Here's Why This California Beach Is One Of The Most Unique In The US

California has some of America's most stunning beaches, and one of its most colorful and unique offerings is Glass Beach in Fort Bragg. While some beaches around the world are known for their colored sand, from black to purple to white, along the rugged shoreline of Mendocino County, the aptly named Glass Beach gets its color from an abundance of many-hued sea glass amidst the natural sand and stones. It may not be one of the most filmed of California's beaches, but visitors come from around the world to see the glittering glass that makes the location so special, which only came to be after the area was used as a dump for decades.


The sea glass found in Fort Bragg today can trace its origins back to the major earthquake of 1906, which destroyed much of San Francisco at the time. However, it also brought down a number of buildings in Fort Bragg. With the amount of debris and trash from the downed houses and businesses after the earthquake, people needed a place to put the garbage, and areas along the coast were used as dump sites for decades.

From trash to treasure in Fort Bragg, California

Due to the geography of the shoreline, the garbage dumped over the beach cliffs in Fort Bragg, California, didn't get taken away by the waves. It stayed put. So materials like glass, broken down and weathered by the waves and the tide, ended up deposited on the beaches. By 1967, the area was closed for dumping, and in the following decades, the remaining small glass pieces continued to get rolled and smoothed by the waves, creating a magnificently colored and glittering beach.


While it can be tempting to pocket a few pieces of the treasures, Glass Beach is now a part of the MacKerricher State Park, and as part of protected parkland, it's illegal to take any of the glass with you. Snap lots of pictures instead, and leave the glass there so others can continue to enjoy this special place.

Glass Beach is just one of many beautiful spots along this part of the coast

To learn more about sea glass, visit the International Sea Glass Museum at Fort Bragg, a few blocks away along California's iconic Highway 1. To the novice, it may seem impossible to determine where the tiny pieces of colored glass originated — is it from a soda bottle? A car headlight? The museum showcases the varying colors of glass and where they came from — some of the most unique colors from Fort Bragg are lavender, red, pink, and cobalt blue.


From Glass Beach in Fort Bragg, it's well worth taking the time to walk the Noyo Headlands Coastal Trail. It takes you along the bluffs above the Pacific, giving you fantastic views of the ocean and its ever-changing colors — how the light plays on the water throughout the day often makes it glitter as much as the glass on the beach. You'll learn more about the area on your walk, including the glass of Glass Beach, from the plaques along the paved trail. Plus, you're pretty much guaranteed to see a variety of shorebirds, and you may even be able to spot gray whales spouting as they migrate along the coast.