With long summer days upon us, it’s a perfect time to visit a San Francisco Bay shoreline park. Park activities include wildlife viewing, swimming, windsurfing, kiteboarding, kayaking, hiking, bicycling, picnicking, camping, fishing, and hanging out amid the beauty of the Bay. Here’s a sampling:
China Camp State Park, San Rafael. Nestled along the shore of the San Pablo Bay, China Camp offers mountain biking, horseback riding, and hiking through a meadow and oak woodlands, with spectacular Bay lookouts. You can also camp, picnic, fish, swim, windsurf, paddle board, kayak, and boat in small vessels. The endangered salt marsh harvest mouse lives in the park wetlands, along with many water and shore birds.
Paradise Beach Park, Tiburon. A secluded landscaped park in a residential neighborhood on the Tiburon Peninsula, Paradise has a redwood grove, wildflowers, rolling grassy hillsides, a narrow beach, a long fishing pier, and easy kayak access. Occasionally, seals and sea lions pop up in the water near the shore.
Crissy Field, San Francisco. The northern waterfront of Presidio National Park offers a walking/running path, outdoor fitness equipment, picnic sites, and a sandy beach, all with breathtaking Golden Gate Bridge views. Rare birds feed on native plants in restored wetlands. On windy afternoons, windsurfers and kite boarders zoom back and forth on the Bay’s waves.
Aquatic Park, San Francisco. A favorite beach for swimmers, Aquatic Park is a calm gem amid a bustling tourist area. There’s a sandy area and stadium-like steps for watching swimmers—and sometimes, sea lions—glide by. A long pier leads to gorgeous views of the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz, Fisherman's Wharf, the San Francisco skyline, and stunning sunsets.
Crown Beach, Alameda. Wind surfers and kite boarders frolic along the shoreline and waders savor the warm water at Crown Beach, one of the best urban beaches around the Bay. The 2.5-mile beach, with sand dunes bordering a bicycle trail, looks out on the Bay Bridge and San Francisco. At the east end, you can walk along the bird sanctuary boardwalk to see many types of water birds, including herons and egrets. At Crab Cove marine reserve on the north end, a special ramp provides wheelchair-accessible tidepool viewing.
Point Molate Beach Park, Richmond. One of the Bay’s rare, wild beaches, this park is just north of I-580 and the Richmond/San Rafael Bridge, with views of Mt. Tamalpais and San Francisco. The park reopened officially in April, after being closed for 12 years. Toxic debris had polluted the waters and shoreline, including hundreds of logs contaminated with creosote, a now-banned wood preservative that poses a health risk to people and wildlife. In a four-month effort last year, Baykeeper and our volunteers removed 96 tons of debris. We returned in May to remove more toxic logs that had washed ashore, along with tires half buried in mud and trash. Now, the beach is safer for people who picnic or stroll along the shore, and the offshore eelgrass beds are healthier for sea life.
Point Isabel Regional Shoreline, Richmond
One of the largest public off-leash dog parks in the nation, with over 500,000 dog visits per year, this landscaped 23-acre park is located at the west end of Central Avenue in Richmond. Dogs romp off-leash while owners enjoy beautiful views of the Golden Gate and Marin County. Owners must have a six-foot maximum leash with them and keep their dog under voice control and within sight at all times.
Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge, South Bay. Thirty miles of hiking trails meander through one of the largest urban wildlife refuges in the nation. Visitor centers in Fremont and Alviso educate visitors on how the refuge’s tidal marshes, salt ponds, mud flats, and seasonal wetlands preserve the Bay. Watery byways welcome canoeists and kayers. Over half of the world’s endangered California clapper rails live here, along with dozens of other bird species, including sandpipers, plovers, grebes, cormorants, and ducks.
This is just a sampling of the delights waiting along the Bay’s shore, and at dozens more shoreline parks, large and small. In fact, if you’re anywhere near the Bay, you can be sure you’re not far from a shoreline park. Enjoy!
Photo by Yuichi Sakuraba (Flickr/CC)