If you haven't yet explored the island of Alameda, note that it's just a few minutes from Oakland, surrounded by water (obvs), and offers some of that California beach life for which we are all paying the high cost of living.
Even on a cold day, Alameda's beaches provide loads of entertainment to little kids with room to run, textures to explore, and sticks to throw into the water.
Thanks to Jordan Latham, our Alameda ambassador, for providing this guide to some of her favorite sandy spots.
Best beaches in Alameda for kids
As it heads into warm weather, one of the best free activities for East Bay kids is to play by the water at Alameda’s beaches. These three locations are little coastal pockets of kid paradise.
Water Quality: Check the East Bay Regional Parks District status update on water quality before you chose a destination. Children are susceptible to “swimmer's itch” because they play in shallow water.
Pro tip: Bring an extra bottle of water to pour over skin after exiting the water and towel off. Children also tend to get swimmer's itch more than adults because they don't wipe water off with a towel, but rather just let it sit on them while they play.
Crown Memorial State Beach
The water is shallow and surprisingly warm. On a hot day, it's a spectacular place to play. On a cool day, kids will still enjoy collecting sticks to throw in the water and the tactile pleasures of sand.
The parking lot is huge to accommodate the crowds that trek into Alameda for this particular beach, whenever temperatures surpass 80 degrees. As of this writing, the lot is closed and you'll need to park on the street.
Crown Beach is the most popular Alameda spot for beachgoers as it is well known and user-friendly. There are lots of well-kept bathrooms, and outdoor shower stations to rinse off.
In a Post-Covid World
If you’re having a beach birthday party or a family bbq, this beach park offers beautiful picnic sites to rent for groups ranging as small as 25 and as big as 250 people. Almost all of these picnic sites have a killer view of the San Francisco skyline and bbq pits for grilling! Crown Beach is regularly a pretty festive spot, hosting 5Ks and an annual sandcastle competition in June.
Crab Cove Beach
Just around the bend from Crown Beach is Crab Cove Beach. This is a special spot for the littles. The beach is full of smooth pebbles and little gems like sea glass and heart-shaped stones. There are shells and seaweed and sticks, and the city and volunteer crews regularly comb through and pull out any trash, so it’s very clean.
My kids always look forward to checking out what’s inside the communal sand toy box. It’s a take-a-toy, leave-a-toy chest that offers buckets and shovels for anyone to play with, so you don’t have to lug toys of your own!
In A Post-Covid World
Crab Cove's visitor center, currently closed, is home to an 800-gallon aquarium, microscopic sea creature viewing, and water maps of the Bay. They regularly hold beach exploration walks designed for toddlers, plus fun annual events like Easter Egg hunts and Earth Day educational events for kids. There is a parking lot with bathrooms, and unless there’s a big event, it’s almost always easy to find a spot.
If you drive to the end of Park St, between South Shore Shopping Center and South Shore AMF bowling, you will see Shoreline Beach. This is the stretch of beach beginning at the Elsie Roemer Bird Sanctuary and running all the way down to where Crown Beach begins, just under two miles.
There are no picnic tables or areas for party rentals at Shoreline Beach. When heat becomes anything but moderate, this beach will become crowded too, with people who bring beach towels and shade umbrellas to be near the water. But most months out of the year, it’s pretty empty. It’s perfect for kids running, screaming loud, just being their most authentic wild little selves.
There is no parking lot for Shoreline Beach, but the mall always has open spots if street parking on Shoreline Drive is full. The bathrooms are decent and the water fountains have spigots at the base to wash off sandy feet. Note there are no changing tables and absolutely no shade, so plan for creating your own with changing pads and umbrellas.
This one is my personal fave because it gives me that highly coveted rare necessity of wide-open blissfully empty space!