Right after the 1906 earthquake and up until 1967, the city of Fort Bragg dumped trash in three places along its beaches, but the placement of the rocks and wave formations created a giant tumbling machine that took the shiny dumped glass into the water and tossed out frosty gems back onto the shore called sea glass.
TRASH TO TREASURE IN FORT BRAGG
Many say Mendocino County’s Glass Beach in Fort Bragg, California holds the largest concentration of sea glass in the world.
Map of Fort Bragg’s Three Glass Beach Dump Sites
Fort Bragg Sea Glass Finding Tip: Most of the sea glass at Glass Beach in Fort Bragg lies along the coast between Elm Street and Pine Street on sites One and Two.
GLASS BEACH: THE THREE SITES
Glass Beach Site Two 1943-1949
Glass Beach Site Two is the most popular and the most visited site for sea glass lovers.
You can access Glass Beach Site Two by taking Main Street (Hwy. 1) and heading west on Elm Street. Park at the parking lot at the end of Elm Street, and walk on the path towards the ocean. There are signs posted that will lead you to Glass Beach.
There are stairs leading down to Glass Beach.
Below is the view of Glass Beach Site Two from the cliffs above the cove.
Plenty of sea glass lies all over the cove. You’ll see sea glass on top of the sand and well beyond the high-tide water mark. You should visit the beach a few hours before and after low tide. More sea glass is visible during low tide. Unless the water conditions are extremely hazardous and you’re there at high tide, you’ll be sure to see plenty of sea glass.
Still Lots of Sea Glass on Glass Beach Site Two
The sea glass has been picked over on Site Two, especially during the last five years; however, copious amounts of white, green, and brown sea glass shards still lie all over the sand. Other colors like sea foam, red, and yellow can be found too, but you’ll have to look a little harder to find them.
As you approach Site Two, you’ll hear the soft tinkling sound of waves washing over sea glass.
Glass Beach Site Three 1949-1967
Glass Beach Site Three has the least amount sea glass. Site Three is located just north of Site Two and is considered part of MacKerricher State Park where collecting sea glass is illegal.
If you go to the right out of the parking lot towards the ocean, you’ll end up at Glass Beach Site Three.
Even though Site Three has little sea glass, it still has more sea glass than you’ll find on most other beaches around the globe.
Glass Beach Site One 1906-1943 (Treasure Cove)
Site One is located a few coves south of Site Two and Three.
Public Access by Foot to Glass Beach Site One
There are now paved paths around the cliffs, so people can legally and safely access Glass Beach Site One by foot. However, be sure to climb down the cliff carefully.
As long as conditions are safe, you can also paddle board, kayak, or swim to Site One from Site Two. It only takes a few minutes by water; however, if you decide on a kayak, getting the kayak from your vehicle to the beach and down the cliffs and back up to your vehicle takes a bit of effort.
Warning: Be sure the conditions are safe before entering the water to get to Site One Glass Beach. Rip tides can be treacherous and water temperatures rarely exceed 55 degrees. Rogue waves have swept people out to sea. Keep in mind that if you slip and get stuck on the rocks or cliffs along the shore, the tide comes in and goes out approximately every six hours. To get tide times click here.
Views of Glass Beach Site One at Low Tide
CAN YOU TAKE SEA GLASS FROM GLASS BEACH?
A sign posted at the beginning of the path at the end of Elm Street states that taking sea glass is prohibited; however, some locals say the sea glass not located within the MacKerricher State Park boundaries can be taken below the mean high water mark.
The boundary of MacKerricher State Park ends before Site Two. Site One and Two are not located inside MacKerricher State Park, so legally, you can take sea glass from these two sites up to the mean high tide mark.
The locals usually don’t mind if you take a few special pieces of sea glass for your collection. Keep in mind that while the sea glass on Glass Beach is disappearing quickly, there is still plenty of sea glass. There are, however, smaller shards on the beaches each year. Rare colors of sea glass are getting harder to find.
FLYING INTO CALIFORNIA
Oakland International Airport is the closest major airport to Fort Bragg, California. It takes about 3 1/2 hours to drive to Glass Beach from Oakland. You can also fly into San Francisco, but it will take a little longer to drive to Fort Bragg.
GLASS BEACH HOTELS IN FORT BRAGG
There are several hotels in Fort Bragg. Be sure to book early, especially during the summer months and holidays when hotels fill up fast.
The Emerald Dolphin Inn is a nice place to stay in Fort Bragg when you’re visiting Glass Beach. It’s located a few miles south of Glass Beach. It’s not too expensive, and it’s clean. It’s also close to Starbucks, Safeway, and McDonald’s.
The Motel 6 in Fort Bragg costs less than the Emerald Dolphin Inn; however, it’s in need of some repair. Try not stay at the Motel 6 on holiday weekends. Motorcycle groups sometimes meet in the parking lot on long weekends. They chat loudly and laugh all day until late in the evening. They’re a friendly bunch, but the walls in the hotel are not soundproof.