San Francisco’s Ocean Beach

When you think of San Francisco, you don’t automatically think of beaches. And, with some good reason…there are very few beach-type days here, at least not in the stereotypical sense.

But you would be remiss to not check out Ocean Beach. It is a huge strand of a beach; I’m focusing on my favorite part — north of Lincoln Drive. From this beach, even on foggy days it feels like you could see out to Hawaii.

If you approach Ocean Beach from the top, you’ll first see the historic Cliff House. This site has now housed 4 Cliff Houses, I think. A few have burned down, and I think the last one may have been torn down. The new one is very modern looking, and offers a beautiful view. You can also see some of the old Sutro Baths from the outside terrace. (insiders note: for a great view of the Sutro Baths, and a good greasy-spoon type restaurant, head uphill a few feet from the Cliff House to Louie’s)

After the Cliff House, head down the hill to the beach. If the tide is low, you’ll be able to see some tide pools at the far right end of the beach. If not, you’ll just be able to climb on a few rocks and watch the tide roll in and out. As you continue down the beach, you’ll start running into a lot of dogs and their owners, and kids building sandcastles.

You’ll soon run into the bonfire pits. There are a few plain ones, but in between those are some pit sculptures created by local artists. May nights you’ll find groups of people, huddled around a fire pit, enjoying the ocean breeze. Please note, you cannot sleep on the beach.

If you continue, you’ll hit the Snowy Plover area. This is protected, so if you are walking a dog, make sure to put the dog on the leash. However, if you’ve enjoyed enough of the beach, head upstairs from the beach and cross the street. You’ll be in front of the Beach Chalet, which has a small history exhibit downstairs.

You can choose to go upstairs to the restaurant, or head back outside to the Park Chalet. There is also a restaurant there, along with an outside seating area perfect for lounging or hanging out for a beer with your friends and dog. It is situated right at the edge of Golden Gate Park, and feels like miles away from city life.

To get to Ocean Beach from downtown, take the 38 Geary to the end (Ft. Miley). Walk down the hill to start your tour. To return back downtown, you can either walk back up to the 38 Geary stop, or, walk up to Fulton Street (north of Beach Chalet) and grab the 5 Fulton.