If you’ve lived in the Bay Area for a while you’ve likely learned that the summer months offer less-than-ideal weather at most area beaches. The start of fall is usually the time when the chilly fog starts staying away leaving warmer, summer-like conditions with clear skies on the coast.
If you’re anxious to get your fall tan going, or get the dog out for some splashing, these Bay Area beaches (starting north to south) will offer you easy parking, smaller crowds, and a bigger sense of adventure while you soak up the sun and the warmth.
Steep Ravine Beach - Marin County
If you’re looking for an alternative to the crowds in Bolinas or Stinson Beach in the North Bay then Steep Ravine Beach is a great option. It’s south of Stinson and not too far off of Highway 1. Don’t let the name scare you, there are stairs leading you down the ‘steep ravine’ to the small beach area that has great views and rock formations.
Tennessee Beach in Marin. | Photo courtesy of National Park Service
Tennessee Beach - Marin County
You may see a lot of cars at the parking lot for Tennessee Beach, a.k.a. Tennessee Cove Beach, but there usually aren’t big crowds right on the sand. That’s because to get to the beach you must walk a little over half a mile of the Tennessee Valley trail, but the walk is easy and flat and the small, picturesque beach is worth the trek. Most of the crowds are on the hiking trails nearby and they don't congregate on the sand.
South Rodeo Beach - Marin County
If you’re wanting to stay close to San Francisco, try South Rodeo Beach, which is just south of the much more famous Rodeo Beach. This area is also loaded with hiking trails so parking can be a challenge but if you’re wanting some secluded beach time, making the extra walk to South Rodeo Beach is a good option.
Gray Whale Cove State Beach | Photo: Phil H./Yelp
Gray Whale Cove State Beach - San Mateo County
It’s easy to escape the huge crowds that normally invade Pacifica State Beach every day by heading south just a few miles. Gray Whale Cove State Beach features a steep trail down to a small, private, sandy cove that is surrounded by hills, rocks, and cliffs. Beachgoers are often spotting gray whales from the shores.
Martins Beach - San Mateo County
When the sun is shining at Martins Beach along Highway 1 the water turns a bright blue color making it very pleasing to the eye. Access to the beach was blocked off for years by a tech billionaire but after a Supreme Court ruling access to the public was granted. Crowds are still usually very sparse.
Pistachio Beach - San Mateo County
Pistachio Beach is located just north of Pigeon Point which is about an hour south of San Francisco. It features a long sandy shoreline that allows you to get a tan without the crowd. There are also plenty of options for exploring during low tide.
Panther Beach - Santa Cruz County
Santa Cruz beaches are often packed but if head north a few miles to Panther Beach you’ll likely find alleviated crowds. At low tide, you should have plenty of room to lay in the sand but high tide does tend to cut off parts of the beach.
Hopefully, some of these lesser-known Bay Area beaches give you a better overall experience than what you’d get by going to the same ones everyone else visits. Have fun!