Discover the World of Nude Beaches and Public Lands
Compared to Europe, there are few nude beaches in North America. Our nude beaches and public lands sometimes face pressure from government officials and developers who would rather designate such lands for development or non-nude use. AANR's government affairs team helps lobby against such changes.
Against this backdrop, it's no wonder that nudists treasure their nude beaches. Though no beach is ever completely safe from non-nudist interests, five shorelines have longstanding nudist use, attracting many thousands of annual visitors.
La Jolla, CA
When the PGA Tour stopped at the Torrey Pines golf course for the U.S. Open in 2008, it was impossible to miss Black’s Beach, perhaps the most famous stretch of nude beach coastline in North America.
That’s because Torrey Pines is located about a hundred yards above the two-mile stretch of nude beach in La Jolla, California. During the tournament top golfers like Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson, both Southern California natives, were asked if they ever had made the steep trek down to the beach. Both issued quick denials but were obviously familiar with the beach. Everyone, it seems, has a Black’s Beach story or two.
In its 1970s heyday, Black’s Beach attracted up to 60,000 visitors on warm weekend days, outdrawing nearby attractions such as the San Diego Zoo and SeaWorld. Back then, nudity was condoned by the city council, but was outlawed in 1977 in a public referendum after religious zealots rallied support against it.
But the anti-nudity law has been rarely enforced because it hasn’t been a priority for either city lifeguards or state park rangers at Torrey Pines State Reserve. In 1999, officials began to enforce the long-standing but rarely enforced anti-nudity statute on the southern end of the beach, south of the Torrey Pines glider port.
Most nudists rarely ventured south of the glider port, which sits high atop cliffs more than 300 feet above the beach, not far from the most frequently used trail leading down to the water.
Black’s Beach is popular among surfers, who like nudists are willing to make the steep, winding trek among mostly dirt paths to reach the beach. The trip deters most gawkers.
Black’s Beach is one of few nude beaches where it’s possible to go on a four-mile, round-trip run, surf nude, and enjoy a beach atmosphere that harkens back to the 1970s. Though the beach sits below some of the world’s priciest real estate, development is not a concern because of the steep cliffs and the existing glider port and golf course.
Conveniently located off Interstate 5, not far from the University of California-San Diego, Black’s remains one of San Diego’s top tourist attractions. For nudists, it ranks at the top of the list.
Sandy Hook, New Jersey
On a clear day at Gunnison Beach, it’s possible to see the New York skyline. That’s because the Northern New Jersey beach, part of the Gateway National Recreation Area, is conveniently located to the Big Apple. During the summer months, there’s even round-trip ferry service from Lower Manhattan.
Most visitors come by car, arriving by 9 a.m. on weekend days to pay the $10 park entry fee and snag a parking spot. The beach draws more than 5,000 visitors on summer weekend days.
Gunnison has attracted nude bathers for years, even before it became a clothing-optional beach. It officially opened as a nude beach not long after it was decommissioned as a military base in 1972. When it was a military base, the all-male soldiers would skinny-dip.
Gateway National Recreation Area is a six-mile peninsula known for its beaches, fishing, and historic sites, though the nude stretch at Gunnison is the most popular attraction.
The beach’s signature landmark is the historic Sandy Hook lighthouse, which offers views of lower Manhattan and the Verrazano Narrows Bridge. Driving around the Northern stretch of the park, it’s possible to see old buildings and converted barracks now used as storage and office space for park officials.
Though Gunnison Beach is the official designation of the nude beach, nudists often refer to it as Sandy Hook. Many improvements have been made to the beach in recent years, including the addition of a paved mini-plaza at the entrance, a snack bar, and expanded bathrooms.
Because of the park entry fee and half-mile walk from the plaza to the beach, Gunnison deters gawkers. Many nudists make a visit to the beach part of a Jersey Shore vacation, driving through such scenic towns as Rumson and Red Bank or eventually making their way into New York City.
Friends of Gunnison is a nonlanded AANR club based at Sandy Hook that maintains the Web site with updated beach information. They also organize trips to landed clubs, Polar Bare swims, and participated in this year’s AANR World Record Skinny-Dip.
Even European visitors accustomed to nudity in urban settings marvel at Miami’s Haulover Beach, one of the greatest success stories in North American nudism.
Nestled between the high-traffic Collins Avenue and the Atlantic Ocean on an undeveloped stretch of beach between high-end hotels and condominiums, Haulover attracts thousands of nudists on warm afternoons. They enjoy a white-sand beach, crystal-clear waters, and full beach amenities – all just a short drive to anywhere in Miami or Fort Lauderdale.
Thanks to the yeoman efforts of South Florida Free Beaches over nearly two decades and the economic impact of Haulover, the nudist designation seems as secure as a nude beach can be. That begs the question of why such nude beach models could not be followed elsewhere in North America.
Certainly nobody envisioned two decades ago the stretch of Haulover that’s now clothing-optional becoming a premier beach destination of any sort. Back then, gang members conducted drug transactions. The north parking lot that now generates millions in parking revenue for Dade County was a dirt lot used for industrial storage.
On July 14, 1991, a few dozen members of South Florida Free Beaches cordoned off an area with “Nude Sunbathing Zone” signs. SFFB members cleaned up and policed the area. The group won a legal battle in 1992 after five nude sunbathers were arrested.
Over the years, the group lobbied for the construction of the north parking lot and for lifeguards and has worked tirelessly to educate local officials, especially newly-elected ones. The county posted permanent signs informing visitors of the nude sunbathing designation.
Though development has encroached upon Haulover, with many of the kitschy beach hotels to the north torn down in recent years to make way for high-rise condominiums, the real estate crash has kept developers from wanting to extend their reach further south.
No one can deny the economic impact of Haulover. While it’s difficult to quantify the impact of top-free sunbathing at South Beach, Dade County officials only have to look at the increase in parking revenue at Haulover. From 1991 to 2004, parking revenue increased a whopping 445 percent, due primarily to the nude stretch. One survey showed that 50 percent of Haulover visitors are tourists, many from Europe.
In an area where skimpy clothing, glitz, and buzz are as much a part of the culture as Cuban cuisine and stone crabs, perhaps the best way to measure the success of Haulover is that it’s not seen as any big deal. After all, it’s been a South Florida institution for almost two decades.
AANR members visiting Haulover might consider staying at the Newport Beachside Hotel and Resort. The oceanfront resort, located less than a one-mile walk to Haulover, offers savngs to AANR members. Visit www.newportbeachsideresort.com for more information.
Located just a 10-minute drive from five-star beach resorts and some of world’s most expensive real estate, Little Beach is a quiet oasis where families mingle with surfers, couples, and an eclectic group that seems like refugees from the 1960s.
Many believe this small nudist cove on Maui’s southern coast is the best nude beach in North America and possibly the world. It’s only 170 yards wide, but rock formations on either side provide boundaries that not only make it cozy but shield it from those who might stumble upon it accidentally from the adjacent non-nudist Big Beach.
The water at Little Beach is crystal clear and those with goggles and snorkels will notice tropical fish swimming alongside. Though the (free) parking lot at Makena State Park opens after sunrise and closes before sunset, it’s possible to view both spectacles by parking alongside the main drag outside the gates.
It’s common for first-time visitors to Little Beach to quickly start considering how they might relocate permanently to Maui, what with the dazzling sunsets, flower-scented breezes, laidback style of life, and friendliness of Maui residents. Though such atmosphere can be enjoyed throughout the island in Hana, Lahaina, and Kaanapali, it’s perhaps never more evident than at Little Beach.
Nudists vacationing in Maui should consider accommodations in Wailea or Makena. That way, they’re centrally located to explore the island and just a short drive to Little Beach.
The beach has its origins in 1969, when hippies began showing up on Maui and creating settlements with colorful names such as Banana Patch, Soul Acres, and Trouble Gulch. Police cracked down on nudity and the hippies but eventually a nudist foothold was established at Makena’s more remote beach, Little Beach, which is separated from Big Beach by a steep lava outcropping (the tip of Puu Olai).
The journey over to Little Beach requires just a modest climb. With many of the nudist swimming holes along the famous Road to Hana inaccessible or difficult to reach, Little Beach is the best nudist attraction on Maui, if not all of Hawaii. It’s not unusual to find couples and families lounging on towels from expensive nearby resorts.
Good weather is almost a guarantee at Little Beach since that side of the island receives just seven inches of rain annually. Though some bring surfboards to Little Beach to surf naked, the beach has neither the waves nor the room to enjoy Maui’s favorite pastime. More fun is swimming the length of the beach.
Little Beach retains ties to its hippie roots, especially on Sundays, when there’s a large sunset celebration featuring a circle of drums and other instruments. The fire dancing continues into the night and is one of the more memorable Maui experiences for any vacationer.
Friends of Little Beach have worked for years to keep this famous beach opened to nude use and maintain the up-to-date Web site.
Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
Wreck Beach is one of North America’s great nudist success stories, a quirky mix of musicians, sunbathers, and volleyball players who together form a unique nudist community.
Though located in an urban area at the foot of the University of British Columbia (UBC), the beach is accessible only by walking down several hundred steps through dense forest.
Officially sanctioned as a clothing-optional beach since 1991, it was used by nudists for decades before. The five-mile beach, named for a hulking, wrecked vessel that once sat on the sand, is a wildlife and nesting area for bald eagles. Wreck Beach attracts thousands of nudists on warm summer days and is popular with UBC students. The beach has been rated by The Travel Channel as the third-best nude beach in the world behind Montalivet, France, and Ocho Rios, Jamaica.
The Wreck Beach Preservation Society has been preserving the beach from development since 1977, and organizes numerous activities such as a 5K Bare Buns Fun Run, along with indoor swims and dances in the winter.
On many weekends, Wreck Beach feels like a folk festival, with musicians performing and craftspeople working. Since the Greater Vancouver Regional District allocates no support to Wreck, entrepreneurs bring in food, drinks, and merchandise. One stretch is known as Vendors’ Row, a one-stop shop for souvenirs, crafts, refreshments, and sunscreen.
More than 500,000 annual visitors find their way down the trails to where the Fraser River waters mingle with those of the Strait of Georgia and English Bay. Eagles, kingfishers, woodpeckers, and other exotic birds scout the shallow beach waters in search of fish.