San Francisco is famous for a lot of things – steep hills, sourdough bread and, of course, the Golden Gate bridge, to name a few. We bet you didn’t know that the city’s also home to some gorgeous stretches of sand where you can relax after all that sightseeing too.

While the sea isn’t exactly swimmable, there are plenty of spots where you can sunbathe, enjoy a beachside barbeque and take picturesque walks along the sand. Here are our top picks…

BAKER BEACH

San Fran’s most popular beach is visited regularly by locals and tourists alike. Its two main draws are its fine golden sand, and the spectacular view you’ll get of the Golden Gate Bridge from just about anywhere. There’s a tucked away picnic area with grills, so bring your own food, as the food and drink options in the surrounding area are scarce. And, the north end of the beach is also ‘clothing optional’, so head up there if you’re really keen to banish those tan lines.

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CRISSY FIELD BEACH 

This former US Army airfield-turned-beach has had a huge transformation to make it the pretty beach spot it is today. It’s backed by sweeping sand dunes, which provide habitat for several native species, and attracts kite surfers and windsurfers thanks to its challenging conditions. If you fancy a refreshing swim in the arctic-temperature waters, this is the place to go, as it’s a much safer spot than other San Francisco beaches. You’ll also get fabulous views of the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz, and the downtown San Francisco skyline for those photo opportunities.

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Day Tour – Red Route, Stop: Palace of Fine Arts

CHINA BEACH

This quiet, secluded beach is a local favourite. It was once a camp for Chinese fishermen, and you’ll find a stone monument dedicated to them at the edge of the car park. This quaint cove has a small, but pretty, stretch of sand and makes a scenic place to sunbathe. Just make sure you get there early if you want to bag the perfect spot. At low tide there are rock pools to explore where you’ll be able to spot star fish and anemones. And, there are hiking trails in the area too, so you can switch between exploring and sunbathing if you don’t fancy lounging all day.

OCEAN BEACH

Ocean Beach is another of San Francisco’s most popular hangouts, thanks to the wide expanse of sand and huge, picturesque dunes. It’s the perfect place to escape the city and enjoy miles of open ocean views. And, there’s a winding path across the top of the dunes if you fancy going for a seaside walk. The only downfall of this beach is the strong rip currents, making it too dangerous to go into the water even for a paddle (unless you’re a seriously experienced surfer). Bonfires are allowed in the beachside fire pits, so it’s a great place to hang out even when the weather’s cold.

Ticked off San Francisco’s sights and attractions? Do what the locals do and spend the day on one of these top beaches. Browse our San Francisco bus routes and attractions for more inspiration on things to do in the city.