We’ve been trying to visit the lighthouse at Point Reyes for years. But every time we make plans to visit, something goes awry like storms rolling in or high winds making access too dangerous. This latest time around, renovations to the Lighthouse were the obstacle, but we decided to drive out to the Point Reyes National Seashore anyway to see some of the sights.
After visiting the cute town of Point Reyes Station, walking through the famous Monterey Cypress Tunnel, and driving nearly 45 minutes on a winding two-lane road, we stopped at North Beach in the Point Reyes National Seashore.
Point Reyes Beach, also known as The Great Beach, is a stunning 11 mile stretch of dramatic and powerful sandy Pacific coast in Marin County. North Beach is the section of beach easily accessed by the northern access point.
It was late afternoon and the parking lot was nearly empty! North Beach is steep and as we stood atop the hill of pebbly sand, we watched huge waves pound the shore ferociously. This definitely wasn’t an opportunity to stick our feet in the surf and relax along the water’s edge! This beach is better for picnicking, kite flying, photography, and walking along the beach.
We walked for a while, stopping to check out shells, agates, and interesting pieces of driftwood, but didn’t go too far because this beach is NOT a sandy beach. It looks like sand, but the minute you step on it, you can feel the tiny rocks and pebbles.
Dangerous Beach Conditions
While it’s the perfect spot to watch enormously powerful waves crash along the steep shore, North Beach at Point Reyes Beach isn’t a place for swimming and frolicking in the surf. Signs in the parking lot warn visitors of deaths have occurred on the beach due to the cold water, strong rip currents, scary sneaker waves, and even sharks.
Swimming and wading are not recommended along this stretch of beach. If you do walk along the beach, be aware that in some areas, high tides can trap you against the cliffs. Plan on leaving the beach — or at least getting back to the beach near the parking area — before high tide.
Know Before You Go
- North Beach is one part of the beach known as both The Great Beach and Point Reyes Beach.
- Drive-up access, free parking, restrooms, and showers are located at the North Beach parking lot (about 50 spots) or the much larger South Beach parking lot (several hundred spots), both off Sir Francis Drake Boulevard in Inverness, California 94937 in Marin County.
- Like in nearby San Francisco, the weather in Point Reyes during the summer can be cold and foggy until it burns off in the afternoon.
- Shore fishing with a permit is allowed at this beach and wood fires are allowed within the National Seashore only if a Beach Fire Permit has been obtained in advance.
- Drones, metal detectors, and glass are not allowed within the boundaries of Point Reyes National Seashore is prohibited.
- Pets are permitted on only certain sections Point Reyes Beach but must be restrained by a six foot leash at all times. You may not have your dogs off leash on the beach.
- Dogs are not permitted north of the North Beach access point. The area is protected habitat for the endangered snowy plover.
- During the winter, when elephant seals are present, both people and dogs are not permitted south of the South Beach access.
- Do not remove shells or other items, as everything within the National Seashore is protected.