Located just 3 miles northwest of the Golden Gate Bridge, Rodeo Beach is a beautiful, semi-sheltered cove in the Marin Headlands and Golden Gate National Recreation Area nestled between Point Bonita to the south and Tennessee Point to the north. A popular beachcombing and surf spot, Rodeo Beach is one of only a handful of beaches dotting the coastline between the Golden Gate and Stinson Beach, and it is definitely the most accessible of the bunch. Sharing this spectacular setting is the former military site of Fort Cronkhite, whose yellow structures once served as a mobilization post ready to respond to the threat of a World War II attack on home soil. The former barracks, supply facilities, and mess hall facilities are now used as National Park Service facilities and house a Marine Mammal Center and the Headlands Center for the Arts.
The beach itself is bordered by bluffs offering nice viewpoints and a connection to the Coastal Trail. Behind the beach is the nearly half-mile Rodeo Lagoon that drains Rodeo Valley. Keep an eye out for egrets and great blue herons feeding in this freshwater habitat. For most of the year the beach acts as a barrier between the lagoon and the surf, but on occasion heavy rains cause a channel to break through and drain into the ocean. The beach geology is unique in that the sand comprising Rodeo Beach consists of coarse red and green pebbles from underwater chert and basalt; no other beaches in California have this composition.
Rodeo Beach is best surfed during in the summer and fall or between larger swells on all tides. Big winter swells close out here. The quality is generally mediocre, but there can be some fun rights off the north wall and lefts off the sandbars along the middle of the beach. The area is exposed to onshore wind and heavy backwash is a regularity. Keep expectations low and you'll have some fun here.
Amenities at Rodeo Beach include a picnic area near the lagoon, restrooms, and a shower. Keep an eye on your speed limit entering and leaving as the area is regularly patrolled.