Manchester State Park features one of the last wild beaches along the California Coastline. With almost four miles of sandy beachfront, lots of water sport activities, and 40 campsites, this is the perfect place to relax while enjoying one of the most unique State Parks in California. Created in 1930 by the state of California, the park is made up of protected land and offshore aquatic areas in the Pacific Ocean. The protected offshore water is connected to the larger Point Arena Marine Reserve, which is a popular scuba diving spot.
Manchester State Park was originally home to the Bokeya Pomo Tribe that was a self-sufficient tribe living along the coastline. Today, Manchester State Park is a playground for water sport enthusiasts and anglers alike. Park visitors can enjoy wildlife watching and beachcombing along the undeveloped beachfront. Visitors who love history will definitely want to check out Arena Rock, one of the park's most famous features and the site of at least six confirmed shipwrecks that occurred before the Point Arena Lighthouse was constructed. Experienced divers can even dive deep below the ocean surface and explore the shipwreck sites along the ocean floor. With any luck, they might even discover the remains of one of over 30 other ships that are believed to have wrecked on Arena Rock. With so much to do both on land and in the water, Manchester State Park is the perfect park for an exciting RV beach vacation.
RVers and trailer pullers will have an easy drive following major highways to the park's main entrance. Visitors may be more interested in accessing the park through the northern entrance that leads directly to Alder Creek Beach. This point of access is especially used by anglers during steelhead spawning season, as well as beachgoers. There is also a southern entrance; however, this road contains numerous curves and should be avoided if driving an RV or pulling a trailer.
Once inside the main entrance of the park, there is only one road that leads guests right to the campground. The campground road has several loops that are not difficult to navigate for RVs or trailers. While driving in the campground, please keep to the posted speed limit and be aware of pedestrians, bicyclists, and children playing in the area.
Manchester Beach/Mendocino Coast KOA is wonderfully situated to enjoy all that the area has to offer. This campground is just a short distance away from the Pacific Ocean, breathtaking redwood forests, local wineries, and the scenic town of Mendocino. At Manchester Beach/Mendocino Coast KOA, campers can enjoy activities like ice cream socials, family events, hayrides, and even wine tastings. Wi-Fi is available, and the campground is pet friendly. It even includes a dog park where residents can let their pet burn off some energy after being cooped up in the RV. The campground has pull-through sites and can accommodate rigs up to 65 feet long.
The main campground at Manchester State Park consists of 41 campsites that are spread out over two small loops. Each site is fairly spacious and the majority are uncovered. Campers should note that there are no types of hookup services available inside the campground. However, there is a dump station situated near the campground entrance and fresh drinking water can be obtained from any of the spigots spread throughout the campground. Generators may be used from 8:00 AM until 10:00 PM.
RVs are limited to 30 feet in length and trailers are limited to 22 feet. Each campsite is furnished with a fire ring, picnic table, and a gravel parking pad, which may require some type of leveling device for the RV or trailer. Amenities are limited to campground restrooms with flush toilets. Pets are allowed but must be restrained at the campsite by a six-foot leash. Pets are not allowed on trails or the beach area of the park.
The environmental campground at Manchester State Park is a little over one mile from the main parking lot. The campground is designed for primitive camping and contains eight campsites that are furnished with a fire ring and picnic table. Nearby vault toilets are available to use, but campers should be aware that there is no fresh water available at the campground, so they will need to make sure they bring their own with them. Pets are not allowed within the environmental campground. Quiet hours are from 10:00 PM to 6:00 AM.
An extremely popular thing visitors love to do in Manchester State Park is to go scuba diving. The protected waters of the park provide calm, uncrowded waters where marine life thrives. Additionally, there are six known shipwreck sites around Arena Rock that are located 100 feet off the shoreline in the southwestern portion of the park. Divers can explore these shipwrecks and search for over 30 other shipwrecks that are presumed to have crashed at or near Arena Rock. Be aware that shore diving is discouraged because of strong rip tides, so scuba divers must enter the water by boat.
The waters of the Pacific Ocean are prime surfing waters, especially on the coastal areas off of Manchester State Park. These waters are ideal for advanced surfers who can expect a difficult paddle to get out of the rip currents to find 10-feet swells with both right and left breaks. Windsurfing is even better with constant winds throughout the summer months and there is plenty of ocean water with good swells to ride. Another activity that is becoming increasingly popular in the park is kite boarding. With almost four miles of beachfront, kiteboarders can find plenty of space to lift off and cruise the waters along the coastline of the park.
Fishing at Manchester State Park is superb, especially when steelhead make their runs on Alder Creek in the north and Brush Creek in the south. These creeks are the best place to fish in the park. Anglers should be aware that these two creeks can only be accessed on foot. Surf fishing is also popular along the northern beaches where anglers can expect to find perch, steelhead, salmon, and cabazon. All visitors who intend on fishing are required to have a valid fishing license. Be sure to check California State Fishing Regulations for size and bag limits before fishing in the park.
Visiting the Point Arena Lighthouse is a perfect way to learn more about the cultural and natural history of the area. The original lighthouse was constructed in 1870 but was unfortunately destroyed by an earthquake in 1906. The lighthouse that stands today is a replica of the original that was built in 1908 shortly after the original collapsed.
The lighthouse towers 115 feet into the sky and once contained a unique 1st Order Fresnel Lens built in France. Today, visitors can go inside and stroll through several exhibits that highlight the six known shipwrecks that have occurred around Arena Rock before climbing up to the top of the lighthouse for amazing views of the Pacific Ocean.
Wildlife and marine life watching is an ideal thing to do in Manchester State Park. From December to April, visitors can treat their eyes to views of migrating gray whales making their way down to Baja California. There is also spectacular wildlife and birding opportunities onshore within the park. Bring a good pair of binoculars to view bird species such as the endangered snowy plovers on the beach and the sanderlings, dunlin, blue herons, egrets, and an occasional peregrine falcon on land. Mammals roaming inland include deer, river otter, as well as more domestic animals like flocks of sheep and herds of cows that often graze along the coastal grasslands.
Visitors will want to be sure they bring some comfortable shoes for two popular activities at Manchester State Park: beachcombing and hiking. The beach at the park is almost four miles in length and stretches from Alder Creek Beach in the north to Arena Point in the south. The beach is a natural collecting zone for debris, especially driftwood which is plentiful. Visitors will be able to find all sorts of interesting things that have washed up on shore, most of which they can take home as a souvenir from their trip.
Guests who want to explore more than the beach can follow the five-mile round-trip hike on the Davis Wetlands Trail. This trail takes park visitors through numerous ecosystems including ponds, coastal dunes, beach, forested areas and, of course, wetlands.