A Glass Beach Adventure - Fort Bragg, CA
This was a “bucket list” trip for me (Andrea). I heard about “the Glass Beach” in Fort Bragg several years ago, and have been mesmerized by the photos I’ve seen of the place. I wanted to go see it so bad, but it’s a looong drive up the coast from Southern California. Much to my surprise, Kim planned a surprise trip up there for my birthday - so I finally got to check it off my list!
We flew into San Francisco to cut the trip a bit shorter, and enjoyed a day in the city and a night of rest at an Airbnb just north of the city, before heading up the beautiful coast. Our first stop the next day was at Point Reyes National Seashore, which we also blogged about. This coastal park is worth a stop if you are passing by - beaches, rolling hills, ocean views. They have a great network of backpacking trails that I’m sure we’ll be back to check out eventually!
We chose to stay in a wonderful coastal cabin, The Andiron Seaside Inn, for the rest of our trip. Please, go stay at these cabins - they are rustic, adorable, quirky, unique, vintage, and oh, so cozy. Also, there are goats to greet you - Peanut Butter and Jelly. Seriously, go. Our room was “Curious”, which was well chosen by Kim. I’m a nerd at heart, so having a room with a telescope and a large moon on the wall and various other “curious” science goodies was so fun. They have an outdoor hot tub in the woods, an archery field right outside the cabin (where we lost a few of their arrows), and a fire pit for roasting marshmallows. It’s a wonderful place to getaway!
From Mendocino, it’s only about a 25 minute drive up to Fort Bragg. We chose to get up bright and early for our first morning there and head straight to the beach. We arrived to a fairly empty parking lot, which made us wonder if we were in the right place! There is a trail with a parking lot that takes you right out to Glass Beach, but it isn’t much of a hike at all. A brief stroll along a mostly paved sidewalk gets you to the beach, then the fun begins. As you climb and explore on the beach, you find yourself in different little coves and nooks that change around every corner. One will be sandy and soft, the next rocky and hard, and the next, nothing but glass shimmering in the sun.
When you get to the sand, just climb around and enjoy yourself - just stay going to your left. There are a view spots to climb over rocks, just be careful of the tide. There is not much beach space in some spots. Further south along the beach, there is a larger cove that is just filled with glass. This looked like it could only be reached during a lower tide, and the water was only a few feet away from cliffy rocks. I wouldn’t want to be down there at high tide.
A little further south still, there is an even larger cove of glass. This one is accessed by a rugged staircase, which can be reached from the main sidewalk. There are no railings on the stairs and they are uneven at best. Still, a very easy climb if you are able. Still more coves exist down here, but the main cove in front of the stairs is almost entirely glass. It shimmers and looks like something magical. We spent a good hour or so climbing around down in this cove, finding smaller coves, digging through the glass to get a closer look, and even enjoying the cold September water hitting us a few times. This beach was everything I hoped it would be - just absolute beauty.
If you aren’t familiar with the history of this beach, there are a few signs along the way to fill you in. In short, the community around the beach used it as a trash dump for many years. They filled the ocean with everything from bottles to vehicles, and the ocean has turned all of that garbage into a thing of beauty. We found several small scraps of metal, what looked to be a stovetop that had merged itself into a large rock, and glass of every color. This trash dump is now a beautiful place to visit.
[Obligatory note: if you visit, please respect the beauty of this place and don’t take home pockets of glass. If everyone does, there will be no glass beach to visit! Since Glass Beach has become managed by the nearby State Park, it is now unlawful to take glass or beach artifacts with you. Search and enjoy, but don't take.]
We spent the large part of our day just in this area, exploring what these beaches had to offer. When we were satisfied, we headed a bit further up the coast. We found MacKerricher State Park and discovered a large boardwalk out along coastal cliffs. It was a fun walk, with great views. Another spot we enjoyed was the Pudding Creek Trestle Bridge. This historic bridge is a must see for bridge lovers, and worth a look from everyone else. You can walk across, enjoy the views, or access it from beneath in a small parking area just off of the 1.
If you are planning a trip to this area of the coast, we can recommend a few places to visit:
- The Andiron Inn - an adorable set of retro cabins, and a cozy place to sleep. Kate, the innkeeper, is so nice! Plus they have fresh fruit, hot coffee, and fresh eggs from the chickens for you in the lodge everyday!
- Piaci Pub & Pizzeria - we enjoyed some good local beer and delicious pizza at this downtown Fort Bragg eatery - this place is a “local” kind of place, which made for a great environment and good conversation.
- Mendocino Cookie Company - if you have a sweet tooth after the pizza, stroll just about a block away - good cookies, good coffee, nice people.
- North Coast Brewery - next time we visit, we’ll be hitting this, which is also just down the street. We ran out of time… but we know their beer is good.
- Patterson’s Pub - a hopping spot in downtown Mendocino - good beer, good food, a loud crowd, and a nice bartender.
- Harvest Market - just down the street in Mendocino, a great little shop for groceries.
- Van Damme State Marine Conservation Area - this is a little coastal park with a small parking lot, a good spot to just enjoy the view, relax, and maybe watch the sunset or the tide rise. We found a big rock to sit on and watched the waves smack below, until we had to hop out to not get stuck in the high tide.
Cameras: Mamiya M645 1000S, Nikon F100, Yashica 124G, Nikon D750
Film: Kodak Ektar