Considered one of the Central Coast’s best beaches, Moonstone Beach is an ethereal outpost where waves meet a shoreline perfect for beachcombing. The settlers of Cambria gave this beach its name for its smooth stones that are soft underfoot, and which wow visitors with their intricate patterns. With Shamel Park adjacent, plus access to the Moonstone Beach Boardwalk, this popular and picturesque spot belongs on any visitor’s must-see list. Bring the whole family, a picnic, a blanket, and your sense of adventure.
Explore Moonstone Beach
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Moonstone Beach Boardwalk
The Moonstone Beach Boardwalk affords visitors sweeping views of the beach from its bluffs along the Pacific shoreline. This easy, scenic hike covers about 2 miles, out and back, and is great for dogs on leash. And because it’s a boardwalk, it’s accessible for wheelchairs, ADA compliant, and stroller friendly. Find benches available along the way for sitting and relaxing. Be aware, though, that the Moonstone Beach Boardwalk is a popular attraction and can be quite busy in the high season. If you walk along the boardwalk headed north, you can escape the crowds by taking paths down to the rocky seashore and tidepools. These are some of the best tidepools on the Central Coast, and will keep you and your family occupied for hours. Look for crabs, sea anemones, urchin, sea slugs, and more. The boardwalk also passes by restaurants, lodging properties, and viewing decks positioned to take in the scenic ocean views.
The Moonstone Beach
Moonstone Beach has long been a favorite hunting ground for beautiful, smooth stones, worn down by the tumbling of the sea and the passage of time. Although it was named for moonstones, this beach doesn’t boast actual moonstones, which are composed of the feldspar mineral. Instead, the mineral chalcedony comprises these “moonstones,” which are just as enchanting as the real thing. Even better, they can be seen up and down the beach, along with smooth, tumbled jade, agate, and jasper. Look for sea glass and interesting driftwood, as well. And don’t forget about the wildlife! Head to the Seal View Beach Deck and you’re almost guaranteed to see seals lounging on the beach. Whales are a common sight here, too. At Shamel Park, on the eastern edge of Moonstone Beach, find an interpretive sign from the Whale Trail. This national organization identifies the best places to see whales, and the lookout from Moonstone Beach is one such spot. Gray whales are commonly seen from here, as well as white-sided dolphins, elephant seals, seabirds, and sea otters. Enjoy viewing all the sea life from the beach or from the Moonstone Beach Boardwalk nearby.
Surfing Moonstone Beach
Locals surf Moonstone Beach for its uncrowded waves and picture-perfect scenery. Just park off Moonstone Beach Drive by Santa Rosa Creek, and make your way to shore. The surfable waves are past shoreline, so come at low tide to be able to reach them without a shore break. Enjoy long rides on the right-hand reef wave, whichever way the swell comes in. Just be careful of the rocks here, which can be quite dangerous; if you’re a beginner, practice somewhere else before taking on these intermediate conditions. But if you’ve got a good beginning under your belt, you’ll love to surf these reliable swells and low-stress waves.
Fishing Moonstone Beach
Expect to find excellent rock fishing and surf fishing at Moonstone Beach. Anglers regularly pick up rockfish, lingcod, and surfperch in this area; some have even caught giant cabezons that lurk under the rocky reefs below. But the most common catch on Moonstone Beach is barred surfperch, coming in at about two pounds each. To give it a shot, visit at low tide. Park at Santa Rosa Creek to catch fish coming into the river, or Shamel Park to fish the southern side of Moonstone Beach.
Dining at Moonstone Beach
You’ll find a wealth of dining options on and around Moonstone Beach. For captivating views and just-caught seafood, indulge in a visit to the Sea Chest Oyster Bar, just overlooking Moonstone Beach. Open for dinner only, this spot is a favorite with locals and visitors alike, boasting beautiful views, succulent seafood, and a full bar. Dines especially love the warm atmosphere and cozy clapboard cottage the restaurant occupies. Further down Moonstone Beach Drive, stop in to Moonstone Beach Bar & Grill for fresh favorites in a casual coastal setting. Open for brunch, lunch and dinner, the restaurant serves seafood like fish and chips, fish tacos, and the popular Moonstone Shrimp Salad. Satisfying sandwiches, burgers, steaks and pasta round out the rest of the menu, plus craft beer, local wines, and signature cocktails. Also on Moonstone Beach Drive is The Cow Tipper at Oceanpoint Ranch, a seaside hotel with charm to spare. The Cow Tipper serves breakfast and dinner, with something for everybody. To go decadent, try the bananas foster French toast for breakfast or the Filet Oscar with béarnaise sauce for dinner.
Moonstone Beach Park
At the southernmost end of Moonstone Beach, find Moonstone Beach Park, an area perfect for kids of all ages. This area is the outlet for Santa Rosa Creek, a small freshwater creek that offers safe wading play for kids and their parents. Set up a blanket and chairs near the creek and enjoy dipping your toes into the water and hunting for semi-precious moonstones. The nearby Santa Rosa Creek parking lot also provides a good access point for the Moonstone Beach Boardwalk. Find the parking lot entrance at the south end of Moonstone Beach Drive.
Just steps from the sand, Shamel Park comprises six acres just off the southernmost end of Moonstone Beach. This is a local favorite, with an epic playground, heated public swimming pool (seasonal), a playing field, and two group day-use areas. Kids love the rambling play structure, and lovebirds appreciate the park’s gazebo, perfect for beachside weddings. Come for a picnic, a family reunion, or just an easy-breezy day at the beach. Find Shamel Park off Windsor Boulevard, to the west of Highway 1 near Cambria’s East Village.
Stewardship Travel for Good
For travelers who want more from their Moonstone Beach visit, try a Stewardship Travel experience like the Moonstone Beach clean-up kit and tote bag. Do good and feel good, wherever you roam. To learn more about how you can get more out of your next visit, see our Stewardship Travel for Good list of experiences.
Are dogs allowed?
Yes, leashed dogs are allowed at Moonstone Beach.
Are there real moonstones at the beach?
Real moonstones come from the mineral feldspar, which isn’t present at Moonstone Beach. Chalcedony is a similar mineral, which makes the imitation “moonstones” at Moonstone Beach.
Where is the best place to park?
The best places to park for Moonstone Beach are in the lot beside Shamel Park, along Moonstone Beach Drive, or at Santa Rosa Creek.
Are there bathrooms?
Yes, Shamel Park has bathrooms, on the southern end of Moonstone Beach.
Can you swim at Moonstone Beach?
Swimming is allowed at Moonstone Beach. Be advised that the waves can be powerful here.
Is there sand on the beach?
Yes, the sand here is composed of tiny smooth stones, rather than the chalkier sand of other beaches on Highway 1.
How long is the boardwalk?
The Moonstone Beach Boardwalk is about 1 mile long, or 2 miles out and back.