Sand Dollar Beach

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Rating: C

Located off a little-visited portion of Highway 1, San Dollar Beach is about 5-10 minutes south of Lucia, or roughly 60 miles south of Carmel and 30 miles north of San Simeon and its well-known tourist attraction, Hearst Castle.Although the shore draws a few nude sunbathers on warm days when the wind is down and families aren't around, the main reason most visitors stop by is to experience its natural beauty.Great surfing, exploring and fishing are possible at what's regarded as the longest sandy beach on the Big Sur coast.It's fairly straight, but curves a little on the south end.Want to extend your visit?Plaskett Creek Campground is within walking distance of the beach.

Legal status:

Sand Dollar Picnic Area And Beach is part of Los Padres National Forest, under the jurisdiction of Los Padres' Monterey Ranger District.

How to find it:

Go south on Highway 1 about 6-10 miles past the town of Lucia. Sand Dollar is between Pacific Valley and Gorda. Coming from the north, the beach is past Limekiln Beach, Redwoods Campground, Kirk Creek Campground, and the Pacific Valley Ranger Station (in that order) and just north of Plaskett Creek Campground. If you pass Plaskett, turn around and try again. Kirk Creek Campground is a good turnaround point for those coming from the south. Park in the Sand Dollar State Picnic Area And Beach lot, then walk north along the main beach until, if they happen to be present, you'll see several nude sunbathers.

The beach:

Though it's a little warmer than Pfeiffer, the long beach, which is great for walking, is only partially sheltered from the wind by the bluffs above the sand.

The crowd:

Depending on when you visit, you may encounter clothed families. A few naturists still visit Sand Dollar each year, but they are far and few between, especially when compared with the crowds that visited in the 1970s and '80s.

Problems:

Fog; icy water; some wind (bring windbreaks); $5 day use fee; influx of clothed families; better directions needed.

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