Sand Dollar Beach

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Rating: C

Some 60 miles south of Carmel and 30 miles north of San Simeon, Sand Dollar is off an isolated stretch of Highway 1 just 5-10 minutes south of Lucia. It draws a few nude sunbathers to its scenic shore on warm days when the wind is down. If you're driving by, you might want to check it out because Sand Dollar is regarded as the longest stretch of sandy beach on the Big Sur coast. Great surfing, exploring, and fishing possibilities are here within walking distance of Plaskett Creek Campground, on the other side of the highway. The beach is fairly straight, although it curves a little on the south end. A stop here, perhaps to use one of the eight picnic tables or five barbecues, can provide a nice respite if you're on the road.

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 a few 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 '70s 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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