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The Best Beaches in Mendocino

The Best Beaches in Mendocino

Whether you’re looking to chill under the sun or go on a wild adventure, these beaches In Mendocino have your best interest at heart.


6 min read

August 15, 2021

“We are tied to the ocean. And when we go back to the sea, whether it is to sail or to watch – we are going back from whence we came.” - J. F. Kennedy

1. Bowling Ball Beach

Location: Highway 1 and Schooner Gulch Road, Point Arena

Hours: Sunrise to sunset

Parking: Free parking available 

Amenities: Tide pools, restrooms, trails, fossils

Dogs allowed: On leash

Bowling Ball Beach smoothly makes it to every “unique beaches in California” list and for good reason. Located at the northern end of Schooner Gulch State Beach, this rocky stretch of coastline is a picture-perfect destination featuring geologic formations and tide pools. When visiting at low tide, you’ll discover perfectly spherical rocks resembling, you guessed it, bowling balls, making it one of the best beaches to visit in Northern California

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2. Van Damme Beach State Park

Location: 8001 Highway 1, Little River

Hours: Sunrise to sunset

Parking: Free parking available

Amenities: Trails, campground, picnic tables, rentals, showers, restrooms

Dogs allowed: On leash

Adventurous people love visiting Van Damme Beach State Park. The rocky points on both sides of the beach protects visitors from crashing waves—it also makes it the perfect launching point for kayakers, scuba divers, and abalone divers. Here, people can also explore the sea caves located across the bay. As for those looking to relax, Van Damme Beach State Park is perfect for a quiet afternoon alone enjoying the sun.

“Those who live by the sea can hardly form a single thought of which the sea would not be part.” - Hermann Broch

3. Big River Beach

Location: Highway 1 and Big River Road, Mendocino

Hours: Sunrise to sunset

Parking: Free parking available 

Amenities: Trails, driftwood, restrooms

Dogs allowed: On leash

Big River Beach in Mendocino is the meeting point where the Big River flows into the Pacific. This NorCal beach is perfect for sunbathing, strolling, and splashing in the waters. The large white sand beach provides access for kayaks and canoes into the waters of the Big River Estuary—experienced and adventurous kayakers head to the bay as well. Fun fact: depending on the weather conditions, you might even find a lagoon on the northwest corner of the beach or a large sandbar island you can walk to.

There’s nothing more beautiful than the way the ocean refuses to stop kissing the shoreline, no matter how many times it’s sent away.

4. Portuguese Beach

Location: Main Street and Heeser Street, Mendocino

Hours: Sunrise to sunset

Parking: Free parking available

Amenities: Trails, rock arch, driftwood, restrooms

Dogs allowed: On leash

The southwest section of Mendocino Headland State Park is lined with sea caves, one of which opens out to Portuguese Beach—the main beach in the underrated state park. The 600-feet stretch of light-colored sand is a go-to destination for hiking, fishing, and paddleboarding. The hiking trail that starts at the visitor’s center is a three-mile loop, which provides breathtaking views of the Mendocino Headlands. To get to the beach, search for the wooden steps on the hiking trail and head downwards. 

Considering the beach is open to the public even after dark, it’s one of the best spots to lie down and stargaze in Northern California.

5. Agate Beach

Location: 11101 Lansing Street, Mendocino

Hours: Sunrise to sunset

Parking: Free parking available 

Amenities: Benches, ocean views

Dogs allowed: Not applicable

Located north of Mendocino Headlands State Park, Agate Beach is a hidden spot not many people know of. Not to confuse it with the one in Trinidad, the beach is best accessed from the water by boat or kayak during calm conditions. When arriving at the cove, you’ll find rocks offshore and headlands jutting out into the roaring Pacific. Many are determined to find agates here, but we have bad news for you—they’re pretty hard to get. Agates aren’t the only reason people visit though; the beach attracts people who love to escape crowded places and breathe in the fresh air. 

At the beach, life is different. Time doesn’t move hour to hour but mood to moment. We live by the currents, plan by the tides, and follow the sun.

6. Jug Handle State Natural Reserve

Location: 15700 North Highway 1, Caspar

Hours: Sunrise to sunset

Parking: Free parking available

Amenities: Interpretive nature trail, restrooms, picnic tables, creek, rock arch, arched bridge, redwood forest

Dogs allowed: Only on the trails on leash

This beach in Mendocino is a part of Jug Handle State Natural Reserve, usually serving as a pitstop for exhausted hikers. Getting here is pretty simple—all you need to do is walk through a wooden path off Highway 1 and down a few steps, and voila, you’ve earned yourself gorgeous views of the Pacific Ocean. The coarse sandy beach even has a small creek running into the ocean. Relax, have a picnic, and enjoy the serenity of this blissful stretch of coastline.

A day at the beach is never lost time. When the warm grains of sand touch our hearts, we know we’re in the right place.

7. Noyo Harbor Beach 

Location: 32100 North Harbor Drive, Fort Bragg

Hours: Sunrise to sunset

Parking: Free parking available

Amenities: Driftwood, restrooms

Dogs allowed: Yes

Looking for a dog-friendly beach in Northern California to hang out with your pup? Noyo Harbor Beach is an awesome sandy playground for you and your canine. This popular beach is located on the northern end of the Noyo River—you’ll find many kayakers launching towards the river here. Noyo Harbor has plenty of drift logs on the shore, which make for good spots to sit and admire the spectacular views of the bay.

A beach is not only a sweep of sand, but shells of sea creatures, the sea glass, the seaweed, the incongruous objects washed up by the ocean.

8. Glass Beach

Location: West Elm Street and Glass Beach Drive, Fort Bragg

Hours: Sunrise to sunset

Parking: Free parking available

Amenities: Tidepools, sea glass, restrooms

Dogs allowed: On leash

Glass Beach in Mendocino is a must-visit, even in the cold. But did you know that this mysterious natural wonder was once a dumpsite? Nature eventually took its course and the discarded glass turned into smooth, colorful sea pebbles. Nowadays, thousands of people visit the beach to enjoy the kaleidoscopic shore and go on tidepooling adventures. Now you know what to do during your next vacation in Mendocino

“Ocean is more ancient than the mountains, and freighted with the memories and the dreams of time.” - H.P. Lovecraft

9. Ten Mile Beach

Location: 25301 Ward Avenue, Fort Bragg

Hours: Sunrise to sunset

Parking: Free parking available

Amenities: Trails, dunes, wetlands, driftwood

Dogs allowed: No

Despite the fact that it’s called Ten Mile, this beach is actually four miles long. Outdoor lovers can’t get enough of this breathtaking Northern California beach—it’s home to more than 90 species of birds. Seeing people here with their binoculars isn’t a strange sight; it’s also a wonderful whale watching spot. Thanks to the exquisite nature, people love riding horses along Ten Mile Beach and enjoying the beautiful landscapes. 

10. MacKerricher State Park Main Beach

Location: 24100 MacKerricher Park Road, Fort Bragg

Hours: Sunrise to sunset

Parking: Free parking available for day-use

Amenities: Campground, picnic tables, lake, trails, restrooms, boardwalk 

Dogs allowed: On leash

Located at the main entrance of the MacKerricher State Park is a sandy beach frequented by many. The main beach at the state park is ideal for campers looking to pitch a tent by the ocean. There’s also a lake, where visitors can fish and ride non-motorized boats. People love watching the crashing waves, walking barefoot along the wet sands, and simply admiring nature at its finest. 

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