San Gregorio


Rating: A

Still the USA's longest continually used nude beach, San Gregorio even has its own website and live web cam. The privately run operation, which is located next to San Gregorio State Beach, recently began its 46th year of serving the clothing-optional community.

The beach often draws a large gay crowd, along with some nude and suited straight couples, singles, and families.

Nude use of San Gregorio began before 1966. Air Force veteran and San Francisco State College senior Darrell Tarver, 28, formed, with a "Committee For Free Beaches" with some of his friends to leaflet college campuses in San Francisco and Berkeley about the "free beach" in San Gregorio. Word spread rapidly. Soon, there were 500 nudists swarming onto the shore nearly every Sunday. "This is the best incentive I have to stay slim," a UC Berkeley coed told a Time magazine reporter.

But problems soon cropped up. Gawkers began taking up positions, while small planes buzzed the beach. A father of a 14 year old girl tried to press charges after claiming that his daughter had been pressured into disrobing in public at the beach. The county district attorney's office dropped the case after deciding that nothing lewd or obscene had taken place. But instead of dissuading visitors from disrobing, the news sent even more nudists onto the sand. Attempts to keep the hordes of naked people away by closing the access roads proved futile because they walked around the south end of the beach at low tide or even formed human chains down some dangerous cliff trails.

Today, the human chains are long gone and have been replaced by a privately managed attraction. "It's a really romantic spot," says a single woman. But make no mistake, the college coeds have mostly left. In fact, San Gregorio has, over the years, become mostly a gay hangout and pickup spot. Want to give it a try? First-timers are sometimes annoyed (as I was, years ago) by the driftwood structures on the sandy slope leading down to the beach, which are used by some visitors as "sex condos." However, fans of the beach savor San Gregorio's stunning scenery. It has "awesome natural beauty," says regular visitor Bob Wood. Attractions of the 120 acre site include two miles of soft sand and tide pools to explore, as well as a lagoon, lava tube, and, if you look closely enough on the cliffs, the remains of an old railroad line.

Some 49 percent of over 1,000 persons surveyed at advised "don't go there," 38% called it excellent, and 10% rated it "good, but with a few flaws."

The beach is open weekends 9 a.m. until sunset on weekends and weekdays from 10 a.m.-7 p.m., with the last users admitted at 5 p.m. Weather report hotline: 415-765-7697.

Legal status:

Private property, leased land.

How to find it:

From San Francisco, drive south on Highway 1, past Half Moon Bay, and, between mileposts 18 and 19, look on the right side of the road for telephone call box number SM 001 0195, at the intersection of Highway 1 and Stage Road, and near an iron gate with trees on either side. From there, expect a drive of 1.1 miles to the entrance. At the Junction 84 highway sign, the beach's driveway is just .1 mile away. Turn into a gravel driveway, passing through the iron gate mentioned above, which says 119429 on the gatepost. Drive past a grassy field to the parking lot, where you'll be asked to pay an entrance fee. Take the long path from the lot to the sand; everything north of the trail's end is clothing-optional. The beach is also accessible from the San Gregorio State Beach parking area to the south; from there, hike about a half-mile north. Take the dirt road past the big white gate with the Toll Road sign to the parking lot.

The beach:

You'll find caves, cliffs, driftwood structures (common practice is to hang a t-shirt over a pole to indicate a structure is occupied), and a beach full of clean, rolling sand. Pets are OK (though dogs are not allowed on weekends or holidays); fires, cameras, and overnight camping are banned. Swimming is not recommended. There are chemical toilets in the parking lot.

The crowd:

On the warmest days 50 to 200 visitors may be spread thinly along the sprawling beach, which is so large it never feels crowded. "The wide open spaces give one the feeling of being very alone," a reader named Paul says. "I was surprised, though, that even on warm weekends there were almost no heterosexuals in sight." On the south end of the beach, there are sometimes dozens of straight couples and families, both naked and clothed. Gay men tend to hang out on the north side.


Entrance fee, wind, riptides, cold water, summer fog, sex on the beach or in driftwood "condos," not much of a social atmosphere.

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