Best Bay Area Beaches You Can Visit Today - 510 Families

Best Bay Area Beaches You Can Visit Today

“Staycation” seems like the magic word this summer. Make your family staycation special by visiting a new-to-you beach that is still close to near enough to the Bay Area to be home for dinner. Wondering where to go? We’ve rounded up the best Bay Area beaches, most of which can be visited in a day or less.

The water is legit freezing at Ocean Beach. My kids don’t care. | Photo: Julia Gidwani

Beaches within 30 minutes of Oakland

Crab Cove/Robert W. Crown Memorial State Beach, Alameda

Crown Memorial Beach | Photo: Whitney Moss

The water of Crown Memorial Beach in Alameda is shallow for hundreds of feet into the Bay. During low tide, the shore is shallow enough for wading  and swimming with younger kids. The sand is usually pretty clean and it’s protected so it’s a little less windy and often warmer than other Bay Area beaches. Read more about Crown Memorial State Beach in Alameda.
Known for: Annual Sand Castle & Sculpture Contest
Location: 8th Street at Otis Dr, Alameda
Pro Tips: Alameda beaches can be warmer than coastal beaches, so I usually bring an umbrella for shade. Check water quality before you head into the water. It is tested and posted online weekly.
Travel Time: 15 minute drive from Oakland
Website>>

Point Molate Park Beach, Richmond

Point Molate in Richmond
We had Point Molate in Richmond all to ourselves with this gorgeous view of the Bay | Photo: Julie Herson

This uncrowded beach is calm and has a treasure trove of sea glass to be found. Read more about our adventures at Point Molate Park Beach.
Location: 527 Western Dr, Richmond
Pro Tips: Take rain boots or water shoes if you want to head out in the mud during low tide.
Travel Time: 20 minute drive from Oakland
Website >>

Keller Beach, Richmond

Keller Beach in Richmond | Photo: Carol Burton

Known for: Enough sand for a half-day of digging, and you don’t even have to cross a bridge.
Location: Keller Beach
Pro Tips: Check water cleanliness before your kids wade in the waters. It’s tested, and reported on weekly.
Travel Time: 20 minute drive from Oakland
Website >>

Beaches Less Than an Hour from Oakland

Crissy Field, San Francisco

Crissy Field’s scenic and mellow beach | Photo: Julia Gidwani

Known for: This scenic field and calm beach in SF simultaneously has the Bay Bridge and city skyline as a background. The nearby Torpedo Wharf is a popular spot for fishers, but the real joy for us is it’s vantage point to watch the giant container ships that enter the bay under the bridge. We like to talk about how the ships eventually end up in the Port of Oakland.
Location: 1199 E Beach, San Francisco
Pro Tips: There are also miles of trails for adventuring, running or making your way up to the Golden Gate Bridge. Grab a bite at the Warming Hut (when open) on windy days.
Travel Time: 40 minute drive from Oakland
Website >>

Sponsor

Pacifica State Beach, Pacifica

Devil's Slide Trail in Pacifica
Devil’s Slide Trail in Pacifica is a 5 minute drive from the beach | Photo: Julia Gidwani

Known for: Enjoy the perfect waves and watching surfers at Linda Mar Beach or Mori Point. Just 15 miles south of San Francisco, get a little bit of beach play in, with stellar coastal views.
Location: 5000 Pacific Coast Hwy, Pacifica
Pro Tips: Devil’s Slide Trail in Pacifica is now a closed section of Highway 1 that you may have driven on prior to 2013 with a unique history! It offers amazing coastal views, and is a must see if you’re up for a paved hike with elevation changes while visiting Pacifica.
Travel Time: 30 minute drive from Oakland
Day trip to Pacifica >>

Ocean Beach, San Francisco

Finding sand dollars at Ocean Beach | Photo: Julia Gidwani

Adjacent to Golden Gate park, this massive beach spans 3.5 miles. No matter what end we choose, we always find good beachcombing and dig up sand dollars, shells and crab claws (watch out for beached jellyfish!). The waves can be big here, and there are no regular lifeguards on duty, so I stay close to my kids wading at the shoreline.
Location: Ocean Beach, San Francisco
Pro Tips: We can easily make this a full day trip by picnicking at the Dutch Windmill’s pristine gardens, and frolicking in Golden Gate Park. Bring a kite for windy days!
Travel Time: 40 minute drive from Oakland
Website >>

Montara State Beach, Montara

A bit past Pacifica, Montara is one of cleanest beaches in CA, and known for its surfing. This lesser traveled beach has pristine sand.
Location: Montara at the coast
Pro Tips: Grab a sandwich at Gherkin’s Sandwich Shop before you set up to play on the beach.
Travel Time: 45 minute drive from Oakland
Website >>

Stinson Beach, Marin County

Stinson Beach | Photo: Anna Azimi

This glorious Marin beach is totally worth the trip if you can leave Oakland early in the morning to outsmart traffic and the parking situation.  We love to take a trip to Stinson Beach.
Location: Stinson Beach, Marin County
Pro Tips: Hike the Dipsea Trail to a waterfall behind Stinson Beach to make this an active adventure.
Travel Time: 55 minute drive from Oakland
Website >>

