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The Ultimate Guide to Glass Beach, California

The Ultimate Guide to Glass Beach, California

When you hear the words “glass beach,” it congers up visions of a sandy landscape along the coast that glistens in the sun, because it is filled with colorful fused quartz crystals scattered along the surf. 

And that is exactly what is seen at MacKerricher State Park in northern California.  

We visited Glass Beach in our RV. And it was just as awesome as the pictures!

Here’s a little history (and some insider camping info).

Why is There Glass on Glass Beach?

Just outside Fort Bragg lie three separate beaches laden with sea glass.  To understand how the glass was ‘deposited’ there, one must look at the history of the region.

And in particular, the seismic history.

No, the sea glass was not formed by molten lava from earthquake faults or active volcanoes.  It is a byproduct of the devastating San Francisco Earthquake of 1906. 

With the amount of destruction that occurred in not only that city, but also many towns across northern California including Fort Bragg, it’s no wonder that there were massive amounts of rubbish, building materials, and trash. 

The local beaches became the dumping grounds. Everything from building materials to car tires were disposed of at Glass Beach.

And glass, lots of glass!

This practice continued until the 1960s, when cleanup of these “trashy beaches” reclaimed the beauty of the coast, leaving only the smallest particles of glass rolling around in the surf. 

And now, after years of tumbling, a stunning scene now exists on the three Glass Beaches north of Fort Bragg.

How Long Does It Take Glass to Become Sea Glass?

It might take several years for the remnants to become sea glass. 

Not only will the tumbling round the edges of the glass, but the water’s pH and minerals will help to pit the glass and give it a softened look and feel.

If you’re a sea glass geek like us, this book (The Ultimate Guide to Sea Glass) was a great travel companion for our Glass Beach trip.

Can You Take Glass from Glass Beach?

For years visitors have absconded with sea glass from each of the three Glass Beach locations.  However, it is illegal to do so. 

The collection that remains on the beaches is certainly less than it once was. However, there are plenty of relics left to enjoy one of the most unique spectacles of ‘recycling’ anywhere to be found. 

Instead of taking a piece of sea glass for yourself, just take photos instead.

Leave this unusual find for others to enjoy, as well.  

What is There to do at Glass Beach, California? 

Obviously one of the most popular activities on Glass Beach is the hunt for sea glass.  You won’t have to look very far, so maybe looking for the various colors of glass will make it more challenging!

There are a number of tidal pools on the beach at MacKerricher State Park, and low tide is the best time to check out the animal life in them.  You might be surprised to find colorful sea anemones, crabs, and sea stars.

Check out the International Sea Glass Museum in Fort Bragg for a primer on how sea glass is formed, and see the varieties in color that exist. 

This little cottage holds his collection of over 150,000 pieces, with some rare finds, as well as information on shipwrecks that occurred years ago.

Where To Camp Near Glass Beach?

During our RV trip to Glass Beach, California we camped at Dolphin Isle RV Park & Marina. It was a great basecamp located directly on the water. This spot is ideal for RVers who want full hookups.

If you’re more interested in connecting with nature, we recommend MacKerricher State Park.

Mermaid Tears

When visiting Glass Beach, take a moment to contemplate the sailors who plied this rough coast, and how many never returned home to their loved ones because of Mother Nature’s angry surf. 

Then you might begin to understand how the legend of ‘mermaid tears’ began. 

It’s more of a fairy tale explanation for the sea glass, than the realization that this beach was once a dump!

Discover the Best Free Campsites in the USA

To be honest with you, we hate paying for camping. There are so many free campsites in America (with complete privacy).

You should give it a try!

As a matter of fact, these free campsites are yours. Every time you pay federal taxes, you’re contributing to these lands.

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