If you’re in the East Bay, you might think your only option for sun and sand is way down in Santa Cruz, but there are actually tons of great beaches right around the corner!
With Summer in full swing, try out some of these beautiful spots to beat the heat and soak up the sun near Fremont.
1. Don Castro Lagoon
- Distance from Fremont: 15 miles (25 min)
- Activities: Swimming, Fishing, Hiking, Horseback Riding
- Amenities: Picnic areas, Changing Rooms, Showers, Fishing Dock
Don Castro’s sandy-bottomed swim lagoon can get very busy, so arrive early in the day, or the lagoon will be closed to new swimmers.
The lagoon is open and staffed by a lifeguard daily from 11am-6pm during summer, but from late August to late September, it is accessible only on weekends and holidays.
The best part about this local summer hangout is the lagoon is chlorinated and crystal clear, so you don’t have to worry about the algae blooms that have recently been affecting some other swimming holes in the area.
After you finish swimming for the day, take a stroll around the park’s several miles of tree-lined hiking trails, or if you have a large four-legged friend, this is one of a few parks in the area friendly to horseback riding!
Don Castro Regional Recreation Area offers a decently sized lake for anglers. Like all East Bay parks, a valid California fishing license is required.
The accessible fishing dock on the north shore ensures you don’t have to hoof it around the lake to try to land some of the stocked Trout, Catfish, Bass, or Bluegill.
2. Niles Beach at Horseshoe Lake
- Distance from Fremont: 0 miles!
- Activities: Swimming, Fishing, Boating (Electric Motors Only), Wildlife Viewing
- Amenities: Bathhouse, Lifeguards, Boat Launch
The closest option for Fremont dwellers is located in the Quarry Lakes Recreational Area within the city of Fremont.
The family-friendly lakeside beach swim area has lifeguards present on weekends and holidays, May-September and 7 days a week June-August. Check their website for detailed information on hours and open days.
The gorgeous green waters here are a hometown favorite, so it can get busy. Best to arrive early in the day, or the swim area will be closed.
The destination is home to several species of water birds and other wildlife for those who keep an eye open while hiking on the easy trails around the lakes, and if you bring your fishing license, the waters are regularly stocked with Trout and Catfish.
3. Shadow Cliffs Lake
- Distance from Fremont: 16 miles (30 min)
- Activities: Fishing, Boating(Electric Motors Only), Hiking, Swimming, BMX biking, Birdwatching
- Amenities: Picnic Areas, Boat Rentals, Changing Rooms
Though the swim beach is closed for the 2022 season, this beautiful 266-acre park and 80-acre lake have a lot to offer.
For the bird watchers, several species of water birds lurk in the Arroyo and other secluded parts of the lake for you to explore along the many easy trails.
For extreme sports lovers, there is a small but mighty BMX bike course on the park’s west end.
The lake is regularly stocked with Trout and Catfish, and if you’re lucky, you might see some Bass and Bluegill. The park hosts an annual fishing derby for the more competitive sportsmen.
This park is super easy to access and has ample shaded parking; it’s perfect for a quick day trip!
4. Lake Anza
- Distance from Fremont: 40 miles (55 min)
- Activities: Hiking, Swimming
Nestled in the Berkeley hills, Lake Anza and surrounding Tilden Park are truly a summer must-see for nature lovers. Though it is a favorite among East Bay families and university students alike, it is generally not too busy, especially in the late afternoons.
Like Shadow Cliffs, Lake Anza’s freshwater swim beach is closed for maintenance in 2022.
Fortunately, this part of Tilden Park offers a beautiful, calm, sheltered site for sunbathing, and there are several trailheads branching off from the lake for those who want to explore deeper into this secluded East Bay gem.
Or take a short hike around the lake to the big rock on the east shore for a peaceful evening picnic spot.
If you’re into mycology, this park has some of the best mushroom specimens around in the springtime!
5. Del Valle Swim Beach
- Distance from Fremont: 19 miles (30 min)
- Activities: Swimming, Fishing, Hiking, Boating, Camping, Horseback Riding
- Amenities: Boat Rentals, Changing Rooms, Visitor Center
This large park is one of the lesser-known local treasures for enjoying the outdoors close to home.
