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beaches for birthdays

i'm trying to plan a birthday party over the weekend of the 9th of august, and i'm thinking of picking out a beach for an afternoon event. problem is that unfortunately i'm quite ignorant about our many local beaches, and i thought i'd pose it to you guys.

i'm thinking of a place that can accomodate about 15-20 people on a saturday afternoon, hopefully not more than a half-hour to forty five minute drive from san francisco that is open to possible beach fires, but more importantly, grilling, and picnic worthy tables? just wondering if there are any that would fit the criteria, and also may have available grills, access to facilities, etc, which i'm already supposing isn't really an option. sorry if these are silly questions, but i'm just not a beach person.

also, if any beaches come to mind, if anyone could point out any good local, cheap-ish and unique places nearby to eat at otherwise, or at least links to relevant threads, i'd appreciate it. sorry, but i haven't had much time to research. type of food isn't really important. a taco truck. a diner. local bar with good pub grub.

thanks in advance, and if i can make it work, at least in a chowhound relevant manner, i'll be sure to get back.

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  1. My SIL has a birthday party at Heart's Desire beach on Tomales bay every August, and the weather has always been great. There are facilities, etc, and plenty of places to eat along the way -- though it may be farther away you want to drive. However (big however), because of budget cuts, the beach may be closed this summer. (SIL was worried about that last time we spoke.) China Camp in Marin is another idea. Lots of grills, restrooms, and even a funky little cafe open on the weekends. Good luck!

    1 Reply
    1. re: Glencora

      We've been to Heart's Desire twice in the last month. The beach itself is small, but because it's on Tomales Bay (facing east) it is relatively wave free. There is a picnic area, clean bathrooms and a small parking lot nearby, with another picnic area just a short hike up the hill. You could hit the Cowgirl Creamery in Pt. Reyes Station for picnic goods, if it's a farmer's market day you'll have even more options.

      I'd hit Cafe Reyes for their woodfired pizzas. Casual, with reasonable prices and delicious thin but not crackery crust pizzas and tasty salads. If the weather's nice you could sit on their deck.

      Further south, Stinson Beach also has grilling & picnic areas near the parking lot but not on the beach itself.

    2. About the same distance as China Camp but in a different direction are the beaches at Miller/Knox Regional Shoreline in Point Richmond. Spectacular views and great picnic facilities. This Chronicle article about Keller Beach is good.
      http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article...

      As the article mentions, the town on the other side of the tunnel is charming and has some good restaurants.
      http://www.chow.com/search?search%5Bq...

      There's a nice new British pub in town that is run by a guy from Liverpool.

      More photos and info
      http://baytrail.abag.ca.gov/vtour/map...
      http://outdoors.webshots.com/photo/10...

      2 Replies
      1. re: rworange

        I go there a lot and the view is great, but it can be very windy. Hmmm...Alameda might be closer from S.F. Don't know much about the food situation, though. I do recall grills and a nice beach.

        1. re: Glencora

          Crown in Alameda is a nice beach, but not very "wild" -- one good thing about the beaches around the east and south bay, though, is that the water isn't quite so cold if you actually want to put your feet in. There are some good restaurants a couple of minutes away from Crown Beach on Webster St., and more a few minutes the other direction on Park St.

          Very few beaches allow fires these days -- I don't know of any that do for sure. My go-to beaches are down the San Mateo Coast south of Half Moon Bay. San Gregorio and Pompanio both have great facilities, but they can be crowded on a nice summer day (Pompanio somewhat less so). Pescadero is nearby, and if you get there and decide it's not beach weather (always possible -- I've spent many a cold, foggy day on the coast), you can go up into the hills where there are some lovely parks (Butano State Park, Memorial County Park). I always have a back-up plan for a beach day!

      2. Fires are generally allowed, though what fun is a fire in the afternoon? It just adds
        smoke to the litany of other unpleasantries: fog, icy wind, stinging sand. Here are
        the Ocean Beach regulations:
        http://www.nps.gov/goga/parkmgmt/uplo...
        though Ocean Beach doesn't have any of the other things you're looking for.

        You might consider a trip up to Tomales Bay. Maybe get a table and grill at Tomales
        Bay or Drakes Bay Oyster companies (both free) or Hog Island (need a reservation
        and it costs something). Then head out to the actual beach afterwards?

        1. China Beach and Baker Beach have picnic tables and grills. Only problem is that it's likely to be cold, windy, and/or foggy.

          1. Don't know if you made your plans yet, but I was at the Martinez Regional Shoreline Park Sunday and it has some really nice picnic grounds and is probably one of the warmer areas in the Bay Area. There are a bunch of little restaurants in the nearby downtown.

            Some info from this link
            http://www.berkeleydailyplanet.com/is...
            "The Shoreline, a feat of the city of Martinez and the East Bay Regional Park District at the foot of Ferry Street, includes surprising amenities, such as cycling paths, fishing, walking paths along Pickleweed Trail through the enhanced Marsh, boating, soccer, Waterfront Park with the latest in modern children’s climbing equipment, picnic tables, the Joe DiMaggio Ballfields and Martinez’s local obsession, bocce played on 15 covered courts ... The old Southern Pacific Station has steam cars on display,"

            4 Replies
            1. re: rworange

              thanks for all the tips, but we've decided on baker beach, for the ease of the picnic tables and grills, as well as to accommodate people's conflicting schedules. i will simply impress on people the need to dress as if going hiking in greenland. since the food will be the usual grilled, picnic fare, i won't be reporting back, but thanks to everyone.

              1. re: augustiner

                This time of year Greenland is probably warmer than Baker Beach on a foggy, windy day! Layers!

                1. re: augustiner

                  Brrrr. Sure you can't talk them into Angel Island?

                  My favorite beach in this area is San Gregorio, near where 84 hits 1 (south of Half Moon Bay). Crowds at the entrance but they thin considerably if you walk a little in either direction.

                  1. re: augustiner

                    Does anyone know if you need to reserve the picnic tables at Baker Beach?