California is famous for its great beaches and stunning coastlines, and there are plenty of things to see and do along the coast. One of the hidden attractions is Bowling Ball Beach, famous for its round boulders in Northern California. While Bowling Ball Beach isn't exactly the sort of attraction one will organize a special trip for, it is a great item to have on one's bucket list while road-tripping through Northern California.
Bowling Ball Beach is located just off California's Highway 1 - arguably one of the best roads on the West Coast for a stunning road trip. Plan the stops along Highway 1 in advance and see some of the most stunning attractions of the West Coast (and, of course, explore the stunning coastal redwoods).
Concretions - The "Bowling Balls" Of California
The boulders (or "bowling balls") are concretions. Concretions are a compact mass of matter (often sandstone) bound together by mineral cement (like from ancient corals and shellfish). They are found in sedimentary rock or soil and are typically ovoid or spherically shaped. They are usually formed early in the burial history of sediment and are harder and worn less by erosion than the surrounding rock.
They can be found around the world - like the Moeraki Boulders of New Zealand. Concretions have long confused people, with some even wondering if they were fossilized dinosaurs ages or plant fossils. Some suggestions were as out there as extraterrestrial debris and human artifacts.
- Size: 2 to 3 Feet In Diameter
The concretions of Bowling Ball Beach are fairly small by comparison to how large they can get - they are only around 2 or 3 feet in diameter. In Kansas (which used to be the site of the ancient Western Interior Seaway) one can find concretions 20 or 30 feet in diameter at Rock City and Mushroom State Park.
Other places to see them are Cannonball River in North Dakota and Valley of Balls in Kazakhstan. The process that creates these strange spheres is rare, but examples can still be seen around the world.
What To Expect At Bowling Ball Beach
Bowling Ball Beach is located at the northern end of Schooner Gulch State Beach. Schooner Gulch State Beach is located around 50 miles northwest of Santa Rosa and is a great place for watching sunsets. Hiking is also popular, and there are multiple trails along the stretch of the coast.
There is even a ghost town in the park called Schooner Gulch. Although the settlement has now been long abandoned, and there is no longer any trace of it.
It is also a great place for professional photographers wanting to get sunset shots of the beach's bowling balls.
Other activities at Bowling Ball Beach include surfing at the Whiskey Shoals area (accessible from the Moat Creek Public Access). Most people visiting the beach are likely driving up or down the coast. It only takes a few minutes to explore (just plan to get there at low tide).
When To Go And How To Access Bowling Ball Beach
At low tide, people can see the spherical concretions of Bowling Ball Beach. It is best to go at low tide to see and experience the boulders and consult the tide charts to plan when to go. The area is also great for tide pooling and seeing all the marine life (like crabs) at low tide. The website, California Beaches, has tide information for a number of California's beaches.
- When To Go: At Low Tide
- Entry Fee: Free
- Pets: Permitted On Leashes
At high tide, it may be difficult to walk along the beach, and the bowling balls will likely be submerged.
The beach can be accessed by Highway 1 across from Schooner Gulch Road. There is a parking area alongside the highway, and the parking area has two trailheads. The one going north goes to Bowling Ball Beach, and the southern one goes to Schooner Gulch Beach (the main beach).
To find out more and current information about visiting the beach, refer to California's Department of Parks and Recreation. After popping in and seeing California's "bowling balls," continue up the coast and see the many other attractions along the coastal highway of Northern California. One will be surprised what there is waiting to be found.