San Francisco Ocean Beach

Welcome to the San Francisco’s Ocean Beach!

Feeling like too much in the city? Come out to Ocean Beach to take a hike on the sea floor, explore any of the trails around the Golden Gate headlands, where you are surrounded by slabs of ocean crust that have crept thousands of kilometers on a tectonic journey to end on dry land. It is a perfect place to reconnect with nature; listen to the cries of the seagulls and sounds of crashing surf. Picture a 3.5-mile stretch of white beach with few tourists and no highrises. It’s just you and the waves and the seabirds at Ocean Beach, on the westernmost border of San Francisco. Great for strolling and flying kites, but the water is frigid and the currents hazardous for all but the most experienced surfers.

Ocean Beach is a beachthat runs along the west coast of San Francisco, California, United States, at the Pacific Ocean. It is adjacent to Golden Gate Park, the Richmond District, and the Sunset District. The Great Highwayruns alongside the beach, and the Cliff Houseand the site of the former Sutro Baths sit at the northern end. The beach is a part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, which is administered by the National Park Service.

During the late spring and summer, San Francisco’s characteristic foggy weather frequently envelops the beach, resulting in average temperatures of 50 °F to 55 °F (9 °C to 12 °C) and discouraging visitation by tourists and beach goers. However, the beach is popular with surfers and participants in bonfire parties. More beach-friendly weather occurs in late fall and early spring, when fog is less prevalent.

Here comes the History of the Ocean Beach. Due in part to its sometimes inhospitable weather (high winds, cold weather and fog), the area was largely undeveloped throughout most of San Francisco’s early history, when it was known as part of the “Outside Lands.” Development finally came in the late-19th century: a steam railroadwas in place by 1884 to bring people to the first amusement rideat the city’s Oceanside, a “Gravity Railroad” roller coaster, and to the Ocean Beach Pavilion for concerts and dancing. By 1890, trolleylines reached Ocean Beach: the Ferries and Cliff House Railroad, Park & Ocean Railroad, and Sutro Railroad that encouraged commercial amusement development as a trolley park.The Cliff House, which opened in 1863, and Sutro Baths, which opened in 1896, drew thousands of visitors.

Following a brief stint as a refugee campafter the 1906 earthquake, the area was touted as a resort. A small amusement park, Playland at the Beach, was built where Cabrillo and Balboa streets now end. Major development occurred in the 1920s and 1930s with the construction of the Great Highwayand housing in the adjacent Sunset and Richmond Districts. After the destruction of the Sutro Bathsin 1966, the neighborhood lost its resort appeal; the amusement park was also torn down in 1972, to be replaced by apartment blocks and a supermarket in the 1990s.

On January 25, 1878, the King Philip, a three-masted clipper ship, drifted onto Ocean Beach and foundered. From time to time, the wreckage of the ship still emerges from the sands just offshore, most recently reappearing in Nov 2010. Between 1850 and 1926, 20 ships came to grief on Ocean Beach.

The water at Ocean Beach is noteworthy for its strong currents and waves, which makes it popular among serious surfers. The water is cold, due in part to a process known as upwelling, in which frigid water from below the ocean surface rises to replace the surface water that moves away from the beach as a result of the Coriolis effect. The rapid rip currentsand cold water make the ocean dangerous for casual swimmers and even those who simply want to set foot in it, and swimmers have been swept away and drowned. Nevertheless, the beach is one of the Bay Area’s top surfingspots. The southern portion of the beach by Sloat Boulevard is one of the cleanest in the state.

The Great Highway runs for approximately 3.5 miles next to Ocean Beach. Its southern end is at Skyline Boulevard(State Route 35) near Lake Merced; it extends to the Point Lobos Avenue and the Cliff Houseat its northern end. The Great Highway also forms the western border of Golden Gate Park.

For approximately half its length, from Sloat Boulevard to Lincoln Way, the Great Highway is both an expressway and a parallel street. The expressway is built atop a raised berm, which overlays a pre-existing wall built to keep the adjacent area clear from frequent encroachment by sand dunes. Also, atop the berm is a gravel jogging path and a cement walking / bicycling path. The parallel street, also named ‘Great Highway’, is immediately adjacent below and to the east of the expressway, with buildings on its east side. The only access to the upper-level highway is at each end. There are crosswalkswith traffic lightsalong this section to allow pedestrians to reach the beach.

Great Highway is a perfect place to run, bike, roller blade/skate, meander, bonfire, pretty much anything. People love to run around here and occasionally walk the beach. What most people don’t really know is that when you drive along the highway where the stoplights are, going a consistent speed of 35 mph will allow you to hit a green at every light so you won’t have to brake at all on the whole stretch from Sloat Blvd. to Lincoln Way by Fort Funston.

It is also a great route if you want to avoid the constantly congested streets and neighborhoods of San Francisco. It is a pleasant to ride your bicycle down the trail on the side, walk your dog, great ocean views and fun to drive on. You will get all green lights and enjoy the drive even more. It is a fun to see some drivers speed up and then slam on their brakes over and over again without realizing the lights are synchronized. It is also an absolute beautiful path to run. Run in the morning and drives at night are great ways to appreciate the Great Highway. You can take a jog at sunset and it totally clears your mind. If you get tired, grab a seat along the benches that are aligned throughout the path.

There are also some pretty interesting houses along the way if you take a look. One can always find the stretch between where the Beach Chalet Restaurant/windmill and the apartment complexes past Lincoln Way fascinating, since there used to be an amusement park (Playland) on that stretch of land during the 50s to the 70s.

It is a great experience to drive home along the Great Highway. There is nothing better after a long day of work to turn the corner and be blown away by the beauty of the beach and the setting sun. And when the winds are right, you’ll catch a glimpse of a bird hanging motionless in the breeze. It is always fascinating to imagine how beautiful the scenery along the Great Highway was like back in the day compared to today’s (still beautiful) scenery. Overall, it is a really safe, beautiful area to explore.

Ocean Beach is a good spot to have a number of activities. The activities include: Bonfires, Surfing, Skim boarding, Volleyball, Kite-flying, walking and Skating, Swimming and Fishing. Bonfires are allowed for groups of 25 people or less, between Lincoln Way & Fulton Street, with some restrictions. Surfing can be done only if you know to handle the riptides and undercurrents. Walking and skating can be done along the esplanade above the beach. Fishermen favor the area around the rocks, below the Cliff House for fishing. Seal Rock is a prominent local feature of the area. On November 6, 2011, Ocean Beach played site to a monumental achievement in the sport of surfing.

One can get a wonderful opportunity to observe the Snowy Plover here. It is the small, shy Western Snowy Plover (Charadrius alexandrinus nivosus) —a threatened species that rests here in the winter. In California, there has been a significant decline in breeding locations as a result of various forms of human disturbance. The species is being strictly monitored and protected by the National Park Service.

Kids will love this walk. So will adults who cannot resist beaches, the Pacific Ocean, and San Francisco’s fabled Cliff House, with its intriguing Camera Obscura and museum of mechanical wonders, the Musée Mecanique. Ocean Beach invites all and sundry to escape the noise and density of the city. Families set up beach umbrellas and lay out picnics; dogs walk their owners near water’s edge; gulls convene in the sand; kids guide their kites high above; and bicyclists and in-line skaters gracefully wheel along the esplanade in addition to Beach walking, sea lion and shorebird viewing, amusement park novelties, historic architecture, murals, formal garden. Thus, Ocean Beach forms a wonderful treat for the eyes and to the body.


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