round. Located opposite the Hyde Street Pier, a state-of-the-art Visitor Center features information on the park and vessels and award-winning exhibits. A lawned area overlooking the Aquatic Park Cove and beach is situated just outside the Visitor Center where visitors can relax and soak up the beautiful views of San Francisco Bay, Alcatraz Island, and the Golden Gate Bridge. The Maritime Museum is located nearby in the Aquatic Park Bathhouse building, as well as the Maritime Research Center in the Fort Mason Building, just a short walk away.

Historic Vessel Fleet

The San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park features a historic fleet of vessels which are moored at the Hyde Street Pier and consists of six beautifully preserved ships. Significant ships in the fleet include the Balclutha, a square-rigged sailing ship dating back to 1886; the C.A. Thayer, a purpose-built schooner from 1895; the Eureka, a steam ferryboat from 1890; the Alma, an 1891 built scow schooner; the Hercules, a steam tug dating back to 1907; and the Eppleton Hall, a 1914 built paddlewheel tug.

Maritime Museum

Located in the Aquatic Park Bathhouse, a beautiful Streamline Moderne building designed in late Art Deco style, the Maritime Museum is the centerpiece of the Aquatic Park Historic District, a National Historic Landmark situated at the end of Polk Street. Originally designed and built as a public bathhouse by William Mooser III in 1936, the building featured beautiful murals by artist and color theoretician Hilaire Hiler. Within the Maritime Museum is the Steam Room, which features exhibits that display the how maritime technology has developed and evolved from wind to steam. The second floor of the Museum features three photomurals of the San Francisco waterfront in its early years, while the top floor houses temporary and visiting exhibitions, as well as an exhibition of onboard radio technology for ships.

Maritime Research Center

Established in 1939, the Maritime Research Center is the primary resource for the maritime history of San Francisco and the Pacific Coast and features the largest maritime collection on the West Coast. The collections include archival and manuscript collections, naval architecture and marine engineering drawings, maps and charts, photographs, historical archaeology artifacts, pieces of folk and fine art, oral histories and audio recordings, and published titles. Also, included in the collection are motion picture films and videos, small craft, historical objects, and pieces of ephemera.

Visitor Center

Housed in the park's 1909 waterfront warehouse on the corner of Hyde and Jefferson Streets, the San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park Visitor Center is a beautifully preserved four-story brick structure that was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1974. The Visitor Center houses a variety of exhibits, including a shipwrecked boat and a first order Fresnel lighthouse lens, both of which tell the story of San Francisco’s diverse and vibrant maritime heritage. The center also features an information desk staffed by rangers and a theater.

The San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park offers a variety of educational opportunities for learners of all ages from curricula-based classroom activities and workshops to ranger-led and teacher-guided programs.

San Francisco, CA 94109, Phone: 415-447-5000

Back to: Things to Do in San Francisco

Attraction Spotlight: Conservatory of Flowers

Located in San Francisco, California, the Conservatory of Flowers is a botanical garden and greenhouse housed inside the oldest building in Golden Gate Park. As the park’s most-visited attraction, the Conservatory strives to connect people and plants, highlighting the foliage of a variety of world ecosystems.

History

The burgeoning urbanization of the Industrial Revolution brought a need for natural open spaces within cities, and with it, an increased public interest in the study of plant sciences. As a result, the popularity of the greenhouse or conservatory as a fixture in urban parks and on private estates skyrocketed in the late 19th century. Wealthy North American aristocrats frequently purchased greenhouse kits and erected them on their estates, filling them with rare and exotic plants gathered from around the world.

During the mid-19th century, James Lick, a wealthy American businessman, ordered parts for a greenhouse to be built on his Santa Clara estate, but passed away before its construction, and as such, the parts remained unassembled. In 1877, the kit was purchased from Lick’s estate and presented to the city of San Francisco for use as a fixture in Golden Gate Park. The city’s Parks Commission hired Lord and Burnham, a New York City greenhouse manufacturer, to oversee the construction of the facility, which opened to the public in 1879.

