Ft. Bragg is a quaint town along the Mendocino Coast. The drive takes about 4.5 hours from San Francisco. If you’re coming in from the south, we highly recommend taking Highway 1 along the coast for incredible ocean views the entire way. If you’re coming in from the west, we recommend taking Hwy 20 along Clear Lake and through Jackson State Forest. It’s beautiful.
Ft. Bragg got its name in the 1850s, when it was a military post. There is no military base now, but instead the town flourishes due to tourism, fishing, and lumber. It’s a quaint feeling coastal town. We loved the small shops, variety of parks, sunset views, and gorgeous coastline.
One of the biggest tourist spots is the curious Glass Beach. Since the late 1800s, the lumber companies used the cliffs over the ocean as a dump site. Locals also decided this was a convenient spot to shovel trash, appliances, and even vehicles into the ocean. As strange as this sounds now, oceanside towns historically did this to dispose of their garbage.
The San Francisco earthquake of 1906 caused widespread damage along the coast and the post-quake cleanup efforts in Ft. Bragg added even more debris to the dump site. The dump was closed in 1967, and since then the churning tides have slowly smoothed the glass dumped into the ocean and formed it into colorful stones that slowly wash onto the shore.
Glass Beach makes for a great photo opportunity.
The ocean crashes around you on the cliffs overlooking the beach, and the sea glass sparkles in the sun. The meandering path to the beach starts above, on the cliffs, and leads down to the glass-covered shore.
We took our dog and had no worries about cutting her feet, as time and tides have smoothed the glass into beautiful smooth stones.
Fort Bragg is also home to a sea glass museum, which is worth a visit to learn more about the rare types of glass that occasionally wash ashore and the history of the area.
One important final note- please don’t take the glass home as a souvenir. As people visit and pocket a stone or two, the glass has been diminishing and will eventually be gone. Please leave this beach for our future generations to enjoy! If you want to take something home, the museum also has a store with sea glass for sale.