Glass Beach was originally a part of the land set aside for the Pomo Native Americans. It was later retaken, delegated as a military fort called Fort Bragg, and over the years softened into the quaint coastal town it is today. In 1906, the town’s residents designated a small bay along the coast as a garbage dump. Forty years later, they moved the dump’s location, but only after irrevocably changing the coastal environment. Nature took the byproduct of the dump and recycled it into a glittering coastline.

The beach’s name is a reflection of its aesthetic, as its shore is mostly composed of small pieces of sea glass. Glass Beach is every child’s dream, an entire shoreline of treasure. Over the last century, the tide has worn down shattered garbage to form the smooth azure and topaz glass that decorate the shore. The typical morning is foggy, the salt mist lingering low around the sea cliffs as if Fort Bragg holds its breath for the moment when the sun breaks through. As light shines through the fog, the sea glass glitters, a wondrous sight to behold.

Spread out among three different coves broken up by cliffs, Glass Beach is connected by a coastal trail. The trail is perfect for hiking and biking, along with an excellent horseback riding service in town that provides tours daily.

One of the biggest complaints of Glass Beach’s visitors is the lack of sea glass on shore, caused by the affect of tourism on the beach. Smart planning helps prevent this issue. The best time to visit Glass Beach is after a good storm, when the tide has whipped up enough of the sea glass hidden out in the coast and covered the shore anew. To preserve the beach’s beauty, it is asked that visitors leave whatever sea glass they find for the next visitors to enjoy.

If you’re looking for an experience beyond the liquid-color perfection that is the Glass Beach shoreline, don’t forget the tidal pools. After all, a California beach experience isn’t complete without the chance to poke at some sea cucumbers and search for starfish.

There are a variety of ways to experience the Fort Bragg area beyond the coast itself. Aside from Glass Beach, Fort Bragg’s most interesting attraction is its surrounding coastal gardens. When you travel between San Francisco and Mendocino National Forest, remember to stop by Fort Bragg and spend a day exploring its spectacular natural attractions.

—Nikkita Walker


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