The Victorian structure’s unique wood construction has made it highly susceptible to damage by accidents and natural disasters, including several major fires and a 1933 structural failure that resulted in a 13-year closure of the facility. Ironically enough, it has survived most of San Francisco’s major earthquakes intact, including the city’s historic 1906 quake, during which the Conservatory’s grounds served a sanctuary for displaced residents. After 1995 windstorms destroyed much of the building’s glass structure and plant life, the World Monuments Fund placed the Conservatory on its endangered monuments watch list. $25 million was raised for repairs in conjunction with the Save America’s Treasures program, part of Hillary Clinton’s Millennium Council initiative, leading up to the 2003 reopening of the facility. Much of the structure’s original wood architecture was replaced as part of the renovations, as an effort to safeguard the building from future damage.

Permanent Galleries

The Conservatory is divided into four main galleries, showcasing more than 1,700 plant species from a variety of world regions.

The Highland Tropics Gallery is one of only four of its kind in the United States, mimicking the clouded forests of Central and South American highland mountaintops. Mosses and tree ferns line the recreated forest’s floor, while impatiens and rhododendrons grow over rocks. An impressive collection of high-altitude orchid species is also highlighted, including many epiphytic variants like the Dracula orchid. In the Lowland Tropics Gallery, light rain is created to invoke the atmosphere of a lush jungle, with cacao pods, coffee berries, and tropical fruits growing from tree branches. The gallery is home to the Conservatory’s oldest plants, including its century-old Cycads, primitive gymnosperms dating back to the prehistoric era.

The Aquatic Plants Gallery features large pools simulating the flow of tropical rivers, with an ornate Victoria amazonica water lily sculpture hanging above. Colorful water lilies and lotus plants adorn the ponds during the summers, along with bromeliads, hibiscus, orchids, and pitcher plants. A Potted Plants Gallery honors the Conservatory’s Victorian roots, following the style of early European plant collectors’ greenhouses. A variety of rare flowering plants are displayed throughout the garden in unique decorative urns and pots from around the world, including Javanese palm pots, Indian copper pots, and an historic urn preserved from the 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition. A special exhibit gallery also hosts biannual rotating displays.

Ongoing Programs and Events

Docent-led educational tours are available for students in grades 3-5, introducing participants to the Conservatory’s plant collections and their adaptation and survival strategies. Educational materials for self-guided tours for groups of all ages are also available.

The popular Botanicals and Brews Beer Garden series brings San Francisco’s top craft brewers to the Conservatory every third Friday for a social evening of food, fun, and flowers. After dark, the building becomes a canvas for Photosynthesis, an electric light collaboration with the Obscura Digital design studio and Illuminate, the nonprofit arts group behind the city’s famed Bay Lights. Also held monthly is the Murder at the Conservatory series, inviting guests to solve a self-guided historical mystery hidden among the gardens. Periodic Conservatory Curiosities are held on the Palm Terrace, showcasing demonstrations and conversations about natural ecosystems and the uses of plants in everyday life. An annual Gala Under Glass Ball serves as a benefit evening, with themes playing on flowers in the collections.

100 John F Kennedy Dr, San Francisco, CA 94118, Phone: 415-831-2090

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Attraction Spotlight: Lombard Street, San Francisco

Looking to make your way to Lombard Street? You might need to read this guide. The place is well known for its architecturally challenged landscape, earning the name “Crooked Street.” As a matter of fact, some people even go to the extent of naming the place as the “crookedest street.” Whether or not this is indeed an appropriate title, it’s up to you to judge. But no matter you take on the choice of architectural design on this part of San Francisco, it has indeed become a point of interest for many tourists such as yourself.

