Krista Houghton
Latest posts by Krista Houghton (see all)

Looking for sea glass is more adventurous than most people think

My introduction to sea glass hunting began innocently enough. As a surfer I would often be at various beaches, scoping the waves. Inevitably, I would come across a piece of sand-worn glass along the shore. Usually, the color would catch my eye, a flash of green-blue among the sand. I heard them called “mermaid tears” by a family friend and I would pick them up as a good luck charm, to be stowed away in various jacket pockets. 

It wasn’t until I had filled various jars and vessels that I began to see my innocent pickings had in fact become a daily obsession. Soon, all my surf sessions included a scour of the shoreline in hopes of finding a rare cobalt shard. This in turn led to beach outings with no surf on the agenda, just sea glass hunting. This takes a keen eye and a giving beach. I learned that our California has some amazing sea glass beaches and winter/spring is the season for hunting.

image of hand with sea glass

Marina State Beach:

This is an amazing beach to look for sea glass. For starters, it’s expansive and uncrowded. Just miles of sand dunes and open beach. The sea glass is a result of Marina Beach’s long history as a dump site. The sand dunes here literally shine with glass shards. Another contributing factor was the Del Monte railroad, an express train from San Francisco to Monterey where the Hotel Del Monte was a thriving destination in the early 1900s. The Hotel had its own signature dining wear, and my collection contains dozens of pottery shards that can be sourced to the hotel. Because of the age of the railroad and dump site, sea glass of historical significance like bottle stoppers and jug handles can be found, as well as rare colors like red and blue.

Image of Davenport beach


Davenport Beach:

The sea glass found at  Davenport beach is as unique as the locals and the beach itself. It stems from the famed Lundberg Studios, where world renowned glass artist James Lundberg created one-of-a-kind glass objects since the 1970s. But don’t be fooled by the ocean here, strong ocean currents and cold-water temperatures can be dangerous. Be prepared and wear a wetsuit, as the best pieces are found in the shore break (where the ocean and sand come together). You can sometimes find pieces up on shore, right after a storm and at low tide. Save room for a great muffin and coffee at Whale City Bakery, across the street from the beach.

Fort Bragg:

No beach glass beach list would be complete without a trip to Fort Bragg in Mendocino. Its name says it all — Glass Beach is the most famous sea glass beach in North America. Fort Bragg was a dump site since the early 1800s, an era  before plastic. Plastic was not widely used until after the 1950s so during the 1800s and early 1900s almost everything consumed came in glass. So, at Glass Beach the sand literally sparkles with glass. It is perhaps the most beautiful beach in the world, as it consists of mostly hundred-year-old glass, ocean worn to smooth sea glass grains. 

NOTE: It is now prohibited to collect sea glass here. It was a beach “loved to death” as thousands of sea glass enthusiasts visited every year, and the beach itself was disappearing under the pressure of collecting. Nonetheless, Fort Bragg’s Glass Beach is a breathtaking example of trash turned into treasure and well worth a visit.

image of table with lots of sa glass on it

If you’re feeling festive, plan to attend the 14th Annual Santa Cruz Sea Glass Festival at the iconic Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk on November 5-6, 2022. This long-standing festival is a local favorite. There is also the Santa Barbara Sea Glass Festival, which takes place September 10-11, 2022.

Read other articles by Krista Houghton here.