Limantour Beach

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Rating: B

Recommended!

Lovely Limantour is one of America's most beautiful beaches. Few visitors realize the long, narrow spit of sand, between Drakes Bay and an estuary, is also a nude beach. The site is so big -- about 2.5 miles in length -- you can wander for hours, checking out ducks and other waterfowl, shorebirds such as snowy plovers (if you are lucky enough to see these endangered birds on the north end of the beach), gray whales (including mothers and their calves during spring), and playful harbor seals (offshore and at the north edge of the sand). Dogs are allowed on six-foot leashes on the south end of the beach.

"Nobody hassles you," says naturist Michael Velkoff, who relishes his respites at Point Reyes and had just visited Limantour a few weeks ago, in June, on the day before we talked. "I wanted to be comfortable and I knew it was going to be hot, so I went there. You can walk for miles and no one will mess with you. It's a really mellow place. I just love the open space."

Velkoff suggests walking from the parking lot (which, on hot days, can be full by 10:30 a.m.) for 10 minutes or several hundred feet before removing your clothes. "Where we sit, the closest person is usually 100-to-150 yards away," he says. Another popular spot for disrobing is the sand dunes on the north end, which provide protection from the wind. Nudity is allowed, as long as it's away from the main public areas, such as next to the parking lots of Point Reyes' beaches. "You shouldn't rip your clothes off right after you've left your car and then walk through a picnic area on the way to the beach," district ranger Marc Yeston has told us. "If you think a family nearby might be offended, maybe you should choose a more discreet area." Rangers will respond to complaints.

 

Property of Point Reyes National Seashore. Would a ranger cite a naked person lying on his or her back out of sight of others? "Probably not," Yeston says. "It seems about as innocuous as it can get. If somebody is away from other people, I can't imagine it would arouse a problem with any of the rangers."

How to find it:

From San Francisco, take Highway 101 north to the Sir Francis Drake Boulevard exit, then follow Sir Francis through San Anselmo and Lagunitas to Olema. At the intersection with Highway 1, turn right onto 1. Just north of Olema, go left on Bear Valley Road. A mile after the turnoff for the Bear Valley Visitor Center, turn left (at the Limantour Beach sign) on Limantour Road and follow it 11 miles to the parking lot at the end. Walk north a half-mile until you see some dunes about 50 yards east of the shore. Nudists usually prefer the valleys between the dunes for sunbathing. "On a Sunday we had 200 yards to ourselves," Velkoff says.

The beach:

Long, sprawling Limantour features soft sand, sand dunes, and plenty of wildlife. In late spring whales can often be seen. To see hundreds of seals, walk north of the "nude dunes" mentioned above until you come to the point known as Limantour Spit. Swimming is fairly safe.

The Crowd:

Even with several hundred visitors on the sand on a hot weekend day, Limantour is so large that it usually looks deserted.

 

Problems:

Increased ranger warnings; complaints about sex; fog, cold water, and wind. If you don't like dogs, stay away from the area south of the parking lot. (Dogs are not allowed on the north end, near the seal colony, and only on six-foot leashes on the south end.)

 

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