Most people are looking for sandy beaches and sunshine in California, but I much prefer a stony beach and some stormy weather!
When those waves start crashing onto the shore, I can't wait to head to the nearest beach to see what Mother Nature has left for me.
California has some of the best sea glass beaches in the world, but there are others which are not so good. Don't worry, I'm going to share all the best spots.
I lived in Southern California for most of my life, but it took me until 2015 to venture north to the famous Glass Beach at Fort Bragg and Davenport, near Santa Cruz. If I'd known what treasures were waiting for me, I'd have jumped in my car years earlier!
Ready to hunt for some Californian sea glass? I thought so!
Glass Beach, Fort Bragg
Glass Beach at Fort Bragg is at the top of most sea glass hunter's list of beaches to visit. It's not the easiest place to get to, but well worth the effort and has a fascinating history.
We could have flown into San Francisco, but decided on Sacramento instead. From there, we drove 189 miles to Fort Bragg. It was quite late at night so we were not able to see too much of the scenery, but that may have been just as well... we drove back during daylight and there were some big drops off the side of the highway!
It didn't feel too lucky at the time, but we visited during a big storm. We were soaked through both days at the beach, but it did mean that plenty of glass had been washed up on the shore. We've seen reports from some that there's not much glass left, but we were amazed - the beach was literally covered in it. So much, in fact, that I was able to lay down and make a sea glass angel!
There's not much else to do in Fort Bragg itself, but quite a lot to see in the general area. One thing we had to do was find the famous Chandelier Drive-Thru Tree and... well... drive through it!
When it comes to Glass Beach, there's so much to talk about. In fact, I've decided to write an entire post dedicated to it!
Whereas Glass Beach is famous for lots of sea glass, Davenport - just north of Santa Cruz - has a firm policy of quality over quantity. In fact, the sea glass from this beach may be some of the very best in the world.
As you can see in the photo below, the sea glass found here is like no other. It washes up onto the beach day after day, with sea glass hunters literally risking their lives to grab the best pieces.
Where does this amazing sea glass come from? Well, there was a heavy rainstorm in the 1970's that caused the San Vicente Creek to overflow, washing away bins of waste glass from behind Lundberg Studios.
The glass has been tumbling in the surf ever since, now washing up on the beach as sea glass.
Lundberg Studios is world famous for producing top quality glassware. While you're in Davenport, it's well worth visiting to discover what your piece looked like before it was surf tumbled.
Safety measures are vital on this beach when the tide is high. I was advised not to wear my wellington boots, in case I was dragged out to sea. I thought it may have been a bit of overreaction, but then I watched as guys wearing wet suits wear knocked off their feet by knee-height waves. Seriously... be careful.
Davenport Beach is located on Highway 1 (Pacific Coast Highway) across the street from Roadhouse Inn Restaurant and Bar.
Roadhouse Inn is a great place to stop for lunch after hours of sea glass hunting. They have good food, excellent pastries and coffee. You can also peruse a small selection of local hand made goods.
Perhaps most importantly though, you will find a lovely bathroom!
Park up in the dirt lot at Ocean Street on the opposite side to Roadhouse Inn. Get there early though as it tends to fill up later in the day, even in rainy weather.
Once you have parked up, head to the south-west corner of the parking lot and you'll see these natural rock steps. Make sure you bring shoes or boots with plenty of grip and take your time making your way down.
At low tide, take a shovel with you and dig up some treasure. Some Davenport regulars were retrieving the most amazing sea glass just a foot or two below the surface. This beach has to be on your list for sure!
La Jolla, San Diego
La Jolla is the best sea glass beach I've found in Southern California. It's a busy place and parking can be pretty tough going, but you will find lots of beach treasure.
Also known as 'Jewel City', La Jolla is an affluent city within the San Diego area.
You are looking for "Shell Beach" which is fairly small, but on a good sea glass day it literally washes up at your feet! There are plenty of seashells to collect too.
As you can see below, Shell Beach is very popular with sea glass hunters. You will find plenty of white, green and brown sea glass, also some aqua and blue.
There is a staircase down to Shell Beach, but then you need to clamber over a number of large boulders which can be covered in slippery sea moss. Take your time and be safe, it's well worth it!
I love spending a few hours at La Jolla. It's a lovely beach to stop off at on the way to San Diego, perhaps for a music concert or a Padres game at Petco Park. I've always found plenty of sea glass here too, so never a wasted journey.
There are lots of seals further along on another beach. They're great fun to watch, but don't go too near as they need space. Young seals have been abandoned after being disturbed by idiots... so don't be an idiot!
Capistrano Beach, Dana Point
Capistrano Beach Park - known locally as "Capo Beach" - is between Dana Point and San Clemente, to the south of Doheny State Beach. While popular with beach goers and surfers, Capo Beach doesn't really get over crowded.
I love visiting because it's right off the freeway, has lots of parking and it's pretty good for sea glass hunting.
The beach is often cool and foggy in the morning, though the fog burns off as the sun comes out. There's a lot of sand on the beach, but I'm always looking for the piles of rocks and pebbles along the waters edge.
Most sea glass at Capo Beach is green, clear and brown, with the occasional red or cobalt blue. I've also found larger pieces now and again, plus some great bonfire glass and a couple of marbles!
Laguna Beach, Orange County
Laguna Beach is an artist colony located in Orange County, south of Los Angeles. It's home to the Sawdust Arts Festival and well-known Pageant of the Masters.
There are 36 picturesque beaches and coves in Laguna Beach. They feature tide pools, secret coves, blow holes and natural arches. One even has a pirate tower!
It's a popular location for divers, beachcombers and sea glass hunters so the beach area is always pretty busy, even more so in the summer. Finding a parking spot can be a challenge so it's best to arrive early, certainly before 10am.
Alternatively, park wherever you can and take the free summertime beach trolley. You will see the beach trolley signs all along the Pacific Coast Highway (PCH) and it also goes to Dana Point, Capistrano Beach and San Clemente Beaches.
Some coves and beaches are better than others for sea glass. Also, some locations are harder to get to; lots of stairs, climbing over rocks etc.
My recommended beach is Crystal Cove State Park. Remember that Mother Nature can be fickle, so I've seen a beach full of rocks and pebbles one day, then none the next. However, get there on a good day and you'll find plenty of sea glass.
I've also visited many of the other beaches at Laguna Beach.
There are not really a thousand steps at Thousand Steps Beach, but 230 is enough! The caves and tunnel at the north end lead to a tiny hidden beach which is only accessible at low tide. I have found a few pieces of sea glass here, mostly green and clear beer bottle glass which was not fully cooked, but fine for crafts or just displaying in a clear vase.
West Street Beach is located at West and Coast Highway. There is plenty of street parking and the entrance to the beach is next to the 'do not enter' sign (for Bluff Drive). I have found lots of really small pieces here right around the large rocks, mostly greens and browns.
Woods Cove is nicknamed "Lovers Cove" by the locals. It's located at Diamond Street and Ocean Way. Friends have said that they have found some nice old, frosted sea glass at this cove, however I did not find any sea glass on the day that I visited.
Victoria Beach is located at Sunset Terrace and Victoria, with the entrance right next to a pretty blue house. To the right of the stairs, hike over some rocks and you will find a hidden and beautiful "pirate tower" right on the sand (it's actually a private staircase built in the 1920s). I've found several small and medium-sized, frosted pieces of sea glass here.
A word of warning... don't park in the neighborhood because Laguna police love to ticket!