The California Coastal Commission, which knows where all the public access points to beaches are, has published a 318-page guide to beaches between Monterey and Ventura. The guide describes more than 310 beaches, parks, campgrounds, nature preserves, natural history museums and outdoor recreation sites on or near the coast.
Packed into those 300 pages are 40 color topographic maps, including two foldout California maps behind the book cover and four regional maps. The topo maps show shoreline access and trails. Charts list facilities, features and services, such as food and beverages, drinking water and toilet facilities for campers.
It is an all-purpose coastal guide that includes pictures of birds, plants and animals, such the black legless lizard that can be found in the Monterey dunes, along with SmithÕs blue butterfly in the same location. It tells you where to find elephant seals. It helps identify tidal pool inhabitants and shore birds.
Monterey Bay has one of the longest trails in the state, from Pacific Grove to Aptos in Santa Cruz County. The book describes all the beaches but doesnÕt give mileage or walking or biking times. In Monterey visitors can rent kayaks, sailboats, wetsuits, bicycles or charter fishing or whale watching boats.
John Steinbeck isnÕt the only famous author from Monterey County. Robert Louis Stevenson also lived in Monterey, where he came in 1879 to be near a married woman he had an affair with in France. Stevenson used scenes from his voyage from Scotland to Monterey and actual Monterey scenery and flora and fauna. when he wrote Treasure Island. He wrote the book in Scotland in 1881 and it was published in 1883. The woman, Fanny Vandergrift Osbourne, divorced and then they married in 1880.
In San Luis Obispo County the guide takes note of the recent deal with the Hearst Ranch, granting the public 1,000 acres of land along Highway 1, including 13 beaches. Check out Moonstone Beach where colorful pebbles from two creeks have been polished by the surf and tossed up on the beach. For the future a portion of the California Coastal Trail will eventually go through the Hearst Ranch.
Other unique features of San Luis Obispo County, just south of Morro Bay, include the El Morro Elfin Forest and its 200-year-old 12-foot-high coast live oaks.
In Santa Barbara County the Channel Islands are fascinating. Island Packers in Ventura offers boat trips and will carry your camping gear, a kayak rented from another outfit in town that will deliver to the boat. The book notes that Santa Cruz and Anacapa Islands are safer for kayaking, Òbut can still present danger. ÉWinds at the Channel Islands normally blow from north to south, and kayakers are warned that a southbound trip might entail a tough return against the wind.Ó
In Ventura County the Ventura River Òsupports probably the largest of the remnant runs of steelhead trout in Southern California.Ó The guide ends with Staircase Beach in Ventura County.
The Coastal Commission was created by a ballot initiative approved by the voters in 1972.
The book is a bargain at $24.95 from the University of California Press, ISBN-13: 978-0-520-24949-3.