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Best beaches in Northern California for families

Families have so many compelling reasons to go to Northern California on their trip and make it an exciting California beach vacation. From San Francisco’s fun and sophistication to the ancient sequoia forests and the immeasurably tall Redwood Forest embodied in amazing state parks, Northern California boasts contrasts and beauty that is hard to find anywhere else. It is no accident that this part of America has been described, painted, and adored by famous artists for hundreds of years now, or that it is still continuously visited by millions of individuals from the world over every year. This is the place to come not only for the world-class California beaches, but also for incredible scenery, amazing food and superb attractions. In this article, we give you inspiration on where to take your children by reviewing eight of the best beaches in Northern California for families.

Anett Victoria - Author of SeaSpiration

Written by Anett Victoria

When it comes to a beach vacation, Anett is the person who certainly has tips on where to go and what to do no matter it is a luxury tropical holiday, a romantic seaside getaway, or a fun family trip to the ocean. As a world traveler with years of experience in exploring tropical countries and a water sports fan, she creates this inspiring site where she writes travel guides, reviews and recommends beach gear, and gives travel tips to make planning your trip quicker and easier! Are you curious about where She wanders now? Follow her adventures on IG too!

Capitola Beach

Found in Capitola Village astride the renowned Esplanade, Capitola Beach features beachfront restaurants and shops on top of the landscape is unforgettable in beauty. This all combines to give it a relaxed atmosphere and laid-back small-town feeling, and the places is not as busy as the popular California beaches.

Capitola Wharf - Capitola beach

Capitola Beach is a fine example of kid-friendly beaches in Northern California. It offers benches for those who want to sit right near the beginning of the sandy stretch and soak up the sun. You can also take in the Capitola Wharf for fishing and unparalleled views of the Monterey Bay while here.

Another fun attraction for the kids is the lagoon that lies just behind the beach. This lagoon is populated by birds that happily put on a show of their own for visitors. Should you look for the best beaches in Northern California for families, make sure to add this spot to your itinerary!

Heart’s Desire Beach

Heart’s Desire Beach lies in the Tomales Bay State Park. This sandy stretch has earned a justified reputation as one of the best kid-friendly beaches in Northern California, making it pretty busy during the lovely summer months. It is also easy to find thanks to its direct location next to the primary parking lot. The kids will have a short walk to the beach action here as another bonus. The many activities here include boating, kayaking, swimming, digging for clams, and even bird watching, besides the ubiquitous sandcastle building and sunning.

Kayaking Hearts Desire Beach Tomales Bay State Park

Moreover, Heart’s Desire provides fantastic opportunities to go hiking. The trails lead off to either the south or the north of the beach towards Pebble Beach and Indian Beach, respectively. There is an even longer hiking trail available called the Johnstone Trail that heads over to Shell Beach, which is the state park’s most southerly beach.

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Moonstone Beach County Park

Lying to the north of the Little River delta near Trinidad is Moonstone Beach County Park. This is mostly a surfing beach, yet it is an excellent family-friendly beach destination too since the river current here is so slow and safe for children to play in. Besides this, the beach makes a fantastic backdrop for photography thanks to its rocks sticking up from the surf and the huge sea stacks. Camel Rock is an enormous double-humped rocky island lying to the beach’s north.

Moonstone - Beach at sunset

The park offers a wide range of attractions. Activities available here include swimming, sea kayaking, tide pooling, beachcombing, horseback riding, and even rock climbing. Moreover, there are a few interesting hidden caves that you and the kids can explore as well.

Stinson Beach

If you are looking for a big public beach to take the kids in Northern California, look no further than Stinson Beach that is certainly one of the best beaches in Northern California for families. The town of the same name lies within the Golden Gate National Recreation Area. San Franciscans love to come here as it is only an hour to the north of the city. It is beloved for swimming and sunbathing, surfing, picnicking, beach walking, beach combing, and fishing.

Stinson beach California

Naturally, all of these fun activities tend to draw in the bigger crowds in summertime. During the winter months though, the beach is considerably less crowded. Any sunny day will see the parking lot fill up fast. Beware the rip currents which are all too common here. Checking in with the lifeguard on duty is a good idea for safety. In the summer months, several restaurants and a snack shack serve visitors food and drinks.

Carmel Beach

Carmel Beach is a very popular family beach. It also welcomes well-behaved pets off the leash in the surf and sand. While here, you are able to enjoy walking along the beach as well as the trails and steps found here should you tire of the whole day by the water.

Carmel beach - Northern California USA

Most charming here has to be Carmel-by-the-Sea. This adorable village is replete with shops, restaurants, and even art galleries. It makes a great stop for lunch or early dinner before you pack up for home. For those who wish to stay for a weekend, there is also a charming hotel here called La Playa Carmel. What else could you desire in one of the best beaches in Northern California for families?

Montara State Beach

The San Mateo County Coast boasts great family beaches in Northern California along Highway 1, one of them is the Montara State Beach. This delightfully expansive beach extends for a mile in width. Incredible naturally sculpted sandstone cliffs lie to the back of the beach that are worth some pictures.

Surfers at Montara beach

Popular activities here tide pooling, fishing, walking along the beach, climbing the dunes, and surfing. It also offers great hiking to close by McNee Ranch with a few good trails that head up to Montara Mountain. There are more hiking routes that you can access from the hillside over the highway to the north of the beach parking lot.

Pfeiffer Beach

Locals swear by the lovely and unspoiled Pfeiffer Beach, claiming that it is one of the best beaches in Northern California for families. Tourists do not know it as well, but you should come. Besides some good surf, there are great views of the sea stacks and rocks here. Most interestingly, the beach boasts naturally purple sand, something that is sure to enchant your children. Sunsets here are incredibly photogenic.

Pfeiffer beach - Big Sur CA

You will see some photographers trolling the beach for that perfect shot of the rocks, ocean, and waves. Swimming is also popular here, though no lifeguards protect the beach. Kids love to build sandcastles from the unusual purple sand. Avoid this beach if the wind is up though, as the blowing sand here makes this typically paradise spot into a most unpleasant location.

There is an entrance fee to get in that includes your parking cost. This does not change the fact that the parking is still limited at this beach. It does help to ensure that the beach does not become overrun all at one time.

Related Post: Dog friendly beaches in San Francisco – Northern California

Asilomar State Beach

Asilomar State Beach is found along the Pebble Beach Peninsula within the town of Pacific Grove. The park itself occupies a stretch along the Sunset Drive in between Crocker Avenue and Jewel Avenue. Asilomar State Beach is not your typical beach. Instead, it is made up of a number of little coves and rocks that boast several sandy places astride the shore.

Asilomar State Beach

There is a walking trail that wanders between the dunes and the ocean which you should not miss. It does connect each of the points and coves together. You should walk the trail to explore the shore and the grass-covered dunes.

Across the street from the beach park are houses, a conference center and grounds that comprise a part of this state park. Be warned that facilities are non-existent here, which means that Asilomar Beach does not have even any bathrooms.

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