With more than 50 miles of coastline along the Pacific into Mendocino County, we implore you to slap on some sunscreen, slip on some flip-flops, and head up north to one of these five choice sandy spots:
1.Bowling Ball Beach/Schooner Gulch, The Sea Ranch, Point Arena
This span of coast brims with wonderful adventures, including 40 miles of Sea Ranch trails (featuring eight miles right along the coastal bluff, perfect for exploring wildflowers, marine life, and spectacular views). There are two trails on this spectacular beach: One leading down through the gulch, the other beginning a few feet up the highway, crossing the bluff leading into Mendocino County, and descending onto a small section of the beach just south of Bowling Ball Beach. Savvy hikers prefer to make their way to that small section for an awe-inspiring natural landscape of boulders (a.k.a., concretions, in correct science speak) that look like, yes, bowling balls.
2. Doran Beach Regional Park, Bodega Bay
Fido already loves you, but he will adore you even more when you take him to do his doggy dance on this two-mile stretch of shoreline. Your horse will be in heaven as well since about half of the beach is open to equines. People like it, too—since the area is protected by the bay, the water is calm, perfect for swimming and/or frolicking in the water. Bring your boat to launch off a rock jetty at the harbor mouth, kick back in your kayak, or just crash on a beach blanket and chill.
For an easy hike, the Bird Walk Coastal Access Trail, home to thousands of birds throughout the year, is a paved path running along the Bodega Bay salt marsh.
3. Blind Beach, Jenner
Tucked away in the Sonoma Coast State Park, Blind Beach is just one of the more than a dozen beaches along the 17-mile stretch from Bodega Head to Vista Trail four miles north of Jenner. Favored for its seclusion, you can find it nestled at the end of a 200-foot trail from the road. The views are spectacular, with soaring rock formations in the water, and a cliff backdrop decorated with a small waterfall. Note: all dogs must be leashed.
4. Salmon Creek Beach, Jenner
This is a great place to splash down, since the beach is slightly inland in a lagoon, making the water warmer and calmer. One of the coast’s busier beaches, visitors come for the nearly two miles of smooth, unbroken sand ideal for surf fishing, beachcombing, and picnicking. The area is also home to the western snowy plover, a bird listed under the Federal Endangered Species Act.
5. Goat Rock, Jenner
Many of the visitors here are much too large to look good in a swimsuit – but that happens, when you’re a migrating gray whale, or a sea lion. (Heh.) Just south of the Russian River’s outlet to the sea, Goat Rock remains a favorite spot not only for wildlife, but also humans since the setting is so dramatic, tucked amid towering bluffs and crashing waves. To check out a colony of frolicking harbor seals, hike the trails around the surrounding cliffs. You won't regret it.