Don’t be like me and spend all your time wandering the trails of Redwood National Park or skipping stones on the banks of the Smith. There’s an endless coastline just a few miles away. The hidden beaches, rocky coast, tidal pools and windswept trails are world class. For many, the coast is just as impressive and just as much of a destination as the trees.
When I do finally pull myself away from the inland trails and pay a visit to the beach or drive along a bluff-hugging stretch of roadway, I kick myself for overlooking the beauty, unique ecology and history tied up with the ocean.
So here are the highlights of what the ocean and beaches have to offer the bnb visitor.
The low-hanging fruit, on foot and from a car:
An rewarding full-day of exploring the coast in and around Crescent City might include the following five locations.
The first would be the lighthouse at Battery Point. This is a 1800s-era, Cape Cod style lighthouse that has been in almost continuous operation since it was first lit in 1856. While it has been replaced by a larger and more strategically located lighthouse at St. George Reef (located offshore by about 8 miles north-northwest of Crescent City) the Battery Point Lighthouse remains operational and part of the network of horns, bells and lights that serve to keep fishermen and boaters informed of rocks, jettys and harbor entrances. Remember that lighthouse visits are possible only during low tides. St. George Reef
A second activity would be to do nothing more than to drive the length of Pebble Beach Drive from the lighthouse north to Point St. George to admire the ocean from the half dozen or so pull-outs and vest pocket parks. When the whales are migrating this is a particularly rewarding venture. Remember to pack a jacket as warm and sunny days are the exception on the coast.
The four mile drive on Pebble Beach Drive is described in a TripAdvisor entry here:
On a nice day the locals will come out and park in one of the small parking lots on the edge of the ocean to stare out at the beautiful ocean, beach, and rocks. Or they will sit on one of the many benches overlooking the beaches and ocean below. On a nice sunny day there may be no coastline that is more beautiful than Pebble Beach Drive. But these kind of days can be rare later in the summer (August) as it can often be foggy. Other seasons tend to have more rainy days, but sunny days can happen then too. (When planning it is helpful to check the local weather report.) But if you do happen to catch it on a sunny day it is beautiful! And the sunsets are often absolutely gorgeous.
A bit beyond the northern most part of Pebble Beach Drive, at Washington Blvd, the road continues through a desolate and grassy area (Point Saint George Heritage Area) and dead ends in a paved parking lot. The building to the west of the parking area has a long and interesting history (the local paper details here) but is now a private residence so keep out!). Walk beyond the parking area .Park there and then walk on a decommissioned access road to Pelican Bay and it’s piles and piles of driftwood. Point St. George
Hikers, birders, mushroom foragers, and lovers of wetlands should consult the Tolowa Coast Trail Map for the 30 miles of trails located within Tolowa Dunes State Park, Lake Earl Wildlife Area, and the Point Saint George Heritage Area. An online reference is HERE.
The tidal pools of Enderts Beach, just south of town, and those of two southern Oregon beaches, Lone Ranch Beach and Secret Beach, are worth exploring. Be sure to consult the tide charts for best times to visit (low tide being the best).
Ocean fishing, crabbing, and clamming:
In addition to hiking, swimming and driving the coast, there are many ways to fish the ocean and shoreline. On seriously low tides clammers come out to dig for razor clams. These delicacies move around in the wet sand below the surface, dropping subtle hints as to their whereabouts which then leads clammers to frantically dig and grab hold of the fast moving and wiley clam. One way to sleuth them out is to stomp around on the wet sand and look for the small bubbles they make when they quickly retract their the telltale sign. Another option is to walk along the line of any receding wave and look for bubbles in the foam. That’s a likely spot.
You’ll need some schooling on how to clean a razor clam but when you master the art, diced razor clams make an excellent ingredient in a calm chowder while others like to bread and pan fry the clam whole. Either way their reputation as good eating seafood is well-deserved.
When the crabbing is on, usually from late-December/early-January through June, you can drop a baited crab pot from the rocky coast (jettys are best), or from a boat and try your luck. The commercial crabbers do a good job of depleting the crab population once the commercial season kicks off, but that still leaves plenty of dungeness and rock crab to be had in the inner harbor and jettys.
Sportfishing for salmon, tuna and cod is also a nearly year-round activity out of Crescent City harbor. Depending on the season, something is swimming in the ocean. The Tally-ho charter out of Crescent City takes half a dozen anglers out most days, and Brookings harbor has a few small and local charter operators as well. Some of the local guides who work the Smith in the winter take clients out into the ocean in that off season. A web search will net some names and numbers. The easiest fish to catch would be bottom fish such as rock fish and ling cod. Salmon also run off the coast as well as tuna (though tuna tends to be many miles off the coast so that is a rarer species to fish for).
Surf perch fishing is what I would call fishing for dummies (not the fish…I mean the fisherman and woman). It’s the easiest fish to catch, when they are running, and about the easiest fish to rig up for. The best fishing for this three- to fiver-pound fish is from the beach nearly under the Crescent Beach overlook. Access to this part of the beach is from an unmarked but obvious path from Enderts Beach Road to the water. Then you’ll need to walk of about a mile south, to a portion of the beach that slopes sharply into the water and allows the fish to swim close the break. If you can read the water and beach and pick your spot wisely, prepare for some fun action reeling in one two and sometimes three perch at a time. Don’t forget that’s possible to be shut out of bringing home fish as well.
In all cases, be sure to have a valid fishing license and know the regulations on limits and size of fish, clam, and crab that can be kept.
Remember, don’t be like me. Get out an see what the coastline offers!