Stretching for miles along Mendocino County’s south coast, Manchester State Park and Beach offers majestic ocean views, a pristine sandy beach scattered with driftwood, and tranquility. Approached by trails wending through sand dunes dotted with wildflowers like blue irises and blazing orange California poppies, you might well find you have this wide, serene beach to yourself.
The open, gently curving beach is an excellent vantage point to watch for migrating whales. It is also a nesting and mating area for the Snowy Plover, a protected bird species that nests directly on the sand. For this reason, dogs are not permitted on the beach. Coots, pelicans, and sanderlings, who run across the beach like wind up toys, also call the beach home. It’s a great place for bird watching as well as whale watching.
Fishermen can try their luck angling for steelhead trout in the beach’s two creeks, Alder Creek and Brush Creek. Anyone over the age of 16 needs a fishing license, which can be obtained online here: https://www.ca.wildlifelicense.com/InternetSales/.
Fishing is also available at the nearby Point Arena Pier, where you can watch the surfers while you’re waiting for a bite on your line.
The San Andreas fault crosses from the land into the ocean at Manchester State Beach, as can be seen by different types of rocks and vegetation on either side of the fault.
At the south end, you’ll see the historic Point Arena Lighthouse, poised above the wild rocks that wrecked many ships long ago. You can learn more about the shipwrecks and see relics at the lighthouse.
Manchester State Park and Beach is located 44500 Kinney Lane, off Hwy 1, half a mile north of the town of Manchester. Dress in layers, as it tends to be windy here. There is no cell service, so bring a map with you, since you can’t rely on GPS or apps.