The Peninsula’s Best Public Beaches And Reservoirs To Spend A Summer Day

June 8, 2013 5:00 AM

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Ah summertime, a time that conjures up images of loading the car with picnic baskets, watermelon, beer, soda and sunscreen and heading to the beach for a day of fun in the sun. If you live in northern California, our beaches are not always sun drenched. There are those days when the banks of fog roll in off the Pacific and if you’re looking to show off your bikini, well, you’d best think again. Lying on a blanket and improving your tan isn’t the only activity available at the beach, so choose your beach according to the day. Here are a handful of options near the Peninsula from which to choose.

Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images

Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images

Half Moon Bay Beach
Half Moon Bay, CA 94019
(650) 726-8820

Approximately 25 miles south of San Francisco is the community of Half Moon Bay and its beaches. Much of the beach and surrounding area is under the jurisdiction of the California Department of Parks and Recreation. Four miles of sandy beaches are perfect for sunbathing, fishing and picnicking. In addition to picnicking, there is also overnight camping facilities with showers and flush toilets. The beach lies a half-mile west of Highway 1 on Kelly Avenue in Half Moon Bay. There are three parking and beach accesses at beaches like Francis Beach, Venice Beach and Dunes Beach. In addition to the beach, there are trails for hiking, horseback riding and bicycling. Leashed dogs are permitted in campsites and on trails but not on the beaches.

Related: Best Bay Area Hiking Spots

Pescedaro Beach
Pescedaro, CA 94060
(650) 879-2170

This mile-long shoreline, only a little more than 14 miles south of Half Moon Bay, offers multiple opportunities for adventuring with its tide pools, picnic areas, rocky cliffs and secret sandy coves. It’s excellent for shore fishing and there are numerous tasty little rock crabs. Across Highway I is Pescadero Marsh Natural Preserve, an excellent place for bird watching. You may also be able to spot raccoons, foxes, skunks, deer, kites and blue heron. An excellent game to play when taking young people on a nature walk: give each one a small tablet and pencil. Make a page for each animal, vegetable and mineral. Then as the kids are walking, they write down what the see in each category. At the end of the hike, back at your picnic table, tally them up and see who was the most observant.

Ano Nuevo State Park

Ano Nuevo State Park (

Ano Nuevo Beach
San Mateo County
(650) 879-2025

Fifty-five miles south of the Golden Gate and 23 miles north of Santa Cruz lies this beautiful stretch of California coastline, also a state park. It is comprised of Año Nuevo Island and Año Nuevo Point. This stretch of low, rocky, windswept coast is another one of our beaches that’s perfect for the adventurer who is looking for more than just picnicking and sunbathing. It is a wildlife preserve, primarily known for its sea lion rookeries.  The park is the site of the largest mainland breeding colony of northern elephant seals in the world. In addition to the sea lions, visitors may also explore an extremely diverse community of plant life. The wetlands are also a habitat to the rare San Francisco garter snake and the California red-legged frog. There are also the remains of a prehistoric Native American village and a number of strutures from the 19th century Cascade Ranch.

The Lexington Reservoir County Park
17770 Alma Bridge Road
Los Gatos, CA 95032
(408) 356-2729

Not a beach person? No problem. You can still spend your day in the sun at Lexington Reservoir County Park. Being a public water supply, no swimming is allowed. Non-powered boating is allowed only by special permit, but the facility offers many other recreational opportunities including fishing, picnicking, hiking and sun bathing on the lawn areas. The park, located above Los Gatos, is easily accessible from highway 17.

Related: Best Dog Parks In San Francisco

Geraldine Duncann is a freelance writer covering all things San Francisco. Her work can be found on

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