offshore rocks

California’s best beaches

Whether you’re looking to spot wildlife, want to catch some waves or ride a rollercoaster from dawn until dusk, there’s a beach for every type of traveller in California, says travel writer Hannah Summers

Santa Monica, Los Angeles 

A day at the beach doesn’t have to mean hours lazing in the sun. A case in point is LA’s 5.6km-long Santa Monica Beach. In fact, this stretch of sand is home to the original Muscle Beach, which has made a name for itself as the city’s most popular outdoor gym (and the second home of celebs and bodybuilders, including Arnold Schwarzenegger) since the 1950s. 

Today you can try out the bicep-quivering equipment yourself, or just head along for a spot of people watching. The big draw though is the colours, lights and old-school atmosphere of the Santa Monica Pier. Test your nerves on the roller coaster, indulge in gigantic ice creams, or ride the 13-story Pacific Wheel – the world’s first and only solar-powered Ferris wheel.

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La Jolla, San Diego

La Jolla is known as ‘the jewel’ of San Diego, and it’s easy to see why with its white-sand beaches, towering sea cliffs and turquoise coves. Most beaches here are tucked into rocky coves, but for a 1.6km-long stretch of palm-backed sand, try La Jolla Shores Beach, the perfect patch for soft surf and sunbathing.

For something a little more hardcore, join one of the many kayaking trips leaving the beach and heading out to La Jolla Caves – it’s a rocky beach that’s hard to access on foot, and your efforts will be rewarded with spectacular cliffs and perhaps a sea lion or two.

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San Gregorio State Beach, San Francisco Bay Area

For a combination of wildlife and walks, try San Gregorio State Beach which sits in a valley 15km south of Half Moon Bay. This is a rustic beach as its best, so instead of ice-cream shops and fairground rides, expect a golden sweep of sand dotted with logwood, driftwood and birds. 

Picnic tables dot the bluff – bring your favourite food and drink down and enjoy it with the views – then work it off with a walk. Head south and you’ll take on a cliff-backed stretch to Pomponio State Beach, or head north to explore caves, fossils and sandstone cliffs.

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Leadbetter Beach, Santa Barbara

It’s impossible not to fall for Santa Barbara, the laid-back and cosy beach town boasts top-draw beaches, pretty buildings and a booming food and drink scene. It’s also been a long-standing surfers’ hangout, and if you fancy trying it for yourself then there’s no better place than Leadbetter Beach, a favourite of local families and students from the college over the road. 

You’ll find hardcore surfers at other beaches in Santa Barbara (try Rincon Point) but Leadbetter, with its gentle waves, is a great place to get to grips with a surfboard or try a stand-up paddle boarding session.

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Zuma Beach, Malibu

Zuma Beach in Malibu has had its fair share of publicity – Pamela Anderson ran these sands while filming Baywatch (and allegedly lives nearby), while Don Henley reportedly wrote his hit The Boys of Summer on this very beach. 

Malibu locals find its wide sands and gentle surf (perfect for boogie boarders and body surfers) hard to resist, while others love the lively beach atmosphere – from hot dog stalls to groups of surfers hanging out listening to music. Satisfy your stomach at the Reel Inn, an informal restaurant, kitted out with wooden sharing benches – it serves up plates of fresh fried and grilled fish.

Carmel Beach, Central Californian Coast

Forget people watching – at Carmel Beach on the central Californian coast it’s all about dog watching. In fact, this is one of the only beaches in the area where dogs are allowed off the lead, so expect a full-on show from the pups. 

Here the Pacific Ocean takes on a turquoise hue, and the water is speckled with surfers, otters and even dolphins. If you’re a big kid at heart, the annual Great Sandcastle Contest takes place every October, while you should also set aside some time to explore the romantic beach town of Carmel-by-the-Sea.

Pfeiffer Beach, Big Sur State Park

Big Sur features on most people’s Californian must-visit lists and with good reason – as far as dramatic coastlines go, this is the best you’ll see. At the heart of the region is Pfeiffer State Park, where hiking trails thread their way through 1,000 acres of redwood groves (try the 2-mile round-trip hike to the Pfeiffer Falls for some of the best holiday snaps around). 

Pfeiffer Beach, however, is really the big deal here. The combination of offshore stacks and rocks, deep blue ocean and purple sand make for a simply unforgettable combination. Stay for sunset and you’ll see some of the best beach views California has to offer.

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Words by Hannah Louise Summers

Photography by Austin Neill on Unsplash 


Celebrate Wildlife Wednesday with Elephant Seals from California’s Piedras Blancas! 