In 2022, 1 of the 2 fresh water swimming beaches on Lake Del Valle is open, offering a much-needed respite from the often brutal East Bay summer heat.
After cooling off in the surprisingly large creek-fed lake, settle down in one of the park’s over 150 campsites, including 4 equestrian campsites for the horse lovers out there!
The lake is big enough to launch a small sailboat and is regularly stocked with Trout and Catfish! Happy sailing!
6. Brannan Island State Recreation Area
- Distance from Fremont: 69 miles (1h 10min)
- Activities: Hiking, Biking, Boating, Windsurfing, Camping
- Amenities: Boat Launch, Restrooms, Showers, RV Hookups, Bike Trails, Potable Water
One of the best East Bay parks you’ve probably never heard of, Brannan Island sits on the Sacramento River Delta and is home to all the wildlife the watershed has to offer. And if you know where to look, there are even some feral fruit trees peppered throughout.
You can take a cool dip in the river at the swimming area, meander along the island’s many trails, and soak in the lush scenery.
Or break out your windsurfing gear and dodge the boats traversing the river on their way to and from Suisun bay before retiring to a cool night in one of the park’s riverside campsites.
7. San Luis Reservoir State Recreation Area
- Distance from Fremont: 81 miles (1h 20min)
- Activities: Boating, Camping, Swimming, Windsurfing, Fishing, Hiking, Horseback Riding, Motorcycling
- Amenities: Restrooms, Showers, Boat Ramps
San Luis Reservoir is a windsurfer’s dream spot. The wide-open lake’s cool fresh waters are home to several species of fish and, in the hot summer months, are a welcome break from the heat.
Though this recreation area is a bit more out of the way, the lake is beautiful and clear at all times of the year and usually does not get as crowded as Santa Cruz or Ocean Beach on a warm day.
Feel free to bring your horses for a trot around the lake or fuel up your dirt bikes and ATVs for a dusty romp around the Off-Highway-Vehicle section!
Beaches on the Bay
8. Alameda Beach
- Distance from Fremont: 26 miles (40 min)
- Activities: Swimming, Fishing, Kiteboarding
- Amenities: Visitor Center, Bathhouse
Our first saltwater spot on the list, this beach boasts over 2 miles of sandy shoreline along the bay.
The waters are fairly clear, and can sometimes see surprising wave action for a bayshore beach.
This stretch of shore boasts some of the best windsurfing in the East Bay, and beginners can even rent equipment and take a lesson on the basics of windsurfing and kiteboarding!
If you don’t want to get your feet wet, take a stroll to the bird sanctuary at the south end of the beach for some great views of local fauna. This spot proves you don’t have to cross a bridge to get to a great beach!
9. Aquatic Park Cove
- Distance from Fremont: 39 miles (1h)
- Activities: Swimming, Sailing, Fishing
- Amenities: Visitor Center
On the north side of San Francisco, just west of the bustling tourist traps of North Beach, lies the quiet spot on the Bay – Aquatic Park Cove.
With stunning 360-degree views of Marin, the Golden Gate Bridge, and downtown San Francisco, this has to be the most unique and picturesque beach on this list.
Anglers can catch a variety of fish and even Dungeness crab from the nearby fishing pier, and boaters with smaller sail-driven vessels can anchor in the sheltered waters and spend an evening marveling at the fleet of antique museum ships just a stone’s throw away.
This place is definitely worth a stop if you’re heading to San Francisco and you want to stay away from the tourist traps.
10. Keller Beach
- Distance from Fremont: 40 miles (50 min)
- Activities: Swimming, Hiking, Fishing, Kayaking
- Amenities: Picnic tables
This quiet cove tucked away on the edge of Richmond offers some of the best angling in the area for several varieties of fish and is a real gem for a family picnic spot close to home in the East Bay.
Swimmers can wade into the cool bay waters next to kayakers paddling around, and the beach has an ADA- accessible ramp leading down the hill from the parking above.
Hikers can get spectacular 360-degree views of the Bay and Mount Tamalpais on clear days from atop the nearby hills or take a leisurely walk around the quiet pond just uphill from the beach. This is a great place to relax in the East Bay.
