It’s mid-December. Jack Frost’s nipping at your nose. A trip to the beach ranks right up there with bah, humbug, right?
Hang on a sec. The truth is that winter may be one of the best times to hit West Coast beaches. Why? Because you don’t have to fight for a parking spot. You may have to bundle up, but you can walk for miles without encountering another sole or soul. Bonus points: Anyone with brains stays home.
To clarify: I don’t mean swimming – unless you’re part polar bear. But if you’re properly outfitted and are looking for adventure, here are a few Northwest options, followed by some Orange County and San Diego favorites:
Located in Grays Harbor, Bottle Beach is a 75-acre state park with with 6,000 feet of shoreline. Tip: Watch those tides! Dogs allowed from mid-October through February.
Kalaloch and Ruby Beach are among the most visited sites in Olympic National Park. Located along the southwest coast of the Olympic Peninsula, you can hike for miles along these beaches. Also great for bird and wildlife watching. Watch the driftwood, especially at Ruby Beach. The footing can be treacherous when wet.
Surrounded by the lush Olympic Peninsula, La Push perches on the northwest coast of Washington’s most westerly peninsula. It sits at the mouth of the Quillayute River, surrounded by Olympic National Park. Check out Rialto Beach for picnicking and hiking. Keep an eye on the tides!
Dungeness National Wildlife Refuge. Over 700 acres of scenic, coast-hugging land on the Strait of Juan de Fuca. Near the town of Sequim in Clallam County. For a quick, relatively mild hike along the water, check out the Dungenness Spit. You can almost hear, “O, Canada!”
Cannon Beach offers nine miles of walkable beach plus Haystack Rock.
Nestled between Seaside and Cannon Beach, Ecola State Park offers a network of trails that includes an eight mile segment of the Oregon Coast Trail. Also Indian Beach, a secluded sandy beach popular with surfers and beach goers.
Located across Pacific Coast Highway from HB State Beach is the 114-acre Huntington Beach Wetlands, operated by the Department of Fish and Game. Great hiking along four multi-use trails into nearby Bolsa Chica State Beach. Pro tip: Check out Ruby’s Diner on the Huntington Beach pier.
The only beach in Huntington Beach where you can take your dog.
Nestled inside choice beachfront real estate in Huntington Beach’s Huntington Harbour, this network of five small, mellow beaches features playgrounds, grass, bathrooms, picnic tables, and warm, gentle water without big waves. Mother’s beaches are shallow, sheltered, and maintained by the city as part of its parks system. Just right for moms with little ones. Our favorites were Seabridge Park and Trinidad Island.
Great swimming, surfing and diving at this half-mile long sandy beach framed by cliffs and a rock jetty that forms the east entrance to Newport Harbor.
Seven miles of picturesque sand and surf located midway between Los Angeles and San Diego. Great hiking options!
There are no real “beaches” in Point Loma. But if you’re in San Diego, the Point Loma Peninsula is a must-see. Featuring Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery, the Cabrillo National Monument, Shelter Island, Harbor Island, and stunning views of the San Diego skyline. A family favorite since just after the earth’s crust cooled.
If I had a nickel for every time I sailed or picnicked at Mission Bay, I could retire to the south of France. Tomorrow.
This is the largest aquatic park of its kind in the country. MBP has27 miles of shoreline, 19 of which are sandy beaches with eight official swimming areas.
Known as “the Strand” by locals, this state beach perches on a narrow seven mile spit of sand that protects San Diego Bay from the sea. Swimming, overnight camping, bike paths, surf and sun.
The Cays is just down the road from the Strand. Six spacious beach acres with almost no trees. Includes a playground, baseball diamond and tennis courts. Nice option for a family picnic.
This reserve is one of the wildest 1,500 acres of land on the southern California coast. It remains pretty much as it was before San Diego was developed — including the maritime chaparral, the rare Torrey pine, miles of unspoiled beaches, and a lagoon vital to migrating seabirds. Great ocean views and hiking along craggy bluffs overlooking the Big Blue.
“La Jolla” means the jewel, and this small beach tucked between sandstone cliffs is one of the best. Located in north San Diego, it’s also one of the most photographed beaches in southern California. Warm, crystal clear water with visibility that sometimes exceeds thirty feet.
The Cove is teeming with hordes and masses come summer. That’s why a winter visit may be just right. (Caveat: parking is at a premium on any sunny day – which is pretty much most days in San Diego. Either arrive early or plan to spend extra time trolling for a parking spot.)
The TRUTH about West Coach beaches? They’re some of Jack Frost’s best kept secrets. Just watch your nose.
What would you add?