The Piedras Blancas Light Station is a historic landmark on California’s central coast. Located on a rugged windswept point of land 6 miles north of Hearst Castle along California’s scenic Highway One, the Lighthouse was first illuminated in 1875, and today beckons the visitor a respite from the modern world.

The Light Station is named for the distinctive white rocks that loom just offshore. These rocks, and the rugged shoreline, are home to seabirds, sea lions, and elephant seals. Over 70 native plant species can be found on the 19 acres surrounding the Light Station.

The beaches stretching north and south from the Lighthouse have a large breeding colony of elephant seals.    

Photos and video footage by Bob Wick, BLM. Video created by John Ciccarelli, BLM.


We’ve got your weekend inspiration! #DiscoverTheCoast with us in California

The California Coastal National Monument preserves important habitat for coastal plants and animals, and protects cultural sites that provide insight into the people who lived along the California coast thousands of years ago. Many of the new units of the monument are also culturally and spiritually important to local tribes.

Cotoni-Coast Dairies
in Santa Cruz County extends from the steep slopes of the Santa Cruz Mountains to marine terraces overlooking the Pacific Ocean. This portion of the California Coastal National Monument encompasses ancient archaeological sites, riparian and wetland habitats, coastal prairie grasslands, and woodlands that include stands of coast redwood. Photo by Jim Pickering, BLM. 

A respite from the modern world, complete with historic architecture and abundant natural life, awaits visitors to the California coast at Piedras Blancas.

Only 40 miles north of San Luis Obispo, California, the large white coastal rocks for which Piedras Blancas was named have served as a landmark for centuries to explorers and traders along the central coast of California.

Built in 1875 as a safety aid to mariners, the light station once cast a flashing, oil-flame light 25 miles out to sea, warning ship captains to steer clear of the white rocks that would mean certain doom for a vessel.

Today, the light station, its first order lens and light structure long ago removed, casts a beacon to travelers on scenic California Highway 1. It continues to provide a navigational aid to ship traffic, as well. Photo by David Ledig, BLM.

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auroraroras  asked:

hello! your photos are really beautiful. i was wondering something though, theres a picture of a van parked close to the ocean with a big rock visible offshore, and i was wondering which beach that is? i think ive seen pictures of that place before. thank you!

It’s Cape Kiwanda OR, my favorite beach in all of Oregon.


Our November #conservationlands15 Ends with the Top 15 Places to View Wildlife on the BLM’s National Conservation Lands!

1. Steese National Conservation Area, AK. The Steese NCA provides habitat for moose, dall sheep, grizzly bear, black bear, small game, raptors, waterfowl and numerous other species of small mammals and birds. Portions of the Steese NCA are used by the White Mountains and Fortymile caribou herds.

2. King Range National Conservation Area, CA. At the King Range NCA, offshore rocks, tidepools and kelp beds are inhabited by seals, sea lions and a variety of marine birds; California grey whales can be spotted offshore in winter and spring. 

3. Browns Canyon National Monument, CO. Browns Canyon NM visitors can spot iconic mammals such as Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep, black bear, mountain lion and elk.  Fishermen enjoy Gold Medal Trout waters, with a consistent standing stock of 60 pounds per acre. 

4. Jupiter Inlet Lighthouse Outstanding Natural Area, FL. Despite its urban setting, the Jupiter Inlet Lighthouse ONA is home to a wide array of wildlife, from osprey and snowy egret to bobcat to west Indian manatee.

5. Morley Nelson Snake River Birds of Prey National Conservation Area, ID. The deep canyon of the Snake River, with its crags and crevices and thermal updrafts, is home to the greatest concentration of nesting birds of prey in North America – and perhaps, the world.  Some 800 pairs of hawks, owls, eagles and falcons come each spring to mate and raise their young.

6. Upper Missouri River Breaks National Monument, MT. The Upper Missouri River Breaks NM contains a variety of wildlife habitat types, supporting 60 species of mammals, 233 species of birds, 20 species of amphibians and reptiles, and 49 species of fish. The river provides habitat for one of the six remaining paddlefish populations (and perhaps the largest) in the US, as well as the endangered pallid sturgeon and shovelnose sturgeon. 

7. Rio Grande del Norte National Monument, NM. The Río Grande del Norte NM is comprised of rugged, wide open plains  cut by steep canyons. Several species of bats make their home in the gorge, which also provides important nesting habitat for the endangered southwestern willow flycatcher. Large mammals find their winter homes on the plateau alongside a population of rare Gunnison’s prairie dogs. 

