When the sea calls, it calls: 6 beaches to visit near Berkeley

When choosing which beach you want to surrender yourself to for a day, defining the atmosphere you’re seeking is essential. This article provides descriptions of six magical beaches — all of which are within two hours of Berkeley, California!

Lands End

Located about 45 minutes from Berkeley, Lands End is a spectacular setting, teeming with dog walkers, runners, beachgoers, families and friends. The paved, winding trail parallels the ocean from above and is great for a hike or run. The trail begins in a beautiful parking lot overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Walk on this trail for about a mile, and it’ll bring you to Mile Rock Beach! Hidden from the public eye, Mile Rock is a place for pure relaxation. Behind the large rocks that make up portions of this beach, you get a stellar view of the Golden Gate Bridge.

Continue along the main trail and you’ll arrive at the bustling China Beach. China Beach gives you picturesque views of the Golden Gate Bridge and the Pacific Ocean. Frankly, it’s the best of both worlds. If you’re not up for a walk, don’t fret. Many people don’t go further than the Lands End parking lot benches and still have a wonderful time!

If time allows, the Sutro Baths are also worth stopping by. A short trail descends down from the parking lot and brings you to the baths — a historic swim and amusement center. 

Sculptured Beach (via Bear Valley)

The start of the Bear Valley Trail is about one hour and 30 minutes from Berkeley. A few miles from the Bear Valley Visitor Center lies one of the most sensational beaches of the Point Reyes National Seashore: Sculptured Beach.

The Bear Valley Trail itself is engulfed by a myriad of California native plant species. On certain sections of the hike, magnificent trees create vast rooftops of their own. As you approach the beach, the cool air becomes warmer and more tropical. This beach gives you great views of the ocean, towering cliffs and meandering hills.

If you’re looking for a beach campsite, Coast Campground sits slightly behind the cliffs. Be sure to apply for a permit in advance. No parking permit is required for day hiking. This sandy destination provides a tranquil domain, lovely for reading, chatting and meditating.

Point Reyes Lighthouse

About one hour and 30 minutes from Berkeley, the Point Reyes Lighthouse not only has remarkable structure and history, but the views of the Pacific Ocean there are spectacular.

Located on a rocky, peninsular cliff, the lighthouse takes you aback in awe. There’s a short hike from the parking lot to the staircase that descends down to the lighthouse. Halfway down the staircase is a lookout that’s perfect for a lunch break or a space to rest when huffing and puffing on the way back up. 

Next to the parking lot are vast fields overlooking the sea. With a blanket, cards and good company, one could spend hours in contentment. On a slight right turn off the road leading up to the lighthouse parking lot sits Point Reyes South Beach. Overall, this destination provides a dreamy escapade and is perfect for a day trip.

Stinson Beach

Located just an hour north of Berkeley, Stinson Beach is a masterpiece of nature. If you’re looking for a place to chill and get lost in your thoughts, look no further. This beach isn’t super overcrowded and draws a local crowd.

Stinson Beach sports tightly packed sand, which makes it an extraordinary place for runners and home to many different athletic activities, like the city’s infamous Fourth of July tug of war contest.

California’s incredibly windy but beautiful Highway 1 is the fastest route to Stinson. High on a cliff’s edge, Highway 1 is not a drive for the faint-hearted! Stinson Beach is like no other — a hidden gem.

Panther Beach

Panther Beach is roughly an hour south of Berkeley near Santa Cruz. Perfect for a day of Frisbee and tanning, Panther Beach is unfailingly bustling with young folks. Unique to Panther Beach are arches that dot the coast, engendering curiosity and wonder.

The caves and massive cliffs of Panther Beach create a divide between the highway and the seawater. This detachment lets you engage with the ocean and free yourself from day-to-day worries for a few hours.

The main pathway down to the beach is a steep and rocky trail. Once you’re down to the sand, however, the ground is delightfully soft. If you go beyond where the majority of the people are, you’ll find an abundance of arches and magnificent scenery.

Also, watch out for the hours of high tide! The tides comes in quick and becomes very difficult to escape without having to wade in waist-deep seawater.

Muir Beach

Muir Beach is about 45 minutes north of Berkeley. Regularly misty and overcast, Muir Beach’s element of mystery is unparalleled. The surrounding rocky cliffs bring to life your more daring side, as you’ll likely be scrambling around the rocks embedded into the Pacific and dragging around large pieces of seaweed!

A trailhead is positioned a few yards from the ocean. A brief hike up provides you with the perfect place for picnicking, sketching and just hanging out. Don’t forget a blanket — the breeze can be quite chilly.

If a lack of transportation is the only thing between you and a magical day at the beach, here are a few recommendations. Enterprise Rent-A-Car, located on Oxford Street, will rent to you at the age of 18 and offers a UC Berkeley student discount. This option is convenient and affordable if one gets a group together. You can also join the Cal Hiking and Outdoors Society, or CHAOS, which partners you with an adventure buddy. Grab a few friends, and go explore the Golden Coast!

Contact Skylar Schoemig at [email protected].