Did I pique your interest? If your family is looking for something to do that’s a bit out of the ordinary and not your typical weekend trip to the local playground, take a drive out to Point Molate Park Beach near the Richmond Bridge. There you’ll find a calm bay beach that’s rarely crowded and more often than not full of sea glass and a sunken pirate ship in the distance. Drive a bit further down the road and you’ll find the secluded Point San Pablo Harbor, which is home to old Burning Man art installations that are seriously epic.
Point Molate Beach in Richmond
My kids love searching for sea glass and special rocks, so we’re always on the lookout for new beaches to bolster our sizable collection. We stumbled upon Point Molate Beach Park in Richmond a few years ago when we asked Siri for a nearby beach (Keller Beach is another great option we’ve tried in the past, though there’s not nearly as much sea glass). We bring bins to collect cool rocks and sea glass, or sometimes we bring gloves and make it a trash-pick-up day. Either way, there’s plenty to collect. Oh! And see if your kids can spot the pirate in the distance!
Be aware that some people bring dogs and let them run around off-leash. This is also an off-the-beaten-path type beach, so don’t expect services and well-manicured flora and fauna. Do expect the possibility of ticks in the field above the beach, broken glass and other hazards, and even dead animals on the beach (we’ve encountered a ray, seal, jellyfish, crabs, birds, etc.). For your budding naturalist, this can be rather exciting. Or, for your little kids, it may be upsetting, so keep your eyes out.
Point San Pablo Harbor in Richmond
Fair warning, this is not a sanctioned play area and there are plenty of hazards. The crocodile has some sharp glass teeth and its tiles are pretty slippery for climbing. There’s also a sign that recommends not petting the sheep since they make a habit of eating poison oak. Okay? Okay!
After you’ve collected your fair share of sea glass and pebbles, pack the kids back in the car and drive a few more minutes down Stenmark Drive to Point San Pablo Harbor. You’ll think you’re going the wrong way because there’s a lot of abandoned buildings, cars, and such, but just keep going until you see the sign on the right for Point San Pablo. Drive (slowly) up the hill and follow the winding road over to the other side where you’ll find the Harbor. There’s a small community of people who live there, as well as a BBQ restaurant, tribe of goats, chickens, and a handful of retired Burning Man art installations that’ll blow your kids’ minds. Our favorite is the 40-foot long mosaic crocodile “Niloticus”. You can read more about the art park here >
Daytime at the Harbor feels a bit Mad Max, but in a cool steampunk kinda way. Nighttime sounds like a real trip, with live music shows, lit-up art installations, and amazing food. If your kiddos can stay up late and are adventurous eaters, you may want to check out the evening’s attractions Thursday – Sunday. Otherwise, bring a lunch or grab some BBQ and spend an afternoon surrounded by the epic art installations and the wild Bay landscape. At the very least, your Instagram will be fire.
Getting to Point Molate and Point San Pablo Harbor in Richmond
Point Molate is about a 20+ minute drive from Berkeley by way of 580. Just take the last exit before the Richmond Bridge toll plaza (Stenmark Drive). Just drive straight for a few minutes along Stenmark Drive until you reach the entrance to Point Molate on the left. When you arrive, there’s ample free parking and a rather run-down grilling area with tables. This upper part of the park is nothing to write home about, but when you stroll south down the trail from the parking lot you’ll find a stunning view of the Richmond Bridge and the rolling hills of Marin County.
As mentioned above, to get to Point San Pablo Harbor, just keep driving along Stenmark Drive, up and over the hill to the parking lot. It’s a bit of a desolate drive but fits with the overall hidden, out-of-the-way vibe of the area. Fun and exciting for imaginative kids.
Plan your visit to Point Molate and Point San Pablo Harbor
Check the tides before you go. Low tide brings more room on the beach to hunt for treasures, but it can be a bit stinky and seaweedy. High tide brings a much smaller beach. We usually try to come a few hours after low tide for a happy medium. Parking is ample and free. Just make sure to bring valuables with you. There are many ways down to the beach, though the easiest is left of the parking lot through the trees. Swimming isn’t encouraged, though we’ve seen some people wading on hot August days, as well as paddle boarding and kayaking. There are no lifeguards. Check out the website for any updates.
What to bring:
- A pail for collecting sea glass or other treasures
- Shovels and sand toys if that’s more your speed
- Layers since it can be windy
- Change of clothes for little ones
- A towel and baby powder to dust off sandy feet
- There’re port-o-potties at both Point Molate and the Harbor, though we didn’t test them out. Hand wipes are always a good idea
Interested in more East Bay Beaches? Check out our guide to the Best Bay Area Beaches
[All photos by Julie Herson at Point Molate Park Beach and Point San Pablo Harbor in Richmond, CA]