From Green Right Now Reports
The Nature Conservancy, which has worked over the years to preserve California’s 278 state parks, wants residents to visit and enjoy these resources, especially as waters warm and flowers bloom this spring and summer.
So this week, the Nature Conservancy presented its picks for the “Ocean Oscars,” highlighting some of the best beach-side state parks. Here, by category, with descriptions written by the Nature Conservancy, are the winners:
- Best Urban Retreat – Eastshore State Park – San Francisco Bay Area. This seashore is amidst one of the most developed areas in California. Nestled right outside San Francisco, Eastshore State Park is an urban retreat with miles of walking and biking trails and panoramic views of the bay. Tidal wetlands, marshes and sandy beaches are home to thousands of birds, delighting any naturalist or photographer.
- Best Diving – Point Lobos State Reserve – Carmel. Often referred to as the “crown jewel” of California’s state park system, Point Lobos State Reserve (Point of the Sea Wolves) is truly a gem. It’s one of the premiere protected dive sites on the famous Central Coast, with access at Whalers and Bluefish coves that are teeming with underwater life. You’ll only see half of this majestic reserve unless you visit this underwater realm. But, the rest of the park is not half bad either …Whether it’s viewing endangered archeological sites, spotting migrating whales, seals, sea lions and birds, cataloguing unique plants and rock formations, exploring hidden coves, or talking a guided walk, this park has something spectacular for everyone.
- Best Adventure – Montana de Oro State Park – San Luis Obispo. The Conservancy worked with California State Parks to expand the magnificent Montana de Oro (Mountain of Gold), named for the golden wildflowers that carpet it every spring. People looking for solitude and freedom come to this rugged and secluded spot to get away from it all. The beaches, especially Spooner’s Cove, coastal plains, canyons and streams are the perfect backdrop to have a weekend adventure. Some of California’s best camping, horseback riding, hiking and fishing can be experienced here, as well as guided tours, tidal pool exploring and charming historical sites.
- Best Surfing – Huntington State Beach – Orange County. Southern California is one of the most famous places on Earth to hang ten, and Huntington State Beach is right at the epicenter offering world-class surfing and competitions. After catching some waves, you can hang out by a bonfire and watch the sun sink into the Pacific. This popular beach is also a nesting sanctuary for the California least tern, a rare and endangered species. The beach is also home to the threatened snowy plover. The park offers other activities, including a bicycle trail, volleyball, basketball, skating, and surf fishing.
- Best Walk on the Beach – Manchester State Park – Manchester. With five miles of gentle, sandy beach stretching out towards the Point Arena Lighthouse, Manchester State Park is the perfect place to take a long stroll with someone special. The San Andreas Fault meets the sea, creating a dramatic backdrop. This park has over 18,000 feet of ocean frontage which includes flat grassland, sand dunes, and two outstanding steelhead streams, Brush Creek and Alder Creek. Every spring coastal wildflowers dot the park, including sea pinks, poppies, lupines, baby blue eyes and blue irises. Visitors can come for the day to hike and view wildlife, or stay overnight in the campground.
- Best Windsurfing – Tomales Bay State Park – Inverness. Just a short day trip from San Francisco, Tomales Bay State Park is a windsurfers’ mecca. It is ideal for riding the wind, with four gently sloping, surf-free beaches protected from unmanageable winds by Inverness Ridge. Tomales is the backbone of the Point Reyes Peninsula. And, the park boasts one of the finest remaining virgin groves of Bishop pine and an abundance of wildlife like foxes, bobcats, monarch butterflies, puffins and great blue heron. It is a popular place for hiking, picnicking, swimming, clamming and boating.
- Best Swimming – Will Rogers State Beach – Los Angeles County. Not far from the bustle of Los Angeles and just off Pacific Coast Highway, Will Rogers State Beach is recognized all over the world as an iconic California beach. It’s named after film legend Will Rogers and is where Baywatch was filmed. It is also one of the nicest beaches in California to take a dip in the ocean and bask in the sunshine on a beach towel. Other activities include skin diving, horseback riding, surfing, volleyball, hiking and guided tours.
- Best Beachcombing – Andrew Molera State Park – Big Sur. In the heart of magical Big Sur, Andrew Molera State Park is still relatively undeveloped and offers some of the best beachcombing in California. Natural treasures are cast up from the sea and waiting along the tide line for the adventurous to claim. The park, a 7 1/2–mile jewel that was first protected by the Conservancy in 1965, offers some of the state’s best of surfing, camping, fishing, hiking, and biking. Miles of trails wind along Molera Ridge through chaparral and then drop into oak woodlands, redwood groves and stands of sycamores and madrones. Keep walking and you’ll find yourself at the beach, where the Big Sur River empties into the Pacific Ocean and the sun sets slowly into the horizon.