Summer is right around the corner and even though San Francisco might still be covered in clouds and fog during the “sunny season,” there are still many reasons to hit a local swimming hole. Whether you’re braving the cold waters near the Golden Gate bridge or heading north for a more secluded lake experience, here are the best swimming holes you can find in the Bay Area of San Francisco.
If you don’t mind cold water, then this swimming beach might be the perfect place to spend the summer. Located in the Seacliff district of San Francisco, China Beach is a little hideaway sheltered by surrounding cliffs with gorgeous views of the Golden Gate Bridge. It’s adjacent to the more popular and crowded Baker Beach, but if you’re lucky, you’ll find this place all to yourself. Many people say it’s the only beach within San Francisco that you can swim in, but be careful as there are many warnings about rip tides and strong currents. At low tide, you can explore the tide pools that emerge.
Hearts Desire Beach
Located inside Tomales Bay State Park, Hearts Desire Beach might be one of the most pleasant places to swim in Northern California. You won’t find any waves thanks to the beach being shielded from the fog and cold winds coming off of Point Reyes. Here you’ll find warm water, which makes you feel like you’re swimming in a lake instead of the ocean. During the summer, this beach fills up fast, but luckily a short hike will take you to other beaches like Indian and Shell Beaches where you might find some quiet time away from the crowds.
If you’re looking to swim some laps and not just lounge around in a body of water, then Aquatic Park is the spot for you! It’s located within the San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park which offers stunning views of the San Francisco Bay. It’s a great place to get some exercise, especially on a hot summer day. Each lap (out and back) is about a third of a mile, or if you swim the entire perimeter, it’s about one mile. You can even bring your dog along for a swim!
If you head over the Golden Gate bridge towards the Point Reyes Coast, you’ll find a more secluded swimming hole at Bass Lake. The crowds are kept in check due to the 2.7-mile hike it takes to access the lake. Make sure to haul a floatie or pool noodle with you to spend some serious time sunbathing or if you’re up for more of an adventure, try out the rope swing and feel like a kid again. It’s also clothing optional, so bring out your birthday suit!
Crown Memorial State Beach
Located in the city of Alameda and sheltered inside the San Francisco Bay, Crown Memorial State Beach is one of a few swimming beaches you’ll find in the Bay Area. The 2.5-mile beach is actually man-made, as much of the South Bay is muddy. In 1982 sand was dredged up to create this popular swimming hole. The water is relatively shallow, which makes it a great spot for wading and swimming, but if you want more of an adventure, the north end of the beach has rocky tidepools to explore. It’s also a popular spot for windsurfing and kiteboarding and offers rental equipment and lessons during the summer months.
Coyote Point Beach
Just south of the San Francisco International Airport in San Mateo, you’ll find a great swim beach out on the Peninsula. The park features a long sandy beach with small, but manageable, waves. The north side of the beach is popular for swimming and the south side is known for windsurfing. On a hot summer day, the cool San Francisco Bay waters are refreshing after an afternoon of sunbathing. If you come with the kids, the Magic Mountain playground will keep them entertained for hours.
Keller Beach is located in the Miller / Knox Regional Park in Point Richmond, which spans 307 acres on the San Francisco Bay. Here, you’ll find a tiny secluded swimming beach that is also a great location for family BBQ’s and picnics. The water quality is tested often, but make sure to wash off really well after taking a dip in the water. There is also a great hiking trail that will take you to some breathtaking views.
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