Ocean Beach in San Francisco

Ocean Beach in San Francisco – Tips to Plan Your Visit

San Francisco, with its iconic Golden Gate Bridge, historic cable cars, and vibrant neighborhoods, is a city that seldom runs out of attractions. But amidst the urban hustle and bustle lies a coastal treasure that offers a serene escape – Ocean Beach. As a local living in San Francisco, Ocean Beach was a frequent hangout spot with friends. This vast stretch of coastline is a juxtaposition to the city’s fast-paced life and provides an opportunity to experience the Pacific’s raw beauty right at the heart of the city.

In this quick and simple guide I’ll give you all the details you need to know about planning your own beach trip with friends and family. From the obvious to the secret insider information, it’s all here!

Where to Find Ocean Beach in San Francisco

Ocean Beach is located at the tail end of Golden Gate Park, right where it hits the iconic Great Highway. This spot is is easily recognizable by its vast stretches of sandy beach. The nearby Cliff House and Sutro Baths ruins are close historical landmarks that will at least let you know that you’re in the right area of the city.

Where to Park When You Visit Ocean Beach

The Ocean Beach main parking lot (with an entrance at Sloat Boulevard) is located directly adjacent to the beach at the end of Great Highway, offering convenient beach access. This lot can fill up quickly on sunny days or during special events, so arriving early or visiting during off-peak hours can be beneficial.

Additionally, there are smaller lots and street parking options available along the Great Highway and neighboring streets like La Playa Street and Judah Street. It’s worth noting that parking in the area is free, but always make sure to lock your vehicle and avoid leaving valuables in plain sight.

Swimming at Ocean Beach

You may image that swimming in the ocean is something you can do anywhere in California. Well not so much in Northern California because the water is very cold! Most people can only dip their toes in this chilly water.

Ocean Beach is known for its strong rip currents which can pose significant dangers to even experienced swimmers. While the expansive beach might appear inviting, it’s essential for visitors to be aware of the risks. The cold water, often dipping below 60°F, can lead to hypothermia if one is not adequately prepared. There aren’t lifeguards stationed at Ocean Beach, so swimmers must exercise personal responsibility.

When it comes to surfing in Northern California, the surfers must wear wetsuits to keep their body temperature up. They’re really necessary to combat the icy ocean temperatures.

A Lengthy Beach Walk

Ocean Beach extends from the Cliff House to Fort Funston. The beach stretches for approximately 3.5 miles along the city’s western edge, allowing for a generous expanse of uninterrupted sandy shoreline. On foggy days, which are quite characteristic of San Francisco, the mist rolls in, creating an ethereal atmosphere. Consider yourself lucky if you get a warm and sunny beach day. By the end of this lengthy beach walk you’ll feel like you’ve thoroughly explored this San Francisco gem.

Bonfire on the Beach

Ocean Beach is one of the few places in Northern California where bonfires are permitted, but only in designated fire rings. They’re available on a first-come, first-serve basis, so arrive early if you’re planning a beachside campfire. Fires permitted from March 1-Oct. 31 between the hours 6 am -9:30 pm. Keep in mind that no glass or alcohol is allowed at Ocean Beach. 

The Weather in San Francisco

San Francisco is renowned for its unpredictable and often chilly weather, certainly not the stereotypical view of sunny California. The city’s unique microclimates, heavily influenced by cold currents from the Pacific Ocean and its hilly terrain, can cause dramatic temperature swings within just a few blocks. The famous adage, “The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco,” attributed to Mark Twain, humorously captures this meteorological quirk.

This fog, affectionately named “Karl” by locals, can quickly turn a sunny day into a gray, breezy affair, necessitating layers and a trusty jacket. It’s super advisable to layer up before heading to Ocean Beach, as the winds can be chilly, especially in the evening. When you’re heading to the beach, make sure you pack a warm blanket in addition to your beach blanket you plan on laying out, because you’re going to want to snuggle!

Bring Your Dog on a Leash

Ocean Beach is pet friendly, which is awesome because some beaches don’t allow dogs at all. Starting at the north end of the beach, going all the way to stairwell 21, dogs are allowed on-leash or voice-control. From Stairwell 21 to Sloat Boulevard, dogs must be leashed throughout the year, except between May 15th and July 1st. During this brief time of year, your pup can be off-leash if under voice control.

Where to Pick-Up Picnic Food for the Beach

It’s not a real picnic unless you have some yummy food to enjoy! Below I’ve listed some foodie spots that are very close to Ocean Beach and have easy to-go menu options for a picnic.

Devil’s Teeth Baking Company

If you’re planning a morning trip to the beach, Devil’s Teeth Baking Company makes breakfast sandwiches, avocado toast, bakery pastries, and hot caffeinated drinks like drip coffee and chai latte.

Andytown Coffee Roasters

Andytown Coffee Roasters is located just a stone’s throw away from the sands of Ocean Beach. At this cafe they serve coffee, fresh-baked pastries, Happy Moose Juice, Nana Joes Granola, and their famous ice cream sandwiches known as Its-It Affogatos.


Several times when I’ve been to Ocean Beach, we stopped over at the Safeway on Noriega Street first. You can pick up basic supplies like water or juice, chips and salsa, snacks, candy, etc.

Polly Ann Ice Cream

If you’re trying to satisfy your sweet tooth, pick up a decadent banana split from Polly Ann Ice Cream, also located on Noriega Street.

Outer Sunset Farmer’s Market & Mercantile

If you’re anything like me, you love a good trip to the farmer’s market! The Outer Sunset Farmer’s Market & Mercantile takes place every Sunday between 9am – 2pm. Pick up some fresh fruit and a hot prepared meal made by a local chef. Ocean Beach is a very quick 5 minute drive from Sunset Blvd.

Hook Fish Co

Is it too ironic to eat fish at the beach? I don’t think so! Get fish tacos or fish and chips to go from Hook Fish Co and enjoy them on a beach blanket.

Papa Mak’s Burgers

At Papa Mak’s there’s a burger for every kind of foodie flavor you like. From the classic cheeseburger, fancy blue cheese gourmet burger, or even super spicy, there’s a burger with your name on it. Chicken and vegetarian options available too.

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