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Marine Life at Your Fingertips: Tide Pool Adventures

Calling all explorers! Ready for a fab outdoor adventure and a glimpse of an environment totally foreign to us landlubbers? Grab those microscopes, drag up all knowledge of the underwater world and head for the sandy stretches to where an amazing array of sea creatures have made their homes among the rocky edges of the ocean. From large seals to itty-bitty crabs and fish, there is a fabulous collection of animals on display during low-tide hours along the Pacific Coastline. Lucky for parents and kids, tide pools are nearby and in abundance in the San Francisco/Bay Area.

photo courtesy of nick.van.laar via Flikr


James Fitzgerald Marine Reserve
This rocky seashore is home to one of the most well known and fantastic tide pools on the Northern California coastline.  20 miles south of San Francisco, this 32-acre reserve aims to protect this complex but fragile community. Oh, and what a community it is! During low tide the whole family will be able to enjoy the variety of harbor seals, crabs, sponges, sea stars, mollusks and fish who make their homes among the seaweed choked pools. The receding sea reveals rocky reefs the length of a football field, offering a beach side glimpse into an underwater world.  Touching the creatures is encouraged, making for a wonderful day of exploration and observation. The folks in the green shirts are part of The Friends of the Fitzgerald Marine Reserve, providing tours and other helpful hints regarding the inter-tidal environment. For a small fee, groups of 10 or more can make a reservation. No dogs are allowed at the reserve and remember, leave the pools just as you found them! Call the number listed below for low tide times.

James Fitzgerald Marine Reserve
200 Nevada Avenue
Moss Beach, Ca 94038
Cost: Free (for groups less than 10)

Marin County

Muir Beach
Low tide at Muir Beach is dazzling. Tucked away about 20 miles north of San Francisco, this secluded, but always frequented beach is worth the trek on Hwy 1. For access to the pools head towards Redwood Creek, the easiest spot to get to the ocean. Skip from rock to rock while inspecting starfishes of vibrant colors, bulging mussels gripping the salty rocks, and beautiful blue sponges. This beach is extremely family friendly and dogs are allowed so don’t forget the picnic basket to make a day of the adventure.

Muir Beach
Highway 1 Ca 94965
Cost: Free

East Bay

Crab Cove
Tide Pools in Alameda? Yup, the Crab Cove Marine Protected Area is part of Crown Memorial State Beach. It was the first California estuary marine reserve of its kind. The mud flat and rocky shore area are a wildlife habitat and the kiddos are encouraged to explore to their hearts content. Be on the lookout for wiggly snails and crabs who like to dig deeper into the mud during low-tide. The visitor center has classrooms and display cases highlighting the shore and marine life of the San Francisco Bay Area. There are plenty of family centered programs at the Cove and naturalist guided tours are offered Wednesday-Friday by advance reservation.

Crab Cove
1252 McKay Avenue
Alameda, Ca 94501
Cost: $5 Parking Fee

San Francisco

China Beach
China Beach is in a tiny cove tucked between Lands End and Baker Beach in the Sea Cliff neighborhood of San Francisco. A less frequented beach even for locals, this is a wonderful opportunity for a quiet family afternoon. Take a low-tide walk from China Beach to Baker Beach and find starfish, anemones, and mussels clinging to the rocky crevices of the cliffs. This sheltered pocket of sand offers a picnic area, sunbathing, good play spots for children and spectacular views of the Marin Headlands and Golden Gate.

China Beach
Sea Cliff Avenue
San Francisco, Ca 94121
Cost: Free

What’s your favorite Bay Area tide pool? Share the love in the comment section below. 

– Gabrielle Cullen

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