Humboldt County beaches are gorgeous but better for looking at than they are for swimming and beach play. Humboldt isn't California's northernmost county, but it's close. The water on the northern California coast is cold and surf can be dangerous.
On the plus side, the northern California coast is visually stunning, with dramatic cliffs, crashing waves and rocky sea stacks standing guard just offshore. That makes these beaches perfect for photographers, artists and anyone who just wants to enjoy an inspiring scene.
Best Humboldt County Beaches
These beaches are listed in order from south to north:
Centerville Beach County Park: Centerville was named best area beach by readers of the local newspaper and it's no wonder. It's nine miles of secluded, scenic beach with sandstone cliffs, lots of wildlife. In April and May, an occasional migrating mother whale may swim past with her baby.
Clam Beach County Park: This county beach is easily accessible from the highway just north of Arcata. The name suggests one of the beach's most popular activities: digging for clams. It's also one of the few places along the northern California coast where you can camp right on the beach. It's a small place with only nine tent spaces and nine RV spaces. The campground has vault toilets and cold running water.
Samoa Dunes Beach: On the Samoa Peninsula on the ocean side of Humboldt Bay opposite the town of Eureka, Samoa Dunes has a 75-acre area set aside for riding off-highway vehicles. It's also a good place for hiking, surfing, fishing, sightseeing, beachcombing and birdwatching.
Trinidad State Beach: Trinidad is a sandy, curving beach just north of the Trinidad Harbor and pier. It's protected by a big, rocky sea stack and often strewn with driftwood and other bits of flotsam and jetsam. To get there, you'll follow a long, somewhat steep path. The best time to go is at low tide.
Moonstone Beach: Lost Coast Outpost says Moonstone is the best beach in Humboldt County for "appealing rock formations, child-awing caves, surf for beginners, Little River wading options and arguably the largest local expanse of sand." And its location at the mount of the Little River is unarguably gorgeous.
Agate Beach: This scenic beach in Patrick's Point State Park is broad and free of driftwood. Powerful rip tides make going into the water dangerous, but it's a great place for beachcombing, or just contemplating the power of Mother Nature. You'll have to walk down a long, somewhat steep path to get there. It may be small, but it also has a small parking lot and lots of people like to go there. Arrive early for the best chance to get a parking spot.
Gold Bluffs Beach State Park: The trip down a four-mile, winding dirt road is worth it if you're planning to stay a while, but not for a casual visit. Gold Bluffs is In Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park, but don't go to the main entrance. Instead, exit U.S. Hwy 101 at Davison Road. From the beach, you can also hike on nearby forest trails or take a leisurely walk to Fern Canyon. You can also camp at Gold Bluffs. Set up your tent between the Pacific Ocean and the redwood forest at Gold Bluffs. And here's a fun extra: You might find the local herd of Roosevelt Elk hanging out on the beach with you.
Black Sands Beach: This beach has unusual black sand. It's located at Shelter Cove in the part of California sometimes called the "Lost Coast." Befitting its title, this is a remote location, reached by an hour-long back roads drive from U.S. Hwy 101.
Beach Camping in Humboldt County
Places to camp at any Northern California beach are scarce, but you can find something in Humboldt County - and elsewhere along the coast in this Guide to Beach Camping in Northern California.
Nude Beaches in Humboldt County
It's a little too cold in Humboldt County for clothing-optional recreation, but that doesn't stop a few diehards from doing it anyway. If you want to join them, use this guide to Humboldt County nude beaches.