Muir Beach, Marin County

If you don’t want to make the full haul to Stinson Beach, stop at the earlier Muir Beach. It’s a smaller, yet closer beach than Stinson.
Location: Muir Beach, Marin County
Pro Tips: Don’t miss the Muir Beach Overlook, and grab a bite out on the lawn of the adorable Pelican Inn post beach.
Travel Time: 45 minute drive from Oakland
Website >>

Sponsor

Moss Beach, San Mateo County

With a stop at the Fitzgerald tide pools, this mini getaway feels like a real vacation.
Location:  200 Nevada Ave, Moss Beach
Pro Tips: The nearby Moss Beach Distillery has a dog-friendly patio if you’re bringing 4 legged friends along to the beach.
Travel Time: 50 minute drive from Oakland
Website >>

Francis Beach Campground, Half Moon Bay

Picnic, play, fish, ride horses along the coast, or stay the night and camp alongside the ocean. Choose your own vacation adventure in Half Moon Bay.
Location: Kelly Ave, Half Moon Bay
Travel Time: 60 minute drive from Oakland
Website >>

Angel Island, Tiburon

Known for: Take a ferry over for the view, hiking, or picnic. Camping also available.
Location: Tiburon, CA
Pro Tips: Advanced online bookings are now required due to COVID-19 restrictions.
Travel Time: 40 minute drive from Oakland to Tiburon Ferry + time on the ferry to reach Angel Island (total 60 minutes)
More tips about Angel Island with kids >>

Beaches Within Two Hours of Oakland

Hearts Desire, Inverness

Hearts Desire Beach in Marin
Hearts Desire Beach in Marin | Photo: Whitney Moss

This hidden gem of a Marin County beach is largely undeveloped and has hiking accessible for most ages/levels. It remains shallow for many yards into the Tomales Bay creating a huge play area for toddlers.
Location: Hearts Desire Beach, Inverness
Pro Tips: Beware kids prone to car sickness, the drive has some windy roads.
Travel Time: 80 minute drive from Oakland
Day trip to Hearts Desire >>

Santa Cruz Beach, Santa Cruz

Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk & 98 other things to do this summer
Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk on a busy afternoon | Photo: Anna Azimi

Known for: Walk the famous Boardwalk and eat lunch out on the sand, or schedule a few days away and explore classic Santa Cruz area beaches.
Location: 400 Beach St, Santa Cruz
Pro Tips: Leave East Bay in the morning to beat traffic as Santa Cruz is a popular weekend destination.
Travel Time: 90 minute drive from Oakland
Tips for a staycation in Santa Cruz >>

Moss Landing, Monterey County

Moss Landing | Photo: Whitney Moss

20 minutes north of the Monterey Bay Aquarium, Moss Landing is a worthwhile destination for all ages. Littered with sand dollars and tiny crab carcasses, this beach is a wonderland for children who like to collect things in buckets.
Location: 10721 Potrero Rd, Moss Landing
Pro Tips: You can actually plan a few nights away around this destination.
Travel Time: 95 minute drive from Oakland
Vacation inspiration: Moss Landing >>

Beach Day Tips for families:

After a lot of trial and error, I’ve got my beach day gear totally streamlined for ease of rolling out the door, catching the right amount of sunshine, and driving home with dry undies.

My packing list for beach day trip

I bring these items out to the sand:

  • Bucket where I stash:
    • Beach-friendly snacks (mostly dry food)
    • Shovels
    • Water
    • Hats
    • Sunscreen
  • Blanket & umbrella
  • A kite (sometimes)

We leave these items in the car:

  • Clean towel
  • Clean clothes for changing out of sandy clothes
  • Jug of water for rinsing sand, and spray bottle with soap
  • Pro tip: Did you know that baby powder can bond with sand so it brushes right off?
Kite flying at Ocean Beach | Photo: Julia Gidwani

When playing on coastal beaches, I coach my little ones to never turn their back to the Ocean, as waves can be unpredictable. If you don’t even want to be in this predicament, you can check wave height and tides at all the major beaches.

Before I hit the road, I always check:

  • Weather at the beach I’m headed to because you know: microclimates.
  • Traffic because you know: Bay Area.
  • Beach closures. I’ve pulled up to beach parking lots (on multiple occasions) to have gates chained closed, and disappointed kids in the backseat because of COVID safety precautions. I do my best to research closures, but sometimes  websites are not always up to date. I like to think it makes us more resilient, when I have to change plans quickly.

Aren’t we lucky to live close to so many fantastic beaches? Where do you like to go to get your beach fix? Did we miss any of your favorite Bay Area beaches? Let us know in the comments. 


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6 thoughts on “Best Bay Area Beaches You Can Visit Today”

  1. You listed most of our favorites, but we also like visiting Rodeo Beach in the Marin headlands. The water is a little cold and the waves can be rough, but the beach itself is made up of semi-precious stones which is terrific for kids who are into rocks because of Minecraft. The little inlet also offers opportunities for calm water play.

  2. Further down the San Mateo county coast is bean hollow state beach which is large, clean, dogs are allowed and has excellent tide pooling, limited parking but easy access to beach. Also we went a week ago and people were social distanced and wearing masks when walking around.

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