New Brighton State Beach was dubbed "China Beach" for the scores of Chinese fishermen that established a camp and marketplace there in the beginning in 1870s. By the end of the century, hostility toward the Chinese had closed the camp and driven many Chinese from the area; the beach, however, retained the moniker. In 1933, the State of California purchased the 95-acre property and converted it into a state beach and campground.
The high cliffs surrounding this beach are rimmed with eucalyptus trees, and the breeze carries the mix of salt air and eucalyptus. From the parking lot, either the stairs or a gravel path leads down to the beach. Restrooms, a drinking fountain, and a foot wash are located along this path.
Once on the beach you'll find plenty of space to explore. Relatively few fire pits dot the shoreline, so claim one early if you want one for the evening. A variety of wildflowers and plants, including the beautiful ice plant, cling to the cliff and holding back the inevitable erosion. A variety of sea birds and marine wildlife can be seen here, so bring your binoculars or zoom lens. The SS Palo Alto, located at the adjacent Seacliff State Beach, can also be seen in the distance.
Note: avoid swimming in the runoff from Borregas Creek.