I’ve never been a fan of big government, but sometimes they surprise me and get it right. Such is the case of the California Coastal Commission. The Commission was established by voter initiative in 1972, made permanent by the Legislature four years later, and is responsible for regulating land and water uses along our coast. Part of their mission is to establish and maintain public access to the coast.
All of our State’s beaches are public and no one but the State or Federal Government may limit the right to walk on the beach. However, landowners may prohibit people from crossing their land to gain access to the beach. The Commission is in a unique position to barter public access rights for permits to build or upgrade housing along the coast.
This program began in 1987 and numerous beaches have been opened up to divers. What follows are the locations and short descriptions of some of my favorite public easements. Each has good if not ample parking, and all offer access to superb diving. Since all of these are in Mendocino County, all offer good abalone diving. You can forget about long walks and climbing down cliffs; all of these sites are close to the water, and have well-maintained stairs to the beach. None of these sites have public facilities. Parking areas are adjacent the mile marker (MM) posts along Highway 1.
Hare Creek has a pretty sandy beach that is protected from wind. The center of the cove is mostly sand with better diving to be found on the north and south points of the cove. Turn west onto Old Coast Highway (County Road 436B) at MM 59.60 on the south side of the Hare Creek Bridge. Turn right onto Cypress Road and park on the north side of the road near the end of the long, aged, redwood fence. There is public access between two, fenced properties. A staircase drops to the sandy beach.
Surrounding Buckhorn Cove are a group of large rocks or small islands. The rocks create a labyrinth of protected coves, secluded beaches, and hidden passageways. Large caves and arches are common throughout the area. Park along the west side of Hwy. 1 at MM 47.00. Walk along the road south for 100 feet and follow the southerly trail to the beach. The beach is protected from big waves by offshore rocks and offers a very calm entry.
North of Albion is Heritage House. Park near the end of the redwood wooden fence at MM 45.24, and walk south to find the trail head. The trail and staircase leads to a cobblestone beach. You may dive the rocks in the center of the cove or north and south of the cove. For reservations at the upscale Heritage House, call 707-937-5885.
Collins Landing is one of the hidden gems of Mendocino dive sites. At MM 3.83 turn west into the Serenisea Lodge. Park in one of the few public parking spaces at the west end of the traffic circle. Follow the public access path that begins to the right of the office, and follow a steep stairway to the gravel beach. Call Serenisea Lodge at 800-331-3836, or http://www.serenisea.com.
Please remember that you are walking across someone else’s land on these trails. Please respect the privacy of the land owners. There is no need to make excessive noise, trespass, or otherwise invade their privacy. Please pack your trash out with you.