Point Reyes beaches offer drama, wildlife, and recreation. You'll find places to go kayaking, swimming, tidepooling and beachcombing. Some of the beaches allow dogs on a leash, while others are protected habitat where you must watch where you step. Many beaches are easily accessible, but if you're looking for a wilderness experience, there are beaches you can reach only by hiking.
Drakes Beach © Eric Foltz | istockphoto.com
Point Reyes beaches can be divided into distinct regions. The listings are organized from north to south.
Beaches on the west coast of the Point Reyes peninsula tend to be windswept and dramatic. The surf here is rough, and the rip currents can be treacherous. Enjoy the wild beauty of this area, but head to Tomales Bay if you want to go into the water.
Many Point Reyes beaches are backed by cliffs, so check the tides to keep from getting trapped by rising water.
McClures Beach Photo © Eric Foltz | istockphoto.com
If you like drama, you'll enjoy this small sandy beach. The surf is intense, and there are granite sea stacks and rocky areas. You'll find tidepools to explore and abundant wildlife, including cormorants, endangered California brown pelicans, seals and giant sea anemones.
Take care at this beach. The surf is not safe, and you should stay off the rocks except during the outgoing low tide.
The beach is located south of Tomales Point. The parking lot is west of the Pierce Point Ranch parking area. Take the short, steep trail down to the beach. Restrooms are available.
Kehoe Beach Photo courtesy of NPS
The half-mile trail to the beach runs alongside Kehoe Marsh, a habitat for waterfowl. Once at the beach, you'll find a stream to the south of the trail. To the north, there are dunes, rocks and cliffs. Look for interesting geological formations on the cliffs.
Park along the shoulder on Pierce Point Road. Most of the trail is wheelchair-accessible, and restrooms are wheelchair-accessible. Dogs are allowed on a 6 foot leash on the beach to the north of the trail. They're not permitted on the beach south of the trail, because this area is habitat for the protected snowy plover.
Abbotts Lagoon Photo by Eugene Kim | Flickr.com
Park along the shoulder on Pierce Point Road and take the 1.5 mile walk to the beach. You'll pass through coastal scrub, between two lagoons and over sand dunes to get there. The lagoons are home to large numbers of migratory birds. The sand dunes are nesting grounds for the endangered snowy plover. These birds build their nests on the ground so watch your step in from June through September.
Canoeing is permitted in the lagoon. Wheelchair-accessible restrooms are available.
The Great Beach Photo © Can Balcioglu | istockphoto.com
Also called The Great Beach, 10 Mile Beach, or Point Reyes Beach, this is one long windy strand of beach with two access points. The surf here is rough, and swimming is not permitted. Be aware of "sneaker waves" that can suddenly appear to drag the unwary out to sea.
Both beaches have wheelchair-accessible restrooms. Dogs are allowed on a 6 foot leash, except to the north of the North Beach entrance, where the snowy plovers are protected. Campfires are also permitted on these beaches, but you'll need to get a permit from a ranger or from the visitor center.
The water on Drakes Bay is calmer and warmer than on the west coast. You'll find places for swimming, although the best swimming beaches are at Tomales Bay.
Drakes Beach Photo © Mindy Linford | Dreamstime.com
This broad sandy beach has more amenities than most, making it one of the most popular Point Reyes beaches. The white sandstone cliffs add a touch of drama. Swimming is permitted, though no lifeguards are on duty. Campfires are also allowed, with a permit.
The Kenneth C. Patrick Visitor Center offers interpretive displays and ranger-led walks. (Hours are variable - weekends and summer only.) There's a snack bar, picnic tables, and wheelchair-accessible restrooms.
This is the beach for wildlife lovers. It's a long sandy spit with grassy dunes separating the estero from the ocean. The wetlands attract shorebirds and ducks, and harbor seals can often be seen offshore.
Take Limatour Road to the parking area. Restrooms available. Dogs on a 6 foot leash are permitted on the south end of the beach. The north end is protected habitat for the snowy plover (no dogs).
You can reach this beach by heading south about 2 miles from Limatour Beach. Or take the Coastal Trail. The best time to go is low tide, when the namesake sculptured rocks are exposed, along with numerous tidepools to be explored.
The only way to reach this beach is via hiking trails. The shortest route is a 5.5 mile hike from the Palomarin trailhead (in the southernmost corner of the park). Wildcat Camp is located on a bluff overlooking the beach. The campground has picnic tables, food storage lockers, charcoal braziers, pit toilets, and water faucets. Camping permits/fees required.
You'll have to work to get to this beach. It's a steep path down the cliff from Palomarin Trailhead. Come at low tide to enjoy the tidepools.
The beaches on Tomales Bay are protected from the prevailing winds and sheltered from the crashing surf. They're popular for picknicking, swimming, hiking, clamming, kayaking, boating, and family fun. The shoreline has shallow areas where you can wade and swim.
This beach, located on the western shore of Tomales Bay, is part of Point Reyes National Seashore. You'll need to take a 2 mile dirt road to the parking area, then hike 1.2 miles to the beach. Restrooms are available at the beach.
Tomales Bay State Park Photo © Christopher Russell | istockphoto.com
This park, on the western shore of Tomales Bay, has 4 beaches. The main parking and picnic areas are at Heart's Desire Beach off Pierce Point Road. There are no lifeguards, and dogs aren't allowed on beaches, trails or nature areas. There's a ranger station, several parking areas, and hiking trails. Restroom facilities are available at all the beaches.
For more information and to download a park brochure with a map see Tomales Bay State Park.
Take the gentle nature trail from Heart's Desire Beach north about half a mile to Indian Beach. There are two reconstructed Miwok bark shelters here, and restrooms.
Hearts Desire Beach Photo © Jay Spooner | istockphoto.com
This is the best Point Reyes beach for families. It's located in a sheltered cove, and the water is a bit warmer here. The beach has drinking water, picnic tables with firepits, dressing rooms, and wheelchair-accessible restrooms.
Although no boat launching facilities are available, this is a popular spot for putting in hand carried boats, like kayaks.
Accessible by trail from Heart's Desire Beach, this beach has restrooms.
Take the 4.1 mile trail from Heart's Desire Beach or park at the end of Camino Del Mar and take the half mile path to the beach. Restrooms available.
Virtual Guidebooks provides panoramic views of Marin County beaches.