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Ocean Beach, San Francisco

Ocean Beach, Cliff House, Seal Rock

Ocean Beach runs along the west coast of San Francisco, on the Pacific Ocean. The beach is adjacent to Golden Gate Park, the Richmond District, and the Sunset District. The Great Highway, which borders the beach, the Cliff House, Seal Rock, and a couple of emergency vehicles (more about those later) are all shown in the photo above, as are both clouds and fog passing through the Golden Gate. The site of the former Sutro Baths is behind (north of) the Cliff House in this photo. The beach is part of the Golden Gate National Recreational Area, which is operated by the National Park Service.

Visitors can get a good view of Ocean Beach looking southward from Sutro Highlands, which is to the right (east) of the Cliff House in the photo above. Visitors can also view Ocean Beach from the Marin Headlands, south across the Golden Gate, from the Point Bonita Lighthouse.

Just to fool tourists, :-) the weather at Ocean Beach is characteristically foggy and cool in the summer, with average temperatures of 50-55 deg F (9-12 deg C), which is pretty much the temperature of the Pacific Ocean year round in this part of California. Better beach weather occurs in early spring, and especially in autumn (October is often a GREAT beach month!) when the fog dissipates. Always remember Mark Twain‘s comment that the coldest winter of his life was a summer in San Francisco….

Now, back to those emergency vehicles…. Ocean Beach is known for its strong currents and powerful waves. Along with the very cold water, rip currents are hazardous to swimmers and even waders, who can get swept out to sea and die from hypothermia and drowning. Numerous deaths have occurred at Ocean Beach. In 1998, a record of seven people lost their lives at Ocean Beach. There are also sharks. Nevertheless, Ocean Beach attracts surfers and kiteboarders.

Historically, the fog, cold weather, and high winds kept the area around Ocean Beach from early development. The area was known as the “Outside Lands.” (There was festival in Golden Gate Park this weekend called “San Francisco’s Outside Lands Music and Arts Festival.” In the late 19th century, a steam railroad brought people to a “Gravity Railroad” rollercoaster and the Ocean Beach Pavilion for music and dancing. Trolley lines to Ocean Beach were in place by 1890. The Cliff House (there have been several) opened in 1863, and the Sutro Baths, in 1896. In 1906, the area briefly served as a refugee camp for people displaced by the 1906 Eearthquake. An amusement park, Playland at the Beach, was built at the current site of Cabrillio and Balboa streets. The Sutro Baths were destroyed in the 1960s, and Playland was torn down in 1972. A three-masted clipper ship, the King Philip, became stranded at Ocean Beach on January 25, 1878, and parts of the ship emerge from the sands just offshore, from time to time.

Historic images of Ocean Beach can be found here.

-Bill at Cheshire Cat Photo™

You can view higher-resolution photos (*generally* 7-30 megabytes, compressed) at the Cheshire Cat Photo™ Pro Gallery on Shutterfly™, where you can also order prints and gifts decorated with the photos of your choice from the gallery. Apparel and other gifts decorated with some of our most popular photos can be ordered from the Cheshire Cat Photo™ Store on CafePress®. Both Shutterfly™ and CafePress® ship to most international locations worldwide! If you don’t see what you want or would like to receive an email when new photos are up on the site, send us an email at




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