8. Black Rock High Rock Emigrant Trails National Conservation Area, Soldier Meadows Area of Critical Environmental Concern, NV. Soldier Meadows Area ACEC was designated to protect the desert dace, a threatened fish listed under the Endangered Species Act. The desert dace are only known to occur within the hot springs in the Soldier Meadows area and nowhere else in the world.

9. San Juan Islands National Monument, WA. The diverse habitats found on these islands provide a refuge for countless species of mammals, birds, and insects, including the island marbled butterfly, which was once thought to be extinct. 

10. Deep Creek Mountains Wilderness Study Area, UT. The Deep Creek Mountains WSA provides crucial habitat for Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep, mule deer, elk and pronghorn. Found in several streams in the Deep Creek Mountains is a rare insect, the giant stonefly, which is only found elsewhere in watercourses flowing to the Pacific Ocean. 

11. Ferris Mountain Wilderness Study Area, WY. The Ferris Mountain WSA is known for ecological diversity along with outstanding geological and recreational characteristics. Pine marten, blue grouse, and snowshoe hare take up residence in some of the patches of old growth forest.  

12. Yaquina Head Outstanding Natural Area, OR.  Harbor seals are often on the coastal rocks and can be seen caring for their pups in spring. During winter and spring, the area offers outstanding whale watching opportunities. 

13. Paria Canyon Vermilion Cliffs National Monument, AZ. The remote and unspoiled, 280,000-acre Vermilion Cliffs NM offers opportunities to view endangered California condors.

14. San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area, AZ. The San Pedro Riparian NCA contains a Globally Important Bird Area which attracts thousands of birdwatchers from all over the world each year.

15. Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument, OR. The Cascade-Siskiyou NM is the first national monument in the United States set aside solely to protect biodiversity. 

Thanks for following this month’s #conservationlands15 takeover. Join us next month for movie locations on National Conservation Lands.


#TravelTuesday with Guest Photographer Bob Wick to California’s Humboldt Coast!

A five hour drive north of San Francisco, California’s fog-shrouded Humboldt Coast is a land apart from the traffic and bustle of California’s urban centers. There are year-round photography opportunities here ranging from crashing winter storm waves to brilliant spring wildflowers; from towering redwoods to rushing mountain streams. The weather can be fickle so be prepared to adjust your photography for conditions.  Here are three of my favorite places that can all be fit into one multi-day trip.  

The King Range National Conservation Area is the largest patch of wilderness coastline on the west coast.  4,000 foot peaks rise majestically from the surf and almost 100 miles of hiking trails beckon to day hikers and backpackers.  One of my favorite spring hikes is to the historic Punta Gorda Lighthouse.  Fields of poppies and lupine peak here in May and last till early June.  Photo tip: Bring a long telephoto lens and hike a bit further south to capture a rare colony of Stellar sea lions on the offshore rocks. For a good wildlife shot, always focus on the eyes to make sure they are sharp. Don’t be afraid to shoot many exposures to increase your opportunity to capture interesting behaviors.

An hour to the north, the Headwaters Forest Reserve encompasses the last large tract of old-growth redwoods to be placed under public protection.  A level hiking trail along Elk River allows you to view restoration work and second-growth redwood along a moss shrouded stream corridor.  If you are more adventurous, take the 9 mile round-trip trail to enjoy a taste of primeval old growth redwood. Photo tip: Photography at Headwaters is best on grey foggy or rainy days when soft light and wet vegetation brings out the emerald green colors of the vegetation. Find a point of interest to make your photo stand out. It might be a path winding through the trees, or a trillium blooming among the ferns.  Also, consider having a person in the photo to lend scale to the massive trees.  

Your trip won’t be complete until you head twenty miles further up the coast is the picturesque village of Trinidad. Its coastline is framed by offshore rocks and islands that make up a particularly majestic slice of the California Coastal National Monument.  The area is a wildlife viewer and photographer’s dream. Birds such as black oystercatchers ply the shoreline rocks while seals and sea lions haul out just offshore.  On the larger rocks, further offshore, thousands of marine birds nest in spring and summer. Photo tip: Time your photography at low tide along rocky coastlines like those in Trinidad and tide-pool life on the rocks will add interest to the foreground.  Make sure to wipe your camera and lenses down after seacoast photography to remove salt residue.

Check out our @esri California Humboldt Coast multimedia storymap-journal for more stunning photos, videos, helpful links and maps of the area:

Bow Fiddle Rock

This extraordinary offshore rock can be easily viewed from above the low cliffs next to the village. The steeply slanted natural arch has a resemblance to a fiddle bow. – hence its name.