One of the most magical attractions on the Fort Bragg coast line is Glass Beach — which is actually three separate beaches or areas. The two southern-most areas are within the Fort Bragg city limits, and the third, northern-most area is located within MacKerricher State Park. Glass Beach — all three of its areas — were once the site of a city dump. The land was restored and reclaimed, but the dumped sea glass continues to emerge from the ocean, in all of its splendid jewel-like colors.
If you are visiting on June 4, 2016, for the Coastal Trail Celebration — part of National Trails Day — you’ll want to visit Glass Beach, which is now more accessible from the northern part of the Coastal Trail. If you are visiting Fort Bragg at any time of the year, including to participate in one of the upcoming events at the Noyo Center for Marine Science, you’ll have access to more of the coast than ever before. You can walk to Glass Beach from the downtown area of Fort Bragg, which is the gateway to the California National Coastal Monument, and enjoy watching and listening to birds and wildlife.
Initially, many people who visited Glass Beach would remove pieces of the magical colored glass to take home. Some were artists, who used the glass to make artworks, but this became a problem — the beach was becoming depleted, and it became clear that future generations would not be able to enjoy Glass Beach if all the glass was taken away. So, the City of Fort Bragg and MacKerricher State Park took steps to preserve the glass and began charging fines for carrying the glass away. Now, in the days of digital and mobile phone cameras, visitors and local residents are able to take photos of the glass treasures, but leave the actual glass on the beach for others to enjoy.
The fine for taking pieces of glass is $100, per a City of Fort Bragg Ordinance. This applies to the two southern sections of Glass Beach. The northern section of the beach is located within MacKerricher State Park, so their laws apply to that beach, which permits a fine of up to $1000. Additionally, please read our post about City of Fort Bragg Abalone Regulations and fines. The beaches are open from dawn to dusk.
A note from California State Parks regarding Glass Beach at MacKerricher State Park: “All park cultural features are protected by law and may not be removed or disturbed, including glass found at Glass Beach.”
What To Do at Glass Beach: Search for rare ruby reds (from pre-1967 auto tail lights) or sapphire gems from apothecary bottles. Snap a photo, but leave the glass behind for others to discover.
Local Lore: From 1906 to 1967, everything from cars to batteries to bottles, cans and appliances were unceremoniously pushed over the cliffs into the ocean — a common practice of seaside cities for centuries. Mother Nature responded to this abuse with a nice surprise in the form of smooth, colored sea glass treasure in a rainbow of colors.
Best Picnic Spot: On the rocks and cliffs overlooking Glass Beach #3 (the most northern of the three beaches, located in MacKerricher State Park).
From Highway 1, turn west on Elm Street (Denny’s is on the corner), and drive a few blocks to Glass Beach Drive. Park at the intersection and walk down to the beach.
Learn More: Frequently asked questions.
There are plenty of things to do in Fort Bragg, and along the Northern California coast line!