Ocean Beach, or OB, as it’s known to residents, is a small beach community just south of the San Diego River channel and Mission Bay. The community has a reputation as laid-back and tolerant, in the spirit of the hippies and New Agers who flocked there in the 1960s and 70s. Its mile-long stretch of broad, sandy beach, which stretches north from the pier, is less crowded and hectic than nearby Mission and Pacific beaches, but you will find plenty of activity, much of it clustered around the main lifeguard station off Abbott Street at the foot of Santa Monica Avenue, near the south end of the beach. The water here is frequently crowded with surfers, especially around the 1,961-foot T-shaped concrete pier, built in 1966. A concrete walkway runs behind the beach for a short distance, between the main lifeguard station and the parking lot at Abbott and Newport, and is a good place to watch the surfers in action. Near the lifeguard station a rubber mat lets you get out onto the sand a short distance (summer only); to go farther, borrow a beach wheelchair from the station. South of the pier the shoreline is rocky below high bluffs topped by apartment buildings and houses.
Stairs lead from the beach to the pier; for wheelchair access, take the block-long alley/ramp that begins behind the parking lot at Abbott and Newport, or park at the end of Niagara. From the pier entrance you travel down a gentle slope a few hundred yards before the walkway levels off. Along this first part of the pier, railings on both sides are 42 to 44 inches high and may obscure views from a wheelchair; farther out, the rail on the south side has slats with wider gaps and chain link fence that allows better viewing. A café and bait shop are on the right as you approach the T at the end of the pier; the views to the north from inside the café are lovely. Past the café, thick wood slats once again obscure the view through the south railing. My stroll out and back one warm September morning was accompanied by the barking of sea lions.
The facilities listed below meet all of our access criteria unless otherwise noted.
When lifeguards are on duty–generally 9 am to dusk in summer, 9 am-5 pm in winter–a manual beachchair is available on a first-come, first-served basis. Pick up at main lifeguard station, 1950 Abbott Street. In summer, a rubber walkway is often laid out near the main lifeguard station, allowing limited access to the sand.
On pier, near café. The women’s restroom by the lifeguard station has no room for a lateral transfer but is otherwise accessible. On my visit, however, the accessible stall was occupied for long stretches by young women smoking and chatting, and when I did gain entry, was extremely dirty.
Other Things of Interest
Downtown Ocean Beach, centered on Newport Avenue, stretches inland from the southern end of the beach, and is packed with surf shops, clothing and antique stores, cafés, restaurants, and bars. At the northern end of the beach, near the river’s mouth, is Dog Beach, where dogs are allowed off leash at all times. Wheelchair access to this portion of the beach is minimal unless you have your own beach wheelchair, but the paved Ocean Beach Bike Path heads east along the San Diego River from here.
DISCLAIMER: Although the information contained in this web-guide was believed to be correct at the time of publication, neither Access Northern California nor California Coastal Conservancy shall be held responsible or liable for any inaccuracies, errors, or omissions, nor for information that changes or becomes outdated. Neither Access Northern California nor California Coastal Conservancy assume any liability for any injury or damage arising out of, or in connection with, any use of this guide or the sites described in it.