If you have set your sights on a vacation to the Northern California area and are interested in seeing the truly unique shoreline there, Black Sands Beach in beautiful Humboldt County represents a very different experience when compared California's other beaches. Surrounded by the spectacular Northern California backdrop, which includes over two million acres of Redwood Forests, Black Sands Beach is an inviting and intimate way to become acquainted with the area's wonderful landscape to experience all nature has to offer. Located on the north end of the unincorporated town of Shelter Cove on the Lost Coast, Black Sands Beach is definitely "off the beaten path." If you are already in the area and want to see the other nearby beach, be sure to visit Shelter Cove Beach.
The most obvious feature Black Sands Beach boasts, and the one that sets it apart from most other beaches in California, is the unique and beautiful black sand which covers some nine miles of the narrow coastal strip. The beach is a designated protected area, part of the King Range National Conservation Area, and is one of only a few such black sand beaches in the world. The water tends to be "warm" (remember this is Northern California not Socal), and the surf is fantastic for surfing. However, as with the rest of the shoreline of Northern California, surfers lacking experience are warned not to surf during the winter months when the swells are much larger.
Apart from its breathtaking sights, the convenience of the beach makes it an amazing spot for adults or parents with older children to visit. Although conveniently located, the beach itself is secluded from any major highways by large hills which border the shoreline. This seclusion means the area doesn't get very busy, even during weekends, and it is one of the most appealing features for those looking for a quiet day at the beach. Although Black Sands Beach is a short walk from the parking lot (which offers handicapped parking, drinking fountains, bathrooms and geological information) people with disabilities or small children should be forewarned that the walk down to the beach can be dangerous, as the hills are steep and often contain overgrown shrubbery.
Even with its many advantages, the beach does have a few down points. Firstly, as with most Northern California beaches, the tide can be very dangerous for children and weak swimmers. It is advised that children either avoid the water altogether or constantly have a guardian to keep them safe. In the winter tides are at their highest, and the water becomes dangerous even for strong swimmers. Potential visitors to Black Sands Beach should also be aware that over the past few years the southern end has become a hot-spot for clothing optional visitors. Although this could either be a pro or a con, depending on what one is looking for in a beach experience, families with children may want to be forewarned. Overall, however, the beach offers a very welcoming, clean, intimate and peaceful environment and is definitely not a site to miss out on!
If you're looking for a place to stay, a local favorite is the Tides Inn (in Shelter Cove with a Whitehorn address), which offers amazing views of the ocean in a quaint atmosphere. While this beautiful inn is not on the shore of Black Sands Beach, it is on Shelter Cove beach, which is within walking distance. At the end of your day, you can also head to the Chart Room Restaurant, for a hearty meal.
Black Sands Beach is located 80+ road miles south of Eureka, CA in Northern California and is easily found by following signs along Highway 101 in the Redway / Garberville direction to the King Range / Shelter Cove. Note that this is still quite a long drive after turning off the 101. Although the signage may seem confusing, if visitors keep to the right driving into Shelter Cove and down Beach Road, they will easily locate the access point for the Black Sands Beach parking lot.