As an ex-Londoner, my mental image of “urban beach” is a small patch of scraggly cigarette-butt-speckled sand surrounded by promotional drink stands and forbidding bouncers. It’s not appealing. The experience at Baker Beach could not be more different.
There are so many reasons to love Baker Beach. Just a short drive from the city, along a quasi-mountain road that ducks and dives through the Presidio, lies this stunner of an urban beach. Despite your proximity to downtown San Francisco, the high cliffs and the Presidio behind you create the illusion that you’re in a secluded cove halfway down the Big Sur. But then, as you cast your eyes about you, you suddenly appreciate the outstanding landmark in the distance - looming high above you is the Golden Gate Bridge. This has to be one of the best views of the city.
It’s a great place for people-watching: hipsters doing photo shoots, families playing in the sand, old couples taking in the ions from the crashing waves, and (if you're at the northern end of the beach) nudists letting it all hang out.
I have heard reports that it can get crowded, but every time I have visited there has been plenty of space and the atmosphere has been tranquil. So I highly recommend bringing your friends, a picnic basket, some cold beer, a rug, and a dog, and settling down for a day of watching the waves roll in.