California Dreamin' Series 2: Stinson Beach

Stinson Beach, taken from Dipsea Trail
Ah, summer! The flowers are in bloom. The California hills are brown. That magazine spread of Grande Anse Beach in La Digue Island, Seychelles may look so alluring, but it would take some effort and a whole lot of money to get there. 

You don't have to travel 3000 miles to enjoy the beach this summer.  Maybe a weekend drive or a family outing to a beach near you is all you need to enjoy summer.  For example, beaches are plentiful along the Northern California coastline: the Ocean Beach in San Francisco, Half Moon Bay State Beaches, Santa-Cruz Twin Bridges, Lovers Beach in Monterey, and Stinson Beach.

Situated 20 miles north of San Francisco, Stinson Beach is the quintessential California beach town. Stinson Beach is crescent shape, surrounded by parklands of the GGNRA (Golden Gate National Recreation Area). It is usually the final stop for Dipsea hikers to soak their sore and tired feet. But you don’t have to do a strenuous twelve-mile hike to enjoy Stinson Beach.

The best way to access the beach is by driving along the Pacific Coast Highway 1[i].  I must warn you though to take precaution when driving onto Highway 1.  It's a two-lane highway on the edge of towering cliffs with no railings on the side of the road.  You will pass a few hairpin turns, but the drive is part of the fun and adventure in going to Stinson Beach.

You can stop at Muir Beach Overlook and enjoy the whole spectrum of nature - the green hills on one side of the road, and tall brown grass and chaparral plants growing between the rocks carved into small mountains on the opposite side and the Pacific Ocean with the water splashing on rocks below. You forget the craziness of a metropolitan city.

Taken from Muir Beach Overlook
As you drive into town, a firehouse, a couple of quaint gift shops and surf shop, a grocery store, a bookstore and restaurants border the street. There is a coffee and ice cream shop along the beach. The possibilities are endless when you get to the beach. You can go hiking, kayaking, hang-gliding, fly a kite or do nothing. A crab claw may be waiting for you at the beach.

There are only four restaurants in town. My favorite restaurant is the Sand Dollar. It has a rustic beach-town atmosphere with an outdoor patio. It serves the best calamari and some of the best seafood in the San Francisco Bay Area.

"All wholesome food is caught without a net or a trap." - William Blake


[i] Listed in the book “1000 Places to See Before You Die”
All photos by the author



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