Getting to Lombard Street

Getting to the place isn’t as difficult as traversing it. This famous crooked street is just a block away from Russian Hill Park. You’ll notice a winding road there, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg that is Lombard Street. And because you plan on exploring the whole road, it’s recommended that you start from the top, especially if you plan on taking the cable car there. Tip: The place is well plotted on Google Maps, so look it up if you get lost.

Taking the Cable Car

The other reason why you should start from the top is because that’s where the San Francisco cable cars are. This is by far the most practical way to visit Lombard Street not only because they are affordable but because they ensure that you don’t get lost on your way there. To get to Lombard Street, take the Powell/Hyde line by the Fisherman’s Wharf. If you have never ridden a cable car yet, it would greatly help if you go to know how to take it first.

Taking a Car

If you plan on driving your own car to the location without getting lost (again, check the maps), you will get the opportunity to drive down the crookedest street yourself. Just be ready to take on the oncoming traffic, as this place can get pretty congested, resulting in very frustrating and long waits. This is why some people prefer to go to the place on foot. Even if you have a car, you’ll want to check out your other options first.

Taking the Tour Bus

Lombard Street is quite the tourist destination. In fact, it is an item in many tours in San Francisco. You can hop on one of these tour buses so you can be exposed to some blocks within the area. The only problem with this option is that you can’t control the pacing of your visit. Some people want to stay longer than the tour bus would allow them.

Segway Tours

If you didn’t know, you can visit Lombard Street via a Segway tour. A tour company will take you from Fisherman’s Wharf all the way to the San Francisco hills, and this includes a trip down Lombard Street. This is arguably a better option if you want to take a guided tour but want more exposure to the crookedest street.

Popular Homes along Lombard Street

The crooked road itself is a tourist destination. However, it doesn’t get into as many films as some of the houses along the street. These houses are points of interests in themselves and are definitely worth the visit. Some of these include:

- Scottie’s Apartment (Vertigo)

- The Real World House

- The Montandon House

So if you’re ever along Lombard Street, make it a point to see these famous structures, especially if you recognize some of the movies they were featured in.

How did Lombard Street Came to Be?

The famous crookedest street was actually a product of necessity, specifically for cars that needed to be able to safely drive downhill along the road. Back in the 1920s, the curved street was created so that the automobiles during the time could go around the steep hills. This solution came at the cost of drivers having to endure sharp turns, but that was by far the only way they could drive downhill back then.

What People Say About Lombard Street

If you look up Lombard Street on TripAdvisor, you’ll find that tourists love visiting this part of San Francisco, given the 4.5 star rating. There are, of course, a number of reasons why it’s such an interesting place to visit.

For one thing, visitors enjoy the idea of experiencing the drive down the crooked road themselves. It’s like some rare ride that you can’t find in any amusement part, so many motorists consider it a unique experience. In fact, people like to drive down the street so much that they don’t mind the long queues. If you don’t mind the long wait, maybe you can take the drive yourself.

But if you want better access and don’t mind missing out on the driving experience, people recommend taking the cable car. This mode of public transportation is the fastest way to get to the top of the hill so that you can walk down the crooked road from there. Of course, the fact that the cable car is such a good option means that it will most likely be packed with people, so catching a ride there during peak hours can be tough. In spite of this, the cable car remains to be the best way to visit the place.

On Taking Pictures

Naturally, you’ll want to document your trip. Previous visitors highly recommend taking snapshots of the top and bottom parts of the hill. It’s not easy, but they will be worth it. An even more difficult task is to take shots on the side of the road, since the number of people stopping to take pictures would only make the traffic worse. If you’re going to Lombard Street to take photos, you’re going to have to wait a while to get good opportunities.

Stop to Smell the Flowers

Travelers often take note of the beautiful hydrangeas planted on the side of the crooked street. If you’re a big fan of flowers, then get ready to see what may be one of the biggest hydrangeas you’ll ever lay eyes on in your life.

No matter the reason for visiting San Francisco, make sure not to leave without visiting Lombard Street. There are many ways for you to get there and much more to see when you do.