11. Half Moon Bay State Beach
- Distance from Fremont: 38 miles (55 min)
- Activities: Swimming, Surfing, Fishing, Camping, Horseback Riding, Hiking
This 4-mile-long state beach is the closest Pacific Ocean beach to Fremont and has everything you might expect from a beach on the ocean and then some.
Separated into 4 portions, each with its own character and home to a large section of oceanfront campsites, this is a great place to bring the family for an extended stay on the coast.
With a small creek letting out into the ocean, this spot makes for great fishing and has excellent opportunities to view water birds and other wildlife.
It even boasts a string of interpretive exhibits where you can learn about the unique ecosystems in the area while hiking around the easy to moderate trails along the coast.
This beach is definitely worth taking an extra day to explore.
12. Fort Funston Beach
- Distance from Fremont: 43 miles (55 min)
- Activities: Dog-walking, Fishing, Hiking, Horseback Riding, Hang-gliding, Primitive Camping, Metal Detecting
I might get in trouble for telling you about this spot, as it really is a local secret.
The sandstone cliffs along Skyline Boulevard conceal this incredible beach park with seemingly endless hiking trails among sand dunes and coastal pines.
Much of the area is an off-leash dog park, but I recommend keeping dogs on a leash wherever you see horse tracks, as the area also has an active stable and local equestrians frequently exercise their horses on some of the larger trails.
Surfcasting is very popular along this stretch of beach, and the cliffs above nearby Thornton Beach are often used as a launch point for hang-gliders on clear days.
My personal favorite activity at this local gem is exploring the old coastal defense infrastructure, where you can still see the crumbling remains of old gun batteries and observation posts from the early 20th century.
Metal detecting is also somewhat popular here, as some areas can contain small artifacts from the area’s history as a Coast Guard stronghold.
While mornings are usually foggy and cold, the beach usually clears up around noon for amazing views of the city and coast all the way to Marin.
13. Natural Bridges State Beach
- Distance from Fremont: 50 miles (1h)
- Activities: Biking, Hiking, Wading, Wildlife Viewing
- Amenities: Visitor Center, ADA Observation Deck
This small but breathtaking natural wonder is away from the hustle and bustle of the famous Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk. The mighty Pacific has carved the rocks in this area into a bridge-like structure that gives the park its name.
While swimming and surfing are discouraged due to strong currents and unpredictable waves, this beach has plenty of other attractions to offer for those wanting to get in touch with nature.
At low tide, you can see dozens of different species of sea creatures in the tide pools of the marine reserve area. And in late Autumn, the groves overlooking the beach are a favorite stop for millions of migrating Monarch butterflies.
Bring your bike or a good pair of shoes for a scenic loop around the park’s easy hiking trails.
14. Baker Beach
- Distance from Fremont: 46 miles (1h 10min)
- Activities: Swimming, Surfing, Sunbathing, Hiking, Fishing
- Amenities: Restrooms, Picnic Tables
Baker Beach is a great getaway for Bay Area residents looking for some sun and fun closer to home. With stunning views of the Golden Gate and some fairly productive surfcasting, it’s no wonder this spot can get very popular on sunny weekends.
If you’re interested in a bit of local history or you, want to take a break from the persistent sea breeze, take a quick hike along a section of the cliffside Coastal Trail to explore Battery Chamberlain, an old coastal defense battery.
On the first weekend of each month, the National Park Service opens a museum full of artifacts from days gone by, and if you’re lucky, you might catch a demonstration of their working 6-inch coastal defense cannon!
If you’re more interested in boosting your vitamin D, this place is a favorite for local sunbathers, and the northern corner of the beach is considered clothing-optional for those who want to get rid of those tan lines.
15. Pacifica State Beach
- Distance from Fremont: 45 miles (55 min)
- Activities: Surfing, Swimming, Hiking, Biking, Fishing
- Amenities: Restrooms, Showers
This beach, also called Linda Mar, is the place to go in the Bay Area to learn to surf.
The gradual slope of the shoreline keeps the waves long and easy here, with gentle currents, perfect for novice surfers and body boarders, and the surf shop right on the sand offers lessons on the weekends.
If you want to keep your feet dry, there is a partially paved boardwalk running the length of the beach, connecting up to several trails in the nearby bluffs and hills overlooking the serene bay.
This spot should be high on your to-do list for a family day trip.
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