Natural Bridges Beach, California
Natural Bridges beach was named after the spectacular rock formations jutting from the cliffs. Unfortunately, due to erosion, only one bridge remains. The area is also famous for the two-winged visitors which come each year in huge numbers between late October and early February Ė the spectacular Monarch butterfly migration.
The visitor center, next to the top parking lot, lies adjacent to the Monarch Butterfly preserve. Here starts the butterfly trail, a wooden pathway which meanders gently through the milkweed (the only plant the butterflies eat) surrounded by eucalyptus groves. Look up into the trees to spot countless butterflies flitting amongst the leaves. Lepidopterologists please note Ė NO collecting allowed!
From the top parking lot itís quite a hike down to the main beach, so if youíre not interested in the butterfly preserve, parking at the lower lot is a good alternative. (For the money conscious thereís also nearby street parking above the cliffs).
The beach itself is wide and sandy, with enough room for lots of people, but it does get very crowded on sunny weekends. Though if youíre the type that judges a beach by its swimming, the chilly water, cold even on hot summer days, means youíll be limited to a quick dip. Though the teens do manage to keep on bogey boarding for hours.
At low tide itís possible to walk through the natural rock bridge, but donít expect to keep your feet dry.
If boredom strikes, head over to the right to check out the extensive tide pools (again a low tide activity). Close inspection reveals a myriad of sea life including crabs, sea stars and brightly colored anemones.
The energetic will also enjoy bicycling or walking along the West Cliff bicycle/pedestrian path to the Lighthouse Field beach and lighthouse, about a mile to the east.
Past the western side of the beach youíll find the Long Marine Lab, well worth a visit. Here you can study the 90foot skeleton of a whale, wander the aquarium, and get close up to marine life at their touch tanks.
A good range of facilities is available off the main parking lot. A picnic area well provided with BBQ pits, tables, benches, water and restrooms. Bring extra clothing because cool sea breezes blow even during the summer.