Sun’s out, buns out: These are the best beaches in San Francisco

(Photo: @christo_roma | Instagram)

Autumn is approaching, and temperatures across the U.S. are starting to drop, but in San Francisco this is the start of its late-season summer—that’s right, September and October are often the warmest months of the year in this foggy city.

What’s the reason behind this meteorological anomaly? Wind patterns change as inland California cools, which blows across San Francisco Bay to push the city’s fog back to the ocean. Does that explanation make sense? Whatever, just trust us: summer in San Francisco is cold, and the beginning of autumn is hot.

Since most homes don’t have air conditioning, local residents escape the heat by hanging out at the beach. The scenery is gorgeous, and because many of the beaches are on federal land, local and state laws about nudity do not apply. And the people of San Francisco are definitely not shy about hiding their bodies.

There are beaches, both traditional and clothing-optional, all over the San Francisco Bay Area, so we have picked our favorites to show you where to enjoy those fleeting moments when the fog parts and you can enjoy the sand and the sun:

Baker Beach and Marshall’s Beach

Stunning views of the Pacific Ocean and the Golden Gate Bridge are a feast for the eyes at Baker Beach and Marshall’s Beach, two gorgeous beaches that are part of The Presidio, a former military base that is now a federal recreation area. Being on federal land gives visitors the opportunity to sunbathe and swim in the buff, but the crowd is a comfortable mix of naked and not.

Baker Beach, the main stretch of sand, is a popular family destination; walk north (towards the bridge) and things become more clothing-optional, mostly with straight women and gay men. If you continue walking along the trail in the hills above, that brings you to Marshall’s Beach, which is narrower, rockier, and very gay, ranging from fun genderqueers to traditional gay dudes.

If you are driving a car, both Baker and Marshall’s have parking lots, so you can park by your beach of choice.

 
 
 
 
 
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We can’t post the naked pics here, and photoshopping smiley faces over everybody’s business is too time consuming, so if you want to take a look (and of course you do) click here. (NSFW obvi)

Black Sands Beach

Drive across the Golden Gate Bridge to Marin, and there is a hidden beach covered with dark, pebbly sand. Black Sands Beach is another clothing-optional area, mainly because it is so isolated. There is a bit of a hike down, and therefore back up, but the views are worth the extra bit of effort. 

 
 
 
 
 
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San Gregorio Beach

San Gregorio Beach is approximately an hour’s drive south of San Francisco, on land that is privately owned. (There is also San Gregorio State Beach, which is directly south, but that’s a separate destination.) Finding the entrance can be a challenge: the gate is at a gravel path between mileposts 18 and 19, just south of Highway 84. The owners sit at the end of the path, near the parking area, and charge a small fee to enter. From the lot, a knee-burning descent down some uneven steps leads to the sand, and the trip seems scary at first but it is easy to navigate in a few minutes.

Unlike other beaches in Northern California, where people in swim trunks mix with others who aren’t wearing anything, the private beach at San Gregorio is almost entirely naked. Straight couples congregate near the entrance, while further north is all men.

This beach also has a collection of forts, built with driftwood, where visitors climb inside to sunbathe in private. That’s not to say the skin is kept within the forts, oh no. There is much naked wandering and lounging and chitchatting with friends.

For updates on beach conditions and opening/closing times, call 1-415-765-7697 and listen to the recording. 

It should be noted that San Gregorio is also a popular fishing beach, and there will be fisherfolk entirely dressed in raingear to fend off the ocean mist. Those fully-dressed people stay on the shore and pay no attention to any of the nakedness further up the sand, including whatever is happening in those forts.

 
 
 
 
 
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Click through this series of photos, and you can see one of the driftwood forts:

 
 
 
 
 
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Note: if there is an article of clothing hanging on one of the forts, that means it’s occupied. And don’t go peeking inside. That’s just rude.

 

Honorable Mention: Mission Dolores Park

For those sunseekers who don’t want to trek to the beach, Mission Dolores Park is an “urban beach” that occupies a hillside where people lounge the day away. Even though it isn’t a real beach, why not wear Speedos anyway?

 
 
 
 
 
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