Beach + Island

Bizarre Beaches of the World

by Matthew Link

Bowling Ball Beach, Mendocino County, California

Part of Schooner Gulch State Beach, Bowling Ball Beach in northern California's Mendocino County looks like an art installation—yet it's all natural. Round boulders, roughly four to five feet in diameter, begin poking out of the water with the shifting of the tides. By the lowest ebb, the sand is covered with neat rows of these strange balls. Technically known as concretions, the hard, mineral-based spheres have resisted the endless lashing of the Pacific, while the Cenozoic mudstone that once surrounded them has eroded away to form the cliffs that line the shore. Despite the perfectly reasonable explanation, the boulders add an eerie vibe to an already otherworldly stretch of remote Californian coastline. (Note: The main trail to Bowling Ball Beach is currently closed for repairs; only experienced hikers should attempt the steeper alternate routes.)

Beyond the beach: Perched on the head of a cliff three miles up the coast, the 115-foot-high Point Arena Lighthouse is one of the tallest lighthouse towers on the West Coast. Originally built in 1870, it was destroyed in the 1906 San Francisco earthquake and rebuilt in 1907. Guests can spend the night in one of its four keeper's houses, all with fireplaces, full kitchens, and sea views.

Next: More vacation ideas with a twist >

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Information may have changed since date of publication. Please confirm details with individual establishments before planning your trip.

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