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California's 6 Most Unusual Beaches

More than Just Sun and Sand


There's a lot more to California beaches than the ubiquitous volleyball games, beach bonfires and surfers. This bunch of beaches all offer something unusual for you to see.

Pfeiffer Beach, Big Sur

© Betsy Malloy 2006.
The sand on this beach is purple. Honest. At first, it looks like someone spilled a package of grape Jell-o on the sand, but the hue actually comes from tiny garnets that wash down from the hillside above.

Glass Beach, Fort Bragg

©2007 Betsy Malloy Photography.
This unique beach in Fort Bragg is possibly the prettiest thing that ever happened to a city dump. Decades later, all the broken glass has been tumbled and softened in the surf, leaving the beach covered with colorful, polished glass shards.

Bowling Ball Beach, Mendocino

©2007 Betsy Malloy Photography.
OK, they're not real bowling balls, but the rocks on Mendocino's most photogenic beach do resemble the real thing. Go at low tide to get the best look.

Oceano Beach, Pismo Beach

©2007 Betsy Malloy Photography.
Unusual for the human activity on and around it, Oceano is the only California beach you can drive a vehicle onto. In the nearby dunes, you'll find a cadre of plucky drivers kicking up sand as they take their Off-Highway vehicles over the contours.

Piedras Blancas, San Simeon

© 2009 Betsy Malloy Photography. Used by permission.
It's not the only place in California you can see Northern Elephant Seals haul out of the ocean to give birth and mate, but it's certainly the most accessible, just a stones throw from the highway.

See them now: Photos of Elephant Seals at Piedras Blancas

Venice Beach, Los Angeles

© 2007 Betsy Malloy Photography. Used by Permission.
In our books, Venice Beach takes top honors for its funky, anything-goes ambiance, scantily-clad skaters and general quirkiness. We've seen everything here from chanting Hare Krishnas to dogs wearing sunglasses.

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