Party Earth Review Stretching more than three miles from the historic Cliff House Inn to the rolling sand dunes of Fort Funston, Ocean Beach is the longest – and probably the foggiest – beach in San Francisco. The area was largely undeveloped... ... read full review
Point Lobos Avenue/Great Highway
San Francisco, CA 94121
MUNI N Line: Judah/La Playa/Ocean Beach
The Sunset, San Francisco –
Stretching more than three miles from the historic Cliff House Inn to the rolling sand dunes of Fort Funston, Ocean Beach is the longest – and probably the foggiest – beach in San Francisco.
The area was largely undeveloped until the late 1800s, when a small amusement park and the famous Sutro Baths swimming complex drew thousands before burning down in the 1960s. Today, the waters off its shores are a popular haunt for local surfers and die-hard swimmers, though the sea's fierce riptides usually scare off – and regularly drown – casual frolickers.
Landlubbers deal with frequent winds and average temps in the 50s, and the natural elements tend to leave the beach sparsely populated, making it a great outdoor spot for dog walkers, Frisbee slingers, kite sailors, and jacket-toting visitors who don’t mind a little sand up their bums.
Joggers, bikers, and skaters enjoy a long sidewalk running parallel to the beach, while birders hope for a sighting of the shy Western Snowy Plover, a threatened species known to reside here.
Clear evenings bring scores of romantic couples out to catch the sunset, often joined by tourists spilling out from Golden Gate Park nearby, but most clear out shortly after the sun goes down. Those who remain set up bonfires in the free decorative fire rings that dot the sand, breaking out their guitars and hiding their beer coolers from the cops who occasionally drive by.
Expansive and uncrowded, blustery but beautiful, Ocean Beach will never be a place people visit to work on their tans – but frankly, neither is San Francisco.
Surfers, joggers, bikers, skaters, experienced swimmers, volleyball players, fishermen, kayakers, dog walkers, families, tourists, birders, and a younger crowd at night hooting, hollering, and throwing another log on the fire. All ages.
People-watching, birding, and treasure hunting in the sand. Seals can usually be spotted around the aptly named Seal Rocks at the north edge of the beach. Hang gliding and launching oneself off the dunes in Fort Funston, though not technically part of Ocean Beach. Various music around bonfires by night.
The Cliff House features a camera-obscura – a rare device based on a 15th-century design by Leonardo da Vinci that produces a 360-degree live-image view of the Seal Rock Area.
No food on the beach. Area restaurants include American bistro Beach Chalet Brewery & Restaurant right across Great Highway on the western edge of Golden Gate Park; the upscale Shoal’s Restaurant at The Cliff House Inn; and various café’s, pizza joints, and cheaper fare on Judah Street, Taraval Street, and Noriega Street, all within walking distance.
Bonfires allowed for groups of twenty-five people or fewer; larger groups must obtain a permit. Outdoor showers and restrooms available near the Sloat entrance. Alcohol and glass containers not allowed on the beach, though visitors frequently ignore this rule. Overnight camping prohibited.
Beach Chalet entrées $12–$24, Cliff House entrées $18–$30+. Ample free parking. Bonfire rings free and first-come, first-served.
Anything goes, but warm clothes are advised.
Any rare sunny day, any clear evening to catch the sunset, or any night with a group in the mood for a bonfire.
Fort Funston (Great Highway at Skyline Boulevard) is a large recreation area featuring rugged dunes and sandy cliffs, and is a popular destination for hikers, horseback riders, and hang gliders.