A Man Made Blunder Turns Wonder ~ Glass Beach, Mendocino

Every time we are in Mendocino we find ourselves at Glass Beach. It’s just up the road in Fort Bragg and is the most interesting State Beach Park I’ve been to.

We happened upon it accidentally many years ago and now the kids beg to spend every waking minute of our vacation time there.

Starting in 1949 garbage was dumped into the ocean in and around the Glass Beach area. We’re talking old cars, miscellaneous household items and lots and lots of glass.

This went on until 1967 when it was finally realized that dumping trash into the ocean may not be a good idea. However, by then so much refuse had been dumped, it just became kind of an aquatic graveyard.

Amazingly, mother nature took over. After years and years of grinding and pounding in the waves of the rocky coast, Glass Beach was born.

The above picture is of the ground at glass beach.  These rocks and millions and millions of pieces of glass sit on top of the sand.  No spot is left uncovered.  There is enough sea glass to fill millions of wheelbarrows and there would still be some left over. 

It is washed up on shore and remains there day after day.  You could sit for hours just sifting through the spots right next to you.  It is seriously one of the most renewable pleasures you can participate in.

Every shape is interesting and a lot of the pieces still have words or decorative edges on the worn down glass.


Here you can see spark plugs embedded in the rocks.  These are everywhere and come from the dumped cars left over from so long ago.

I have seen full engine parts wash up here, and all kinds of strange things from the sixties.  There are even ceramic dinner plates stuck in the rocks.  Some with still beautiful and funky patterns.


This is a tidepool area with lots of nooks and crannys where things can get trapped.  Here you can see a small oil slick caused by some type of car part.  This is a pretty rare occurrence.


Of course the hooligans are completely fascinated with the tidepools.  They are on the hunt for starfish, crabs, hermit crabs and sea snails. 

They never have a problem finding a plethora of interesting sea life here.


Here are some of their finds yesterday.  Amazingly we left with only one bloody finger from a crab pinch.  That’s a record.  They do catch and release.


The beach overall is a beautiful example of California’s rugged coastline.



Here’s a closeup of some of yesterday’s loot. 

See the blue pieces?  Those are from Milk of Magnesia bottles back in the day when they were still made of glass.  Blue is the most elusive and sought after color of all the sea glass found there.

Overall, it was a perfect day at the beach.

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71 Comments

  1. HoneyB 1

    Wow, amazing those glass stones! Love the pic of your little hooligan’s searching for their treasures!

  2. Cass 2

    Wow – that is so beautiful. I love sea glass I’ve added that beach to the places I want to go.

  3. What beautiful glass. When I think of what you pay in craft stores for that kind of glass – going to the beach – much more cost effective, esp from NJ:D

  4. Nancy 4

    I am absolutely *drooling* over the beach glass (we call it sea glass). My kids have a collection from the East Coast. It’s getting very hard to find, though-especially the coveted blue pieces! Love your blog!

    Nancy

  5. laura 5

    I have such fond memories of Glass Beach! I grew up spending the summers in Albion where my dad taught Marine Biology at the field station there. Glass Beach was one of our tidepooling hotspots.

  6. Such memories you’ve brought back to me! Our family spent vacations at a beach for years – first when I was a kid and then as my kids were growing up. Our favorite activity was going to the beach and doing just exactly what your boys have been doing – exploring tide pool and picking up the wonderful sea glass. Must admit, we never found it in THAT abundance! And the aqua glass was the prized color there!

  7. jules 7

    What a great place to explore…this glass should be dubbed “Noble Jewels” and accompany your Noble Vintages…I’m just sayin’

  8. Ahhh. The stuff of memories. Beautiful loot! My Baby Bird and I collect seaglass, too. Hope you all are having a great time…

  9. Mike 9

    That’s quite an interesting beach! I’ve never seen one so overrun with former pollution now turned pretty. It sure looks like you guys had a fun day

  10. OMG…I was just saying to my husband this weekend that I would love to find some sea glass just laying around somewhere but I never have! Now I know where to go. The beach looks beautiful and sounds extremely interesting. It sounds like you all had a great time!

  11. We used to go to Ponte Vedra Beach Florida every year. It’s another great resource for beach glass, as we called it. I remember going to a lovely cocktail party in St Augustine with my parents and when you walked into the house, ocean front, you were in an atrium with a black marble pedestal and a large Steuben glass bowl on top, pin light aimed straight down to the middle of the bowl, which was filled with all colors of beach glass. I was hooked from that moment on.
    Sounds like ya’ll are having a blast.

  12. Kiki 12

    Lovely! I wanted a glass blower friend of mine to tumble some of the “stones” left from breakage, but they never did. I think I need to just fly out there and collect it. I wanted to get some to mulch the garden.

  13. Helen 13

    How beautiful! I would love to visit California, I’ve never been to the US. I will makes sure to put the glass beach on the agenda when I do.

  14. HOw gorgeous! I’m glad you all had such a good time. I reckon the beach must have been certified free of toxic material and chemicals to be open to the public?

  15. While such a beautiful sight, I’m sad with the knowledge of all that trash floating somewhere – making it’s way into some poor Nemo’s belly.

  16. Stephanie 16

    Cathy, since you are up near Fort Bragg, do you take the boys on the Skunk Train? When we would visit my grandmother (she lived in Fort Bragg) that was always on the list of thing we did.

  17. Fran 17

    Now I have one more place I want to visit when I am able to make my way west! Your pictures are beautiful. Thanks!

    Fran

  18. How fun! and the glass is beautiful.

    Thanks for sharing your vacation!

  19. Isn’t it amazing how nature can turn garbage into something so beautiful and interesting? Searching for glass on the gravel bar of our river is one of my favorite pastimes. It’s such a relaxing way to spend a few hours. The glass I find is not always so worn and smooth, but there are pieces that have been well tumbled in the river or melted by the sun. Sometimes I find whole antique bottles. Sometimes the glass has been melted into very odd shapes. I have one special piece of glass that looks like–well, a shape your husband should be very familiar with in his profession. It’s proudly displayed on a shelf in my bathroom with interesting rocks and shells and a fossil that seems to be its counterpart.

  20. My kids would go CRAZY at that beach!! They love to find sea glass but usually have to search for hours just to find a few pieces. They are always searching for the elusive blue glass. We will have to check that beach out the next time we’re in Cali!

  21. Beautiful sea glass. My brother in law and his wife would love it! They own a stained glass company and are always on the hunt for interesting glass to use in unique pieces.

  22. Ahhh….thanks for that brief & serene 60 second vacation. Truly amazing how a relatively short blog post can take me away for a much needed break from reality. Looks & sounds fabulous. Hope you’re having a wonderful time!

  23. leslie 23

    First of all I am soooo jealous that you are able to wear jackets in JUNE to the beach!!!If I put a jacket on and went to the beach in Tampa I would die of heat stroke!!Those are beautiful photos..however sad to see the pollution! Thanks for the comment on my sleeping beauty cake..it was kinda bittersweet when the first cut was made!!

  24. Harmony 24

    I remember my first visit to Glass Beach when I was a kid…we spent hours there. I loved finding pieces of plates..

  25. We went to the beach and my kids dug a big hole and sat in it. Why can’t we be more like you?

    Maybe we just need a cooler beach. Love your pictures.

  26. Marcy 26

    Oh how absoultely beautiful!
    Never knew that beach existed. Thanks for sharing.

    I’ve got a fun game going on , on today blog post, so come play and help to see your answers !

  27. Tammy 27

    OMG – sea glass! I have never heard of such a thing. But then again, I’m in Oklahoma. Another place to add to my “Must Visit Someday” list!!

  28. OMG – I LOVE beach glass. I’ve been collecting it for YEARS. For some reason as a child I loved to walk the beach and find the little treasures of beach glass. I still do. In fact when we go up to Cayucos next week, that’s exactly what I do with the kids. My favorite pieces in my collection are the cobalt blue and red pieces.

    There is a section of the beach that has tide pools there too. It’s just one of the things that all the kids enjoy, Aunt Kiki taking them for long walks to collect shells and beach glass.

    I can’t wait to go … we head North on Sunday.

    Oh – I also started collecting old bottles after the beach glass. I now have a whole curio of the beautiful glass bottles – bitter bottles from the 1800′s – blob tops – and plenty of the purple bottles that used to be white.

    I love GLASS!!!

  29. Deborah 29

    That’s actually pretty amazing. You would think that a bunch of garbage would be just a bunch of garbage – but it’s amazing what Mother Nature does with it!

  30. Lennie 30

    Beautiful pictures, just lovely. I too love sea glass, but have never heard of this beach — it’s now a must-visit if (when!) I get back to California.

  31. Teri 31

    That is so amazing… thank you for sharing! I never knew about that but will have to go. My daughter and I LOVE sea glass! That is a real treasure trove! Your boys must have had the time of their lives! Great Great pictures… Great memories, how nice you took the time to share with all of us! Enjoy!

  32. Though it’s a bummer so much garbage was dumped… you got some beautiful glass out of it :)

  33. That is TOO cool…I’ve always wanted to see something like that…thanks for the pics

  34. krysta 34

    I love that beach! It also seems to me that you have great timing, you got away to the ocean before all the smoke from the fires came rolling in.

  35. Alisa 35

    You just brought back so many memories from my childhood! We spent so much time as a family there. We still vacation with my parents in Fort Bragg occasionally, I’m going to have to get the kids up there soon. Your pictures are gorgeous!

  36. Those glass pieces are incredible! Beautiful!! I would love a bowl of that for decoration, or to line the bottom of vases.

    What a great treasure!!!

  37. I haven’t been to glass beach in years! How time flies. Are you having a great time so far?

  38. Claudia 38

    Here on the Cape beach glass jewelery is a hot item with the tourists….it is actually very, very pretty.

  39. Karly 39

    Those glass pieces you got are gorgeous. I’m putting Glass Beach on my list of places to go!

  40. Kari 40

    Oh my goodness! That beach glass is just stunning! I have never even seen such a thing. What an amazing beach, glad you had a good time!

  41. Elle 41

    I’m glad they realized the dumping was a bad thing! But what beautiful glass!

  42. These are very cool – There are some great fun creative projects that you can do with these as they are too beautiful not to display somehow.

    When I was a kid I loved going to the tidepools – I never saw glass though – what a great beach….

    Cheers
    Cathy
    http://www.wheresmydamnanswer.com

  43. Lara 43

    Ohhhh how pretty! That looks awesome.

  44. What a lovely lovely day at the beach!

  45. Is there a sand beach around there, or just the rocky versions? The glass looks neat; the missing sharp edges long ago turned back into silica…? It makes for a great exploration area for your holigans!

  46. Tipper 46

    Man me and the girls could find some treasures there! Great post thanks for telling us about this great place. Loved the pictures too!

  47. Jill 47

    Amazing! My favorite thing in the world is to comb beaches for treasures. I would have a field day there!!!

  48. melissa 48

    *Heart pang* I miss being up north.

    I never knew about that beach. Very cool. Beauty in a whole ‘nother form.

  49. My grandsons would love that beach. They love smooth rocks and glass and little creatures.
    The pictures are great.

  50. Joanna 50

    Sea glass brings me back to a place … ahhhh. I haven’t found any in YEARS!

  51. Flea 51

    Best day at the beach ever, I’d say. I’d trade it in a heartbeat for our days in Florida at the beach. :)

  52. Mrs. L 52

    I love that beach. If we go anywhere near it, I make my husband stop, even if only for a few minutes.

  53. I love these photos.

    I can’t believe your loot!

  54. laura 54

    amazing and beautiful. it is amazing how nature can manage to right our wrongs in spite of us.

  55. Love the blue glass! Less than thrilled with the spark plugs and oil sheen on the water.
    So glad you’re having the perfect day at the beach!

  56. Dawn 56

    This stuff amazes me. Just think about the history in that glass! Who used those bottles and when??!!

    VERY cool. Thanks for sharing.

  57. sassy 57

    If that beach glass were mine, i`d put it in a clear canning jar and set it in the window of my kitchen, it would be so beautiful with the sun shining through the window! I am coveting your beach glass right now.

  58. My father used to live in Fort Bragg, so amazingly enough I remember going there way back when. We can find sea glass on our beach vacation this summer, but it’s more difficult to find for sure!

  59. Ruthanne (in Seattle) 59

    wow – that sea glass is beautiful! I grew up spending summers on the Oregon coast just south of Cannon Beach – before CB was the place it is today. We occasionally found glass floats – but never colors of glass like your photos. . . I’d love to see it in real life!

  60. Erinn 60

    I love Mendocino, I’ve been blessed with a lovely trip up there and an amazing stay at the Heritage House. Looking at your photos brought back such fond memories. Thanks!

  61. grace 61

    i might as well change my name to “jealous of noble pig” because you have a fabulous life! what a gorgeous beach, and what a nice haul! :)

  62. See the green? It’s me– wow, I would LOVE to be there. What gorgeous pictures and the sea glass is really beautiful. Probably a good thing I’m not there, I would be carrying bags of it home everyday. Gorgeous.

  63. Wendy 63

    This is treasure seekers’ heaven!!! :D
    I love hunting for new treasures! What fun!
    We always try to bring back a pine cone, or a rock, or an acorn, or something from our camping trips. :D

  64. I would go nuts over that seaglass! What a neat place for “treasure hunting”.

  65. april 65

    I had no idea that is how beach glass came about. I’m feeling rather land locked at the moment.

  66. Thanks for sharing this place. It is now on my list of places to visit. I really enjoy hearing from you on your blog.

  67. star 67

    oh my gosh….that is incredibly beautiful! and i am insanely jealous. i live in new york city and don’t have access to anything like that.

  68. barbara 68

    A fabulous collection. Nothing so collectible on our local beach.

  69. Vonda 69

    Wow I have never seen this before. I would love to go and check it out…I especially love the blue sea glass. Looks like a wonderful place for you and your family. Enjoy!

  70. Hi,

    I would like to invite you to join a social networking site for sea glass enthusiasts this site is interesting to anyone who loves to beachcomb or loves the sea:

    link to seaglassartists.ning.com

    Hope to see you there!

    Lisl Armstrong

  71. pandora 71

    Beautiful photos. I hope I’ll get to California someday in my life.

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