China Beach on Super Bowl Sunday

Unlike much of California (especially the southern part), San Francisco is not a place you go to cavort on the beach. It’s too cold and foggy for that. Well, until global warming started changing things around in that regard recently, anyway. While most of the US has frozen this winter, San Francisco’s had quite a few warm, sunny days in the 60s and even 70s, making beach trips more of an option than they’ve ever been in memory. All those clueless tourists who come to San Francisco in shorts expecting hot sunny L.A weather are dressed appropriately for once.

The beach that draws the most visitors, whether from in-town or out of town, is Ocean Beach, by far the longest and widest in city limits. Not far north of the Golden Gate Bridge, Baker Beach draws its share of beachgoers too. Between the two is the smaller, and more obscure, China Beach, which I’d wager has the highest percentage of local residents, as it isn’t played up too much to the tourist trade.

China Beach on Super Bowl Sunday.

China Beach on Super Bowl Sunday.

I admit that though I’ve lived here for a little more than a quarter of a century, I’d only been to China Beach once, and briefly, before biking out there on an unseasonably hot Super Bowl Sunday. Even on warm days like that, it’s too cold to swim, unless you have a wet suit or are extremely hardy. Sunbathing’s an option, though, as you see when you descend the stairs-path and get a view of the roof of the lifeguard equipment pick-up station:


You do see a few surfers here, if not many:


And if you like checking out where the other half live, there are some likely ridiculously unaffordable homes hugging the cliff:


Posting photos of the Golden Gate Bridge from just north of the structure is almost as cheap a shot as shooting fish in a barrel, but you’ll have some undisturbed views here:


And there are a few swimmers here, though it’s a lot more comfortable to lie on the beach than venture into the water:


Named after Chinese fishermen who used the beach as a campsite in San Francisco’s early days, China Beach is reached through some small, out-of-the-way streets in the Sea Cliff neighborhood. There’s a small parking area on the hill above the beach, and a small bike rack just inside the entrance. There’s basic information about the beach at

The monument honoring the fishermen after whom China Beach was named, just inside the entrance.

The monument honoring the fishermen after whom China Beach was named, just inside the entrance.

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