Find your slice of paradise on these public lands by the sea.

By Suzanna Logan
April 21, 2008
Courtesy of

In a state famous for beautiful landscapes, these spots stillimpress.

Angel Island State Park
Known as the "Ellis Island of the West," this San FranciscoBay park served as an immigration station from 1910 to 1940. Butthat's only part of its story. The island, an ancient hunting sitefor American Indians, also housed a missile base during the ColdWar. Even if you're not a history buff, come for the spectacularviews of the San Francisco skyline and Mount Tamalpais. And don'tmiss the Cove Cafe's barbecued oysters. Visit

Channel Islands National Park
To see a gorgeous, unspoiled part of California, take a daytrip to this park, which encompasses five islands off the SouthernCalifornia coast. Despite the islands' proximity to the mainland,their wild coastlines, peaceful isolation, and abundant wildlifemake them feel far removed. Some visitors come to hike, camp, orkayak. Regularly scheduled boats make the trip to all five islandsfrom Ventura and Santa Barbara. Visit

Crystal Cove State Park
Years ago, Los Angeles area families retreated to thisenclave between Newport and Laguna beaches. Now you can, too. Rowsof restored seaside cottages available for overnight rental provideperfect launching points for a day of outdoor activities, such ashorseback riding, mountain biking, hiking in woodlands, or divingin the underwater park. (For more on the cottages, see theJuly/August 2007 issue of Coastal Living, page 134.) Visit

Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park
Plunging 80 feet over a granite precipice, McWay Falls drawsvisitors eager to see the only major California waterfall thatempties directly into the sea. Except for the well-worn OverlookTrail leading to the falls, the park retains the aura of anundiscovered treasure. This must-see on the Big Sur coastline alsoshowcases redwood groves and trails promising postcard views of thePacific. Visit

Mendocino Headlands State Park
A medley of natural wonders, from surf-splashed headlands andsea arches to ocean blowholes and hidden grottos, make this parkone of the most photographed areas along Northern California'scoast. Poke around in the tide pools, explore wildflower-dottedbluffs, and watch gray whales float by during the winter migration.Visit

Point Lobos State Reserve
It's no wonder this seaside gem has been called the crownjewel of the state park system. Visitors come for stunning vistas,secluded coves, and a lush yet rugged coastline sprinkled withhiking trails. But to see the best this park paradise near Carmelhas to offer, visitors must venture under the sea into one of theworld's richest underwater habitats. A mix of marine life, from seastars to seals, and 70-foot-high kelp forests make it a diver'sdelight. Visit