While Southern California is famous for having some of the best beaches in the country, Northern California has its own amazingly beautiful beaches. With opportunities for picnicking, hiking, sunbathing, whale watching, participating in an array of water sports and exploring the cozy towns surrounding them, these are ten of the best beaches in northern California you need to add to your list.

1. Glass Beach

glass beach
Source: Flickr / Marc Cooper

Located near Fort Bragg, these three beaches are famous for the abundance of sea glass that has been created due to garbage being dumped into an area of coastline near the town’s northern part. It is important to note that the glass may not be removed or disturbed, so visitors are welcome to take pictures but are reminded not to take anything home with them. There is also a great picnic spot located on the rocks and cliffs that overlooks the most northern of the three beaches in MacKerricher State Park.
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2. Baker Beach

Image Source: Eric Savage / Flickr

Located on San Francisco’s peninsula, Baker Beach is the most popular beach in the area and is famous for its spectacular views of the Golden Gate Bridge and the Marin Headlands. There is a picnic area and restroom facilities, and depending on when you visit, you just might catch harbor porpoises playing the sand. Note: the northernmost end of the beach is often visited by sunbathers who choose to go sans clothing.
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3. Capitola Beach

capitola beach
Source: Flickr / Don DeBold

An incredible escape from the fast-paced city life, Capitola Beach is just 45 minutes from Silicon Valley, located between Monterey and Santa Cruz. It’s kid-friendly with access to restaurants, bathrooms, and outdoor showers, and there are two huge parking lots with a free shuttle that transports visitors down to the beach. There is also a rock pool, which is especially popular with the kids, and Capitola hosts an annual art and wine festival towards the end of summer.
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4. Stinson Beach

stinson beach
Source: Flickr / John Weiss

This beach offers ample opportunities for picnicking, kayaking, surfing, and other water sports, and there are many surf shops nearby that offer rentals and lessons. Visitors can borrow volleyball nets and balls from the lifeguard tower, and there are multiple picnic tables and BBQ grills that are available for those looking to have their own feast. The adjacent town of Stinson Beach has several restaurants and shops to choose from, and several trailheads lead into Mount Tamalpais State Park, which offers beautiful hiking.
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5. Carmel Beach

carmel beach
Source: Flickr / FarOutFlora

Consistently rated one of the best beaches in California, Carmel Beach is located at the foot of Ocean Avenue in the beach town of Carmel-by-the-Sea, and is famous for its stunning sunsets, which have turned into a community event—many people even bring a bottle of wine! Every year the town hosts its popular sandcastle contest here, and it’s not uncommon to witness a wedding taking place on the sands. The beach is also popular for surfing and is dog-friendly, making it the perfect place for all to enjoy.
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6. Scott Creek Beach

scott creek beach
Source: Flickr / Josh Hallett

One of the nicest beaches in Santa Cruz, Scott Creek Beach is located in the Davenport area and is a half-mile long, located between two large bluffs. The north end features a rocky point that has some great waves (but you need to beware of the rocks), and the southern end of the beach offers smaller breaks for beginners trying their hand at paddling out. Other pros include its remote location, making it ideal for those who want some peace and quiet, along with its wildlife and gorgeous sunsets.
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7. Ross Cove Beach

ross cove beach
Source: Flickr / Franco Folini

On the north side of Pillar Point between the city of Moss Beach and Half Moon Bay, Ross Cove Beach is located inside the San Mateo County-operated Fitzgerald Marine Reserve. On the south side is Maverick’s Beach, another popular beach, where the annual Maverick’s Surf Competition takes place. Right above Ross Cove is the Pillar Point Bluff Park which features trails for joggers and people walking their dogs.
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8. Miramar Beach

half moon bay
Source: Flickr / Gone-Walkabout

One of several beaches on the famous Half Moon Bay, Miramar Beach is a great place for walking your dog and they even host various dog meet-up groups on the sands. Free parking is located along the street, and there is a rock stairway that leads down to the beach. The waters of the beautiful sandy beach are shallow enough to swim in when the tide is out, and it’s a great place to spot whales, dolphins, and birds, particularly in the summertime.
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9. Rodeo Beach

rodeo beach
Source: Flickr / David Horowitz

Just two miles north of the Golden Gate Bridge, Rodeo Beach has attracted many visitors who come here to stroll along the beach, collect semi-precious stones, and check out the unique red and green pebbles that are scattered across its sands. The parking here is easy, and there is access to hiking trails as well. The beach is also sheltered by some cliffs, and there is free-parking with picnic tables, showers, and restroom.
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10. Muir Beach

muir beach
Source: Flickr / Phil King

A favorite among locals, Muir Beach is a quiet beach known for its peace and quiet where many like to go when they want to escape from it all. Slightly 16 miles north of San Francisco, the beach allows dogs and horses, and the surrounding area is full of wildlife that includes its famous Monarch butterflies that congregate around the pine trees. Prime waves here also offer fun opportunities for kayakers and boogie boarders, and it’s also a great place to see the stars at night.
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