Swimming, Play and More at McNears Beach Park in San Rafael

May 18, 2014

McNear's BeachMcNears Beach Park is one of those special places that I hold close to my heart. I grew up literally around the corner from it, and spent a lot of time there as a child. It's still one of my favorite places to spend the day in Marin, especially now that I have kids of my own. McNear's Beach is a 55-acre county park located on the shores of San Pablo Bay. It's the a perfect place to go on a warm day to wade in the bay, swim in the pool, picnic, fish, take in spectacular views of the San Francisco Bay Area, and more.

McNears Beach has been popular with Bay Area residents since the 19th century, when the McNear family owned most of the property in what eventually would become San Rafael's Peacock Gap neighborhood. The McNears operated a beach resort at the present location of the park, as well as a nearby quarry and brickyard.

McNears Beach offers a variety of things to do for visitors of all ages. The beach itself is a somewhat rocky affair, with lots of broken shells and interesting stones to pick over. You can wade and splash in the shallow and gentle San Pablo Bay waters, but the biggest attraction is the swimming pool, which gets pretty busy on a hot day. In addition to the popular main pool, there's a toddler pool, too. The McNear's Beach pool opens to the public this Memorial Day weekend (May 24–26), and stays open through Labor Day.

McNear's BeachMcNear's Beach

The park boasts acres of lush rolling lawn here with plenty of shade, perfect for spreading out picnic blankets and relaxing or playing games. You'll also find several picnic areas, with tables and charcoal grills. Near the swimming pool is a snack bar serving up hot dogs, ice cream, chips, and candy, and adjacent to it is a small video arcade, in case your kids get tired of all that fresh air and exercise. There's also a sandy area up across from the pool, which is a far better spot to break out the sand toys, buckets, and shovels than the gravelly beach.

NcNears Beach is extremely clean and well kept up. It also has several tennis courts, as well as a volleyball net at one of the picnic areas. Lockers, showers, and restrooms are all available near the pool. McNear's Beach is also home to a popular fishing pier, where anglers bring in fish like halibut, sturgeon, striped bass, and bat rays. There's also a convenient ramp on the beach where you can launch your kayak or canoe.

McNear's BeachMcNear's Beach

We always have a blast here, since there are so many things to do. It's nice to see that some things remain as good as you remember them when you were a child. In the case of McNears Beach, it's even better, due to all the improvements to the park made over the years.

If you go

McNears Beach County Park is located at 201 Cantera Drive, off of Point San Pedro Road, just before China Camp State Park. To get there, take Highway 101 to the central San Rafael exit, then head east on 2nd Street, which merges with 3rd Street and becomes Point San Pedro Road. Follow Point San Pedro Road through the Peacock Gap neighborhood, past the old McNear brickyard, and turn right onto Cantera Drive.

There's a $10 per vehicle parking fee at McNear's Beach ($8 Monday–Thursday), and if you want to use the swimming pool you'll pay another $5 per person. If you walk, bike, or boat into the park, there's a $2 per person entry fee. As we mentioned above, McNear's Beach can get really popular when temperatures rise, so be prepared to get there early on a hot day—the parking lots can fill up quickly.

The park is open year-round from sunrise to sunset (generally 7 am to 8 pm during the summer). The McNear's Beach swimming pool is open starting this Saturday, May 24, Wednesdays–Fridays from 11 am–5 pm and weekends from 11 am–6 pm; it's closed Mondays and Tuesdays. Dogs, with the exception of service animals, are prohibited. Lifeguards are on duty at the swimming pool, but not at the beach.

For more information, visit www.marinparks.org.