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Glass Beach – How Trash Became A Tourist Treasure, Day 82

Today we had the pleasure of visiting Glass Beach in Northern California.

Glass Beach is the well-known southern beach of MacKerricher State Park located in Fort Bragg.

And as you can guess, it gets its name from the smooth colorful glass pieces that you can find throughout the pebbly beach.

However these glass pieces are also commonly known as sea glass. And although beyond popular belief, the beautiful pieces of smooth and colorful glass didn’t wash up on the shore naturally.

glass beach coves
These coves had been filled with trash for years and are now cleaned up for tourists to visit.

In fact, it was a combination of human actions and the ocean’s magical force that created these little treasures all over the beach.

How Did Glass Beach Form?

Before we talk about Glass Beach itself, let us give you a little history on how this famous beach got its name.

In the early 1900’s a beach in Fort Bragg was designated as the local dump site for residents. Here they could fill the area below the cliffs full of glass bottles, used appliances, and even vehicles.

glass beach full tide
Just off the beach the waves crash into the rocks, helping the glass breakdown into tiny smooth pieces.

The original dump became overflowing by 1943 and it was closed down. However, another beach in the area became the new dump site until 1949.

And when that one became full, dump site #3, now known as Glass Beach, became the public dump until it was finally shut down in 1967.

Clean Up Efforts At The Dump

For the next few decades there were many efforts to clean up the city dump areas.

The metal from the appliances and vehicles were removed either for scrap or local art work.

Glass Beach
When the tide rolls out, you can search the beach for the sea glass.

However, most of the glass was broken into small pieces and would be nearly impossible to remove.

Therefore, the glass remained on the beaches and over the years they have been broken down into even smaller pieces.

But the most interesting phenomenon that occurred was that the strong waves, current, and large boulders that encompass the beach areas have actually made the glass edges smooth.

Sea Glass

sea glass
Taking a look closely at the beach you can see the remnants of the glass bottles that once were here.

So now, many years later, you can actually walk on the beaches. And in low-tide, you can see the colorful pieces of sea glass among the pebbles at Glass Beach.

But as beautiful as the glass pieces are, you are NOT allowed to remove them from the beach.

At least not on Glass Beach. This beach has been absorbed by the State Park System. This preservation area does not allow you to remove any objects from the park, including the sea glass.

However, there are two other local beaches in the area that also home to sea glass. Although it is not illegal to remove the glass pieces, it is highly discouraged.

power of the waves
The waves will continue to mold the glass on this beach and the two others in the area.

As we heard one mother explain to her daughter, “If every visitor took just one piece of glass, there would not be any glass for other visitors to enjoy many years from now. And that would be a shame that they couldn’t see the beautiful glass pieces on the beach as we did today.”

We couldn’t have said it better…..

Happy Traveling! Jim and Mary


  • Day 82 of 365
  • States : 11 / 50
  • National Parks / Monuments : 11
  • Stayed In : Fort Bragg, California
  • Miles Driven : 29.3
  • Total Trip Miles To Date : 8428.6
  • Total Gallons Used : 629.00
  • Biking Miles : 0.0
  • Biking Miles To Date : 142.5
  • Hiking Miles : 3.6
  • Hiking Miles To Date : 182.3

About Our Living Simple Tour

On September 9th, 2019, we set out in our NuCamp T@B 400 Teardrop Camper to travel to every state. You can check out all of our dates here : Dates for the States

Follow along by signing up for our twice weekly email updates at the bottom of the page. You can also follow us on Facebook : Live Simple Tour Facebook and Instagram : Live Simple Now Instagram Page.

Anne Redman

Monday 2nd of December 2019

Hi Jim and Mary, I just read your last update so glad you both had a nice meal on Thanksgiving i was wondering if you just take a day off and don’t do anything? Are you guys getting tired or are you still excited for the days adventures?


Tuesday 3rd of December 2019

Great question Anne! On our 'down' days of traveling, we typically spend the time writing for our websites and get caught up on things that need to be done for the camper or back at home. However we are totally enjoying our time and yes, our excitement is still as much, if not more than it was on day one. The great thing about our trip is that every day changes! Thanks for following along with our journey!