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The entire coastline margin in San Francisco is managed by the Golden Gate National Recreational Association. The jurisdiction of this body extends down into Pacifica for certain areas and up into parts of Marin County as well. The natural coastline along with some surrounding parkland areas are protected under this, the GGNRA, hence making all San Francisco beaches national parkland. A nice aspect of GGNRA is that it imposes minimal restrictions upon public use and exploration (except at Fort Funston where there are quarantined areas) and nowhere charges a fee for either visitation or parking. This balance of freedom and protection of the natural environment is ideal, and it works well.
As is often the case, the largest and most well known beach also happens to be the least interesting. It is useful to note, however, that Ocean Beach is part of an 8 mile stretch of uninterrupted, very flat beach with a very shallow tideline. This stretch extends from the Cliff House to Mussel Rock in Pacifica, and then continues for a two more miles in Pacifica south of Mussel Rock. Because of the scenic cliffs which begin south of the S.F. Zoo, the Fort Funston portion of this strip becomes the most interesting beach in San Francisco, so, ironically, the worst and the best are the same beach.

In comparing beach access points, beaches are considered between the San Mateo County line and Crissy Field. Beaches along the inner bay tend to be less interesting and I do not consider them. It should be noted, however, that bay water beaches and municipal piers do exist along the inner bay (e.g. the Marina strip, Fort Mason, Ghirardelli Square, Fisherman's Wharf) and are popular for fishing, crabbing, and tourist toe-dipping. The most intensely beautiful coastal spots are to be found along the rocky cliffs between the Cliff House and the Golden Gate Bridge. This is the Lands End Area and The Presidio, separated from each other by the Sea Cliff District. There is one major beach in this stretch of cliffs -- Baker Beach. Some small pockets of beach in this area are so laborious to get to that they offer relative solitude right inside the city. It is amazing that in a large city like San Francisco such wild areas can exist at all. This is due in part to the ruggedness of the landscape, very distinctive for such a large coastal city in the United States.