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La Côte d’SF

April 1, 2011

The San Francisco beach scene isn’t one usually included in the tourist brochure. Nor are there TV shows about lifeguards in skimpy swimsuits at Ocean Beach. Due to its cold weather and even colder water, San Francisco beach goers usually reserve beach trips for three things: bonfires, sunsets, or the occasional mid-day sunbath. While traversing San Francisco’s arctic beaches can seem daunting, with an adventurous spirit and a heavy jacket, one can tease out their magic.

Let’s begin with the most obvious, Ocean Beach. Spanning the length of the city, this is where you’ll end up if you simply turn west and walk. Wide and expansive, but with rough waves, this beach is best for sunsets, bonfires, and dolphin watching. At Kelly’s Cove under the Cliff House, where allegedly a man named Kelly served up soup during the Depression years, you’ll find brave-the-cold surfers flirting with the waves. For the common beachgoer, however, Ocean Beach is best reserved for romantic sunset walks.

North of Ocean Beach (and across from Robin Williams’ house) lies China Beach, in my opinion the best beach in San Francisco. With its ancient sunbathers, toilets, and showers, this is a prime mid-day sunbathing beach. There are waves but swimming is good beyond the break. Surrounded by cliffs, and with great views of Mile Rock and the Golden Gate Bridge, it is quiet, picturesque, and convenient.

Finally, if you want San Francisco diversity, head to Baker Beach in the Presidio. Crowded on nice days, this is a see-and-be-seen beach, especially beyond the northern rocks where clothing is optional. Great views of the Golden Gate Bridge and a wide sandy beach characterize this spot.

So next time you’re craving some Californian coastline, pack a picnic, a towel, or even a swim suit, and head for la côte d’SF!

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