If you're into wine tasting, you'll know all about Santa Rosa. Set in the heart of wine country, Santa Rosa is renowned for the legions of world-class wineries on its doorstep. But there's more to the city than grapes. Travel just a short distance from the city limits and you'll find dozens of stunning beaches. Some are wild and adventurous, others are tame and placid. All are beautiful and all are deserving of a visit. If you're traveling to the area, here's our guide to the best Santa Rosa, CA beaches.
Despite its popularity, Portuguese Beach never feels too crowded or too busy. Surrounded by rocky headlands and covering a vast area of land, the beach is one of the most expansive in the area. As inspiredimperfection.com writes, the beach is a great destination for rock fishing and surf fishing, picnicking, kite flying, and strolling along the water. As dogs are allowed on the provision they stay on the leash, it's also a great spot for dog walkers (although it's worth bearing in mind some dog owners forget the leash caveat and let their dogs run free - keep your wits about you if you're not a big dog lover).
Although the water looks enticing, beware: the surf is far, far too rough to get involved with - in fact, it ranks as one of the deadliest in the area. Play it safe and enjoy the ocean views without venturing into the water. If you want to swim or surf, you'll find plenty of far safer places to do it. To access the beach, you can park at the main parking lot at the south end of Portuguese Beach. Once you've parked up, you'll find a winding dirt trail that leads directly down to the beach. The path is slightly precarious, so be sure to watch your footing, particularly if the ground is wet. Once you reach the end of the trail, you'll need to clamber over some rocks to reach the beach. If the main parking lot is full, you'll find another parking lot and a beach access trail just north of the picking area along Highway One.
Scotty Creek Beach
At low tide, you can walk directly from Portuguese Beach to Scotty Creek Beach, a huge, pebbly beach that encompasses 17 miles of stunning California coastline. Although the surf is too rough for water sports, it's a gorgeous beach for rock fishing, strolling, picnicking, and enjoying the far-reaching Ocean views. Although there's no official parking lot for the beach, you can access it easily enough by using the parking lot at Portuguese Beach.
Point Reyes National Seashore
Point Reyes National Seashore is a 71,028-acre park preserve located on the Point Reyes Peninsula. As Wikipedia points out, as a national seashore, the area is maintained by the US National Park Service as an important nature preserve. Set against a backdrop of craggy headlands, Point Reyes attracts thousands of visitors each year to admire its brushy hillsides, its various species of flora and fauna, its forested ridges, its lunch grasslands, and, of course, its expansive beaches. To get the most of the preserve's beaches, plan on spending a day hiking between them. Start by taking the Limantour Spit trail to reach a long, narrow stretch of blissfully uncrowded beach. As well as being a great place for a stroll, the beach offers tantalizing glimpses of Drakes Beach over Drakes Bay. Continue on to the windswept, wild, and wave-pounded North Beach and South Beach. Finish by taking the Tamales Point Trail for some of the best ocean vistas in the area.
Dillon Beach is a private beach that belongs to the Dillon Beach Resort. Don't worry if you're not staying at the resort (although it's worth considering if you can afford the splurge. By all accounts, it's one of the best accommodations in the area) - for a small fee, anyone can enjoy the small but stunning beach. The mile-long beach is set between the mouth of Tomales and the entrance to Bodega Bay, a vantage point that guarantees magnificent views in whichever direction you look. Even in the high season, the beach is rarely overcrowded. If you want to enjoy the sun and sand without competing for elbow space with a thousand tourists, it's ideal.
Sonoma Coast State Beach
Sonoma County isn't short on state parks, but there are few that can compete with the beauty of Sonoma Coast State Beach. Consisting of a series of outstandingly picturesque beaches separated by craggy rock bluffs and towering headlands, the park extends all the way from Bodega Head to 4 miles north of Jenner. It can be accessed from any number of points along Highway 1 where you can park up before scrambling down to the beach. As to which beaches in the park are most worthy of a visit... it really depends. If you want to give yourself the best chance of spotting some seals, head for Goat Rock. If you want to catch a wave, North and South Salmon Beaches are surfing heaven. Shell Beach is a great place to head with the kids for some rock pool paddling and beachcombing.If you want to extend the fun for longer, you'll find plenty of great little campsites dotted along Wright’s Beach and Bodega Dunes as well as some very basic campsites at Will Creek Environmental Camp.
Healdsburg Veterans Memorial Beach
If you're looking for an idyllic spot to take the kids, head to Healdsburg Veterans Memorial Beach. This friendly, charming riverside beach is perfect for some relaxed fun in the sand. As well as offering shady picnic areas and a roped-off swimming area for kids, the beach also comes with the security of a resident lifeguard. To get to the beach, take the Healdsburg Avenue exit from Highway 101 northbound. From southbound Highway 101, take exit Old Redwood Highway. Parking is available for a small fee.
Bodega Bay is a picturesque fishing port with a stunning stretch of beach. It's packed with things to do, from paddleboarding to kayaking, seal watching to rock fishing. As Trip Advisor writes, it's also a sensational place to indulge in fresh seafood taken right off a local boat. Grab a picnic table at Spud Point Crab Company and try a fresh crab sandwich while admiring the boats bobbing in the dock below; check out the seagulls while enjoying a casual bite at Tides Wharf Restaurant & Bar (one of the settings for Alfred Hitchcock's "The Birds), or splurge on a fancy dinner at the Michelin starred Terrapin Creek Café.
Written by Dana Hanson
Read more posts by Dana Hanson