San Francisco, California is a sprawling metropolis that draws millions of visitors each year. Alongside the city’s vibrant culture and spectacular views, San Francisco’s enchanting coast is one of its major attractions.
So what are the best family beaches in San Francisco? The top twelve are listed as follows:
- Baker Beach
- China Beach
- Ocean Beach
- Stinson Beach
- Fort Funston Beach
- Crissy Field Beach
- Montara State Beach
- Aquatic Park Cove
- Muir Beach
- Dunes Beach
- Mile Rock Beach
- Linda Mar Beach
The rest of this article will tell you all you need to know about each of these beaches so you can decide which ones are best to visit on your family’s next California beach getaway.
The Best Family Beaches in and Around San Francisco
Each of these beaches are either within San Francisco or within a short driving distance to the city limits.
Important note: keep in mind that few, if any, of the beaches listed below are safe for swimming due to the cold waters and powerful water currents.
1. Baker Beach
A popular beach due to its mile-long sandy beach and incredible proximity to the Golden Gate Bridge, Baker Beach is one of the best places in the city to take photos. The Golden Gate bridge and the surrounding cliffs are almost close enough to spot the rivets in the beams.
The only downside for this beach is that the water isn’t safe for swimming, given the powerful riptide. However, the warm beach is perfect for building sandcastles and kite flying.
2. China Beach
This beach is named for its gentle cove that was once a camping and fishing area for Chinese fishermen. China Beach is the second entry on our list with a great view of Golden Gate Bridge.
Its cold water and strong currents make the waters unsafe for swimming, though several hiking trails nearby make China Beach a great destination for nature lovers.
3. Ocean Beach
This 3.5-mile beach, with its white sands and tall rocks, provides plenty of outdoor fun where you can spot native plants and wildlife. After a casual stroll along the shore, don’t forget to check out Golden Gate Zoo, which is just a short drive from the beach.
Signs posted along the beach state that swimming and wading is prohibited, with the exception of experienced surfers wearing wetsuits who have the skills to handle the powerful waves.
4. Stinson Beach
One of the few beaches on our list that is safe for swimming, Stinson Beach has lifeguards on duty, adding extra reassurance for families with young children.
The scenic drive from San Francisco to Marin County is enchanting enough to excite any beach lover, and the rural community has a slow pace and small-town charm that provides a breath of fresh air for those overwhelmed by the big city.
5. Fort Funston Beach
A lesser-known beach famous for its wind, Fort Funston Beach is a pet-friendly beach where you can bring not only dogs, but also horses. While it is wise to avoid this beach if the forecast predicts high winds, this beach on an ordinary day is a great spot for flying kites.
6. Crissy Field Beach
Another entry on our list with a great view of the iconic Golden Gate Bridge, Crissy Field Beach is a popular spot for rest and relaxation. The warm sands provide great places for sunbathing and picnicking, and on any given day you can find locals and tourists alike strolling along the sun-kissed coast.
7. Montara State Beach
Fishermen and surfers are drawn to this beach with its surrounding sandstone cliffs, which also provide an excellent backdrop for photographs. Soft sands provide ample space for flying kites or a rousing game of beach volleyball.
Located along the San Mateo County Coast, Montara State Beach is a short, half-hour drive from San Francisco.
8. Aquatic Park Cove
Part of the San Francisco Maritime National History Park, Aquatic Park Cove is a great place to spot the Golden Gate Bridge and even the notorious Alcatraz Prison. From the shore, you can even spot the historic boats docked along the pier.
Nearby attractions to Aquatic Park Cove, most within walking distance, include Ghirardelli Square, Fisherman’s Wharf, Hyde ; Beach cable car stop (which you can use as your means of transportation to the beach to avoid the crowded parking), and the Maritime Museum.
The gentle cove is protected from powerful waves and currents, so the water is safe for swimming.
9. Muir Beach
Located north of San Francisco in Marin County, Muir Beach is situated among grassy cliffs and rolling hillsides. The wildflowers and local wildlife, as well as hiking and nature trails, are a huge attraction for both outdoor enthusiasts and nature lovers. The sandy shore is ideal for beach volleyball and kite flying.
It isn’t safe to swim in Muir Beach, due to the riptide and powerful waves, so keep this in mind when you visit.
10. Dunes Beach
Part of Half Moon Bay State Beach, the lesser-known location of Dunes Beach is aptly named for the rolling sand dunes. The nearby bluff, while picturesque, is slowly eroding, so avoid spending much time around it.
Despite its drawbacks, this beach is rarely crowded, giving beachgoers the privacy of spending time alone or with their loved ones that few other beaches on our list offer during the busy season.
11. Mile Rock Beach
This small, rocky beach contains an old lighthouse, an old shipwreck, and plenty of large rocks that lend the area a sense of adventure. There are also many hiking trails nearby, adding something extra for outdoor and nature enthusiasts.
12. Linda Mar Beach
Also known as Pacifica State Beach, Linda Mar beach is a short 20-minute drive from San Francisco. It is a popular destination for locals and tourists alike, and a walking trail from the beach to the top of the nearby bluff offers gorgeous panoramic views and great opportunities to take vacation photos.
Swimming is prohibited, not only due to the powerful riptide, but also because of the high level of contaminants in the water.