Leashed pets are welcome year-round
Sea Glass, Scuba Diving, Snorkeling, Hiking, Biking
Nature Trails, Restrooms
Free to visit
Free parking in lot nearby or in MacKerricher State Park
El Matador Beach
Glass Beach is one of the most unique beaches on the west coast and in the world. It sits along the northern California coastline in Fort Bragg. This guide shares everything you need to know about visiting Glass Beach and surrounding areas.
Fort Bragg's glass beaches boast colorful, broken pieces of glass washed up along the rocky shore. Many tourists and locals flock to the area to see the glass and picturesque views. There's also tons of nature to explore nearby.
The beach is a large area that spans over 38 acres, giving visitors plenty of space to spread out and explore. Not only is it a great place to spend the day, but the area is also an excellent vacation destination.
From entertaining myths like the glass being hardened mermaid tears to an interesting story of what the glass beaches used to be, let's take a look at Glass Beach facts and get answers to common questions.
History of Glass Beach
While there are fascinating old tales about how Glass Beach came to be, the true story isn't all that glamourous. There are tales like the one that says the beautiful sea glass results from mermaids crying over sailors lost at sea and their tears hardening. However, its history isn't that enchanting.
The glass is actually a result of former trash dump sites. Over time, small pieces of soda bottles, lead, cars, old appliances, and other trash were collected among the dumping grounds. Eventually, these small pieces of debris and glass took over the beaches.
In many cases, this wouldn't have grown the appreciation that it has. However, mother nature decided to surprise these beaches and their visitors and turned the debris into beautifully colored pieces of sea glass.
While there were some efforts to clean up the beaches, the glass continued to be found. Over the years, between waves and other environmental factors, the pieces became smooth, beautiful sea glass.
It's now a destination that attracts thousands of tourists each year. As more and more people visit and take the glass (which you aren't supposed to do), the beaches aren't covered with the stunning glass like they used to be.
Today, many beachgoers are disappointed when they discover sand areas with little glass, but it's still an extraordinary place with many activities to enjoy.
Getting to Glass Beach
Fort Bragg's glass beaches are located along the northern coast of California. With 3 dumping sites that are now beautiful seaside destinations, there are several spots where you can spot this vibrant sea glass.
The northernmost part of the glassy beaches is at MacKerricher State Park, where you can park and walk down to the ocean. The park is usually more crowded than the main glass area.
You can drive south down Glass Beach Drive for a few beach entrances that get you closer to prime glass areas. The further south you get along Glass Beach Drive, the more sea glass you should find. This part of the beach is a top spot to check out!
Glass Beach Activities
While Glass Beach is most known for its beautiful beach glass, there are many other activities to enjoy in the area.
Of course, the unique sea glass is the number one reason people visit the beach. While you might want to keep some glass for yourself, it's encouraged that you leave it on the shore. In fact, there are signs along the coast stating that it's illegal to take the glass.
Since it's become a bit of a historical site, it's best to use the opportunity to snap pictures of the beautiful site and leave it for others to enjoy.
While broken bottles along the beach might make you think the opposite of participating in water activities, many beachgoers actually do enjoy getting in the water at Glass Beach. With that said, it's important to be careful by wearing water shoes and being mindful of the currents that tend to be powerful at the glass beaches.
Scuba diving and snorkeling in these waters is an incredible experience. Divers have been known to spot blue glass from Bromo seltzer bottles, along with colorful pieces from perfume bottles and more.
Strong swimmers also enjoy swimming around Glass Beach.
Note: It's best for swimming and divers to be confident in their skills and have someone with them before heading into the cold waters, which often have a strong current.
If you're looking to explore nature away from the ocean, there are various trails nearby. One of the main attractions at MacKerricher State Park is its multiple trails. The MacKerricher Coastal Trail follows the coastline.
These trails are excellent for easy to moderate hiking and biking. Most of them are manageable for children and pets to explore, too.
While there aren't any picnic tables or concession stands at the beach, there's plenty of space to bring your own food and enjoy a picnic while appreciating the scenery and basking in the sun. You can either prop up on the rocks for a picnic or bring a thick blanket that will provide comfort over the sea glass-filled sand.