1) James V. Fitzgerald Marine Reserve in Moss Beach:
This place is a must-see in my opinion! My family has been vacationing here as long as I can remember. Growing up, we would visit Half Moon Bay twice a year — once during spring break and once during the summer. During those trips, we always, always, always went to the Fitzgerald Marine Reserve. The tidepooling is incredible, there is all sorts of marine life to discover. In fact, this is the first beach we took our littles to.
Parking is free here and on our last visit, I was surprised to find that the walk down to the beach with two kids under the age of two was a bit of a challenge. I think it’d be much easier these days. Keep reading to learn about the amazing hiking trails!
This picture was taken on the Bluff Trail. As you can see there are incredible views of the California coast along this hike. Last time we visited, our oldest was 21 months old and even he enjoyed walking up this trail with our help.
You can also take the Cypress trail up to the Cypress forest. As children, we affectionately nicknamed the Cypress forest after a forest in one of our favorite movies. Look at the way the trees hang over this path going through it, can you guess what movie we nicknamed it after? There’s so much to do here and so many beautiful sights, that’s why I say it’s a must-see in California.
2) New Brighton State Beach:
It’s so hard to have to number all of these, but this is definitely my favorite Northern California Beach (since I consider #1 a tidepooling spot more than a beach)! Growing up, my family went camping here every year during Memorial Day weekend. We’d play all day on this beautiful beach and at least one day while we were there, we’d take the long walk down to the cement ship at Seacliff State Beach.
I learned to boogie board at New Brighton State Beach, and I’ve seen people skimboard here too. It’s a great beach for playing in the sand, walking, and we used to have bonfires here too at the fire pits. There is also hiking inside the park. There is a fee for camping and parking when visiting this beach.
New Brighton State Beach will always hold a special place in my heart, and it reminds me of the unforgettable moments we had as a family in that beautiful place! Be sure to add it to your must-see beaches in Northern California.
I’m sad to say, I don’t have any quality pictures of this amazing beach. Most of them date back 10+ years ago. But I look forward to taking my family there one of these days, and will update this post when I do, so if you haven’t already, pin it for later!
3) Monterey State Beach – Seaside Beach:
Last month we went on an amazing, and much-needed family vacation to Monterey Bay and while there we had the opportunity to spend some time at Monterey State Beach – Seaside Beach, and loved it. We played in the sand, walked along the water and enjoyed the beauty of God’s creations.
4) McClures Beach:
This is a lovely, short, somewhat remote beach in Marin County. There is free parking available and it’s not a bad hike to the beach. There’s even a pretty little creek that runs by the trail. This beach is perfect for beachcombing and there’s a longer hike nearby (the Tomales Point Trail) if you’re up for it.
When the tide is low you can also go tidepooling. We’re planning a visit to this beach soon and I can’t wait!
5) Point Reyes South Beach:
This is another beautiful beach in Marin County. It stretches on for miles, which makes it great for long walks and beachcombing. The parking is free and you can bring dogs to this beach as long as they’re on a leash.
I definitely want to visit this area from December through April with a pair of binoculars to search for gray whales that migrate around here.
Honestly, the warning sign at this beach makes me nervous. My mom raised me to be safety-focused, plus after growing up in California and living in Hawaii I am respectful and cautious about the ocean–even more so when I see warning signs. I am one protective mommy.
When we visit this beach with the kids, you better believe I’ll be vigilant, but it sure is a beautiful beach with amazing views and plenty of space for building sandcastles!
Have you been to any of these beaches? There are so many other beautiful beaches in Northern California, do you have a favorite one? Share your answers with me in the comments!
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Be sure to check out these blog posts by other California moms about their favorite places to cool off during the summer: