Black Sands Beach at Shelter Cove: 1 of CA 11 Top Bucket List Beaches

Aerial view of Shelter Cove blue ocean white surf crashing against jagged coastline mountains in backgroundBlack Sands Beach, 1 of the 11 Top Bucket List Beaches of California, is located at the north end of Shelter Cove, in southern Humboldt County. All 11 beaches on this Bucket List are “unique and amazing…Most are off-the-beaten-path so they require some effort to reach them.” Black Sands Beach is “probably the best beach that is ‘easily’ accessible” along California’s Lost Coast.

Shelter Cove also is home to the restored Cape Mendocino Lighthouse at the tip of Point Delgada, and the Shelter Cove General Store, named one of only 10 Charming General Stores In Northern California. From The Redwood Riverwalk Hotel in Fortuna, the 90 minute drive to Shelter Cove includes some steep and curvy places, but you’ll be rewarded with spectacular views, including the Redwood forests dropping to meet the Pacific at the King Range Conservation Area.

Black Sands Beach

black sands beach with rocks on sand and dark cliffs in background at shoreline

Photo by Aaron Robinson Courtesy of Humboldt County Visitors Bureau

You’ll find Black Sands Beach a secluded, quiet spot along a dramatic portion of the Pacific shoreline. A tide chart will help you arrive at low tide for the best times to explore the beach. The ocean is too rough for swimming, but you can walk on the beach in either direction on the dark pebbles and stones (be forewarned and bring appropriate foot ware). Beachcombing at low tide is great along the shoreline to the north, and Little Black Sands Beach is to the south. Explore the many tidal pools, but be sure to watch for waves and rising tides. It’s fun to watch for harbor seals and sea lions any time!

Black Sands Beach also is a trailhead for the part of the Lost Coast Trail from Shelter Cove to Big Flat Beach and on to the Punta Gorda Lighthouse and Mattole River Beach. You can take a short hike since this trail follows a flat sandy beach for most of the way, but portions of the beach are wet and impassable at high tides.Black Sands Beach and Lost Coast Trail allow dogs.

Mendocino Lighthouse at Point Delgada

This historic lighthouse was built in 1868 to guard Cape Mendocino, the westernmost point in California. In 1999, the Cape Mendocino Lighthouse Preservation Society moved the deteriorated lighthouse tower to Mal Coombs Park at Point Delgada in Shelter Cove and restored it. A helicopter was required to transport the lantern from Cape Mendocino, while the rest of the lighthouse was disassembled and trucked to its new home. After being restored and painted, the lighthouse was opened to the public in 2001. The Lighthouse Friends website describes its history at Cape Mendocino.

Shelter Cove General Store

At the Shelter Cove General Store, you can enjoy the nostalgia of “the friendly atmosphere and small town way of life” from years gone by, as well as gather everything you might want for a picnic on the beach or by the lighthouse. The store stocks fresh breads and tortillas, cold cuts, cheeses, local and organic products, all kinds of snacks, plus a selection of wines and beer. They even have everything your canine companion might want. The adjacent gift shop offers items by about 40 different artists and artisans. Their website includes links to helpful information including the weather forecast, local tides, and multiple webcams with video archives.

Return to Fortuna

After exploring the beach, a visit to the lighthouse, and perhaps a picnic lunch, drive back to Fortuna where you will continue to be surrounded by the redwoods’ unique sense of place, and our indoor heated pool will be waiting! If you’re feeling more adventurous, consider a return via the Lost Coast scenic drive through Honeydew and Petrolia to Ferndale and Fortuna. Please give us a call at 707-725-5500 and let us help you plan a visit to Shelter Cove on your redwoods vacation (or explore all the exciting things to do we’ve described on our website). We guarantee your best rate and best experience when you book your stay directly with us!

Images courtesy of Humboldt Lodging Alliance and Humboldt County Visitors